‘It was a proud moment for me’ – Community Fundraiser Neil goes back to school

‘It was a proud moment for me’ – Community Fundraiser Neil goes back to school

Community Fundraiser Neil at Ysgol Gymraeg Gwynllyw

Walking up to the gates of Ysgol Gymraeg Gwynllyw took Community Fundraiser Neil Davies right back to his first day at school in the 1980s.

Neil had fond memories of his time in the classroom and was excited to be invited back 30 years later to speak to current pupils about his work at Shelter Cymru.

“It was a really proud moment for me,” said Neil, who dreamed as a youngster of growing up to work for a charity.

Neil, who has been working as Regional Fundraiser for South Wales for a year, was invited to Ysgol Gymraeg Gwynllyw in Pontypool as part of the First Give programme.

First Give encourages young people to identify social problems, like homelessness, in their communities and research charities which work to tackle those problems.

Pupils must work together on a social action project, which can include campaigning, raising awareness or fundraising for their chosen cause.

Rhiannon Youssef, Programme Manager at First Give, said the scheme has positive effects on students’ personal development, adding: “It also creates a more cohesive community, linking schools with charities operating in their local area.”

On stage at the First Give school final

Setting up for the First Give school final

During their second lesson, pupils are asked to decide which charity they would like to support and are encouraged to get in touch.

Several groups chose to support Shelter Cymru, including from Bishop Hedley High School in Merthyr Tydfil, Pentrehafod School in Swansea and Radyr Comprehensive School in Cardiff.

Neil was delighted to hear from the teachers and pupils and went along to meetings to tell them about Shelter Cymru’s work defending the right to a safe home in Wales.

He explained that Shelter Cymru uses advice, campaigns and support to fight the devastating impact of the housing emergency on people and society.

Neil continued to support the students throughout the term, as they worked on their presentations. He also went along to the final, where the winners were awarded a £1,000 grant for their charity.

Rhiannon said: “The highlight of the programme for me is attending the school final. It’s always such a joyous occasion and culmination of the whole programme, where we celebrate the hard work the year group have done for their charity.”

Neil explained there were a lot of benefits to taking part in First Give: “The possibility of potential new fundraisers, making greater links with the local community, the element of raising awareness and, of course, the possibility of winning the £1,000 grant.”

Between 2014 and 2023, First Give has empowered nearly 200,000 young people to make a difference, with 1,254 charities winning the £1,000 grant.

For more information about how you can support Shelter Cymru, visit our fundraising page

28 November 2023

By Liz Day

Reframing anti-social behaviour

By Jonathan Clode – Homelessness Prevention Project Co-ordinator

The term ‘anti-social behaviour’ will be familiar to most people. It will likely conjure images of hooded youths intimidating otherwise tranquil neighbourhoods, and noisy, drunken, uncaring attitudes that impinge upon considerate, law abiding ways. But this is all a question of perception, one often worsened by social anxieties the media is all too quick to fuel. The label of anti-social behaviour can be a debilitating stigma, one that sticks, and for some people leads to eviction from their homes.

Our new Shelter Cymru report, Reframing Anti-Social Behaviour: a review of homelessness prevention good practice in Wales, argues that it is time to start questioning the umbrella definitions we so readily apply to ASB, and instead look at it in more nuanced terms that actually recognise and try to meet the support needs of those deemed to be ‘anti-social.’

The end of the Covid 19 pandemic has regrettably seen a return to injunctions and possessions among landlords, both private and social.

In 2022, Shelter Cymru legal casework saw thirty social housing cases where possession was sought for issues related to anti-social behaviour. Worryingly, in over half of these cases, the tenant or a member of their family had support needs related to mental health, substance misuse, being a victim of domestic violence, as well as neurodiversity.

Anti-social behaviour is not just a housing issue, but it is clear that appropriate housing support has an important role to play in preventing and responding to it. Social landlords have made great strides in providing support to their tenants, so why are there still cases where people are losing their homes?

