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Refuge is the term used by Women’s Aid to describe the temporary accommodation provided for women on their own or with children, who have experience of domestic abuse.

Refuge is a safe place where you can stay, free from pressure, while you are supported to make decisions about your needs and what you want to do next. For your safety and the safety of everyone in refuge, the address and location are confidential.


What is Refuge Like

Refuge is a fully furnished house or flat. It can be different depending which area you go to. Sometime refuge can be for women and children on their own and sometimes you may have to share. If you do have to share, you will have your own bedroom for you and your children and share the kitchen, living room and occasionally the bathroom, with one or two other families.

You are responsible for your own cooking, cleaning and day to day living in the refuge as you would be at home. Women’s Aid staff will be available to provide you with information and support.

Dundee Women's Aid - what will refuge be like?
Dundee Women's Aid - a service user's perspective of moving into refuge

Women’s Aid services are the only providers of refuge in Scotland. To get a place in refuge you will need to contact the local group in your area. You can look them up online here:

Once you contact them and if space is available, they will assess if it is suitable for your specific needs. If no refuge is available, you can ask the Women’s Aid service to help you to get temporary accommodation from your council or consider refuge in another area. Find housing contact details for your local council here

You can get accommodation in another area. For example, you may not feel safe staying in your area or you may want move to somewhere you have more support. Your local Women’s Aid service can help you to get refuge in another area. If no refuge is available, you can get temporary accommodation from the council.

There is a cost for staying in refuge, which varies depending on the area the refuge is in. If you are on a low income, or get welfare benefits you may be entitled to help with your rent. This can be through Universal Credit, Housing Benefit, Local Housing Allowance or to benefits such as Discretionary Housing Benefit. For more information on what help you might be entitled to you can contact Citizen’s Advice Scotland or use the benefits calculator. You can also contact the Women’s Aid service to ask them about their costs.

Refuges have everything you need so you don’t have to worry about bringing anything. If you can, you can bring clothes and personal effects. If it is safe to pack, you should also think about bringing other important items like medicine, keys, and documents such as:

  • Marriage and Birth certificates
  • Passports
  • National insurance cards
  • Immigration documents/National ID cards
  • Driving licence
  • Benefit books
  • Rent book or mortgage papers
  • Any documentation relating to the abuse such as police reports or court orders

If you have had to leave without any belongings, the group will support you with this.

The Women’s Aid service will support you at your pace. You can stay for a short time to get some space to think or for as long as it takes to organise your next steps, for example, to find suitable alternative accommodation or to apply for a court order to return to your home.

Refuge is a safe place to stay and strives to make you feel as comfortable as possible. Women’s Aid services provide you with a welcome pack, in the pack you will find information about how women and children live in the refuge and how everyone can help to make it a safe and comfortable environment. You will have a chance to review the refuge rules before deciding to live in a refuge.

This is something that you need to check before accepting a refuge space. Some refuges, particularly if the accommodation is self-contained, can take pets.

If you cannot take your pet, you could arrange for a friend or family member to care for them temporarily. Alternatively, there are options for pet fostering such as The Dog’s Trust Freedom Project and the Pet Fostering Service Scotland, Women’s Aid services can help you to access these service if you need help with access

In some areas, there are refuges that have been specifically built to be accessible and have wheelchair access, wet rooms and a range of accessibility aids. However, not all refuge accommodation is fully accessible. Where the Women’s Aid group are unable to meet your specific needs, they will support you to find suitable accommodation elsewhere.

Women’s Aid

If you are a woman experiencing domestic abuse, you can contact a local Women’s Aid service. Women’s Aid specialise in supporting women and children affected by domestic abuse and may be able to help with emotional and practical support, which can include refuge accommodation or practical support with housing.