Over recent years understanding of the impact of adverse childhood experiences and the adoption of trauma informed and restorative practices has become more widespread; and our research found that many social landlords are adopting these holistic ways of working. But landlords and service providers need to be better equipped with resources and updated national guidance to help ensure that good practice is adopted more consistently across the country. The Wales Housing Management Standard for tackling anti-social behaviour hasn’t been reviewed since 2014 and landlords have no obligation to follow it beyond advice around best practice. Our drum is beating to the exact same tune almost ten years later: less enforcement, more prevention – great idea!

Evidence from our casework found that more challenging and complex cases are continuing to fall through the net. Our discussions with landlords and stakeholders suggested that this is because practices are too process led, staff engagement is inappropriate or inadequate, and the support needs of the alleged perpetrator are simply not being identified.

As well as the provision of housing related support services, the reconfiguration of housing management functions is also supporting some social landlords to adopt a more effective approach. Less focus on specific ASB teams and officers, and a switch to more support-focused roles with smaller caseloads, have enabled staff to support complainants and build better relationships between staff and tenants – something that the restorative model to supporting people puts at the heart of its ideology. The idea that you need to build a relationship with someone if you hope to try and help them has always underpinned the very idea of a meaningful support service.

However, housing support staff are not trained mental health professionals, and the ever swelling elephant in the room remains the lack of timely access to mental health services, given the high proportion of people accused of ASB who are also experiencing mental health problems. The link between ASB and mental health must be stated clearly. The vast majority of people with mental health problems do not commit ASB; however, among people who are accused of ASB, we found a high correlation with unmet mental health support need. This means that problems in accessing mental health services are contributing to avoidable homelessness.

It is also important that we recognise that ASB is often a stress response to toxic environments or difficult past experiences. Successful prevention means understanding people’s unique circumstances and triggers in order to prevent them going into that stress response. This type of work is relationship-based, person-centred and support-intensive, but is proven to deliver consistently good outcomes for the individuals involved. From a business perspective it can also assist landlords by reducing void and court costs.

Meaningful partnership working is key to ensuring people have a decent chance of sustaining their tenancies, from allocation and tenancy sign-up, to providing appropriate and timely interventions if things start to go wrong. There are some fantastic examples of community services working together, and for many of them there are common threads that contribute to their success. This involves taking the time to understand the challenges and constraints that each service is under, spending less time playing pass the human parcel, and keeping one eye on the here and now while another is looking down the road to ensure the parcel doesn’t get dumped in the middle of it.

The term ‘anti-social behaviour’ is in itself problematic. It is a term too readily pinned against a number of behaviours, all of which vary greatly in presentation and have a variety of root causes. Perhaps we might recognise the potential for anti-social behaviour traits in ourselves, ones that often fly under the radar because of the way they appear: it’s a balmy weekend, the sun has gone down, we’re having a select gathering, surely no-one round here has work tomorrow, why not open that third bottle of Marlborough sauvignon blanc and bring Alexa out into the garden… anti-social! Says who?

Labelling someone as a perpetrator of ASB leads to an instant judgement that can have detrimental implications in relation to how that person is perceived, particularly among support services. Perhaps if we dispensed with the term ‘anti-social behaviour’ we might find ourselves better able to make a more thoughtful assessment of the particular issues being presented. It could also lead to the type of approach where a person would receive support on the basis of their need at that time, as opposed to a response to an allegation of behaviour.

Perspective matters, and for some people it can define their lives. By reframing ASB as a symptom of unmet support needs, we will be better able to give social housing tenants a voice that isn’t just sought when something has gone wrong, but rather heard at a time that empowers them to be, and remain, part of a community in a settled home with access to the support that they need. In this way, we can build towards stronger and more inclusive communities across Wales.

You can read our report on anti social behaviour here >

For further information about this report or about our wider research work to prevent homelessness in Wales, please email [email protected]

‘It saved our family’ – Shelter Cymru calls on Welsh Government to prioritise mortgage rescue

Mum-of-three Amanda Lawrence was unable to pay her mortgage after becoming unwell

As she fielded calls from bailiffs and pleaded with her mortgage lender, mum-of-three Amanda Lawrence spent every moment thinking about what she would do if she lost her family home.

The family found out the day before their eviction hearing that their mortgage rescue application had been successful and, thanks to the scheme, are happy in their home 15 years later.

Amanda said: “I was spending all my time on the phone to the mortgage company, explaining: ‘We can’t pay you. Please don’t evict us.’”

Amanda moved into her house in Gibbonsdown, Barry, with her 10-year-old son in 1998 and initially rented from Vale of Glamorgan Council. Her partner moved in two years later.

She was working part-time as an administrative assistant and he was working full-time in product safety. The couple decided to buy their home, with help from a government scheme, in 2003.

They became owners of the mid-terrace house, which was built in the 1970s and has three bedrooms and a garden. They got married and had two children.

“It was going really well – we were a happy family,” said Amanda. “But then things started to go wrong.”

Amanda suffered with pelvic pain during pregnancy. The pain, which usually goes away after birth, persisted but the condition was not diagnosed straight away.

“It took a long time to get a diagnosis and my health really deteriorated,” she said. “I couldn’t take the kids to school.”

Amanda Lawrence at her home in Barry

Amanda’s family found out the day before their eviction hearing that their mortgage rescue application had been successful

Amanda was unable to return to work due to the pain and her life became a blur of hospital appointments.

She said the family reached a low point in 2008, as her husband desperately tried to juggle full-time work with caring for his wife and looking after the children.

“It was getting harder and harder,” she recalled. “He was trying to do everything and he just couldn’t do it anymore. He broke down.”

He left his job and became a full-time carer for Amanda. As they spent everything they had on their mortgage, the family could not afford repairs and lived in the cold when their boiler broke.

“It was the most stressful year of my life,” recalled Amanda. “I was spending all my time on the phone to the mortgage lender, explaining: ‘We can’t pay you.’

“I was pleading: ‘Please don’t evict us.’ They were quite understanding, but they still had to follow their procedures. I had calls from the bailiffs.

“We were constantly having to think about what we’d do if we lost our home. What would we put in storage? We were so overwhelmed, we didn’t know who to turn to. It was a very tense time for us.”

As they struggled to keep up with mortgage payments, the couple went to Citizens Advice and were referred to Shelter Cymru. Their caseworker suggested the mortgage rescue scheme.

Mum-of-three Amanda Lawrence supports mortgage rescue

Thanks to mortgage rescue, Amanda is still happy in her home 15 years on

Mortgage rescue is a scheme enabling a household to remain in their home through full or part-purchase, supported by grant funding, by a social or community landlord.

The tenure of the property changes so the household either rents the property – at a social or affordable rent – or becomes a part-owner, reducing their monthly outgoings.

“Our caseworker was lovely and we trusted her to help us,” explained Amanda. “She was the only one who actually took the time to update us and explain what was going on.

“She understood that she was fighting to keep us in our family home. To the mortgage company, it was just another property.”

The family were told the day before their eviction hearing that their application for mortgage rescue had been approved.

They became tenants of Newydd Housing Association, who carried out maintenance the family had not been able to afford, like repairing the boiler and shower and installing a wheelchair ramp.

Thanks to mortgage rescue, the family are still in their home 15 years on. Amanda, 51, who volunteers for a housing association, would like to see the scheme brought back to help other people.

She said: “Home, to us, is stability and safety – our sanctuary. I wish they would bring the scheme back. It saved our family. We were lucky, but I know of other people who have lost their homes.

“I worry about how bad it is now and how many families with young children are at risk. It’s heart-breaking.”

She accepts the scheme involves upfront costs, but believes it avoids further hidden expenditure down the line and offers value for money in the long-term.

Jennie Bibbings, of Shelter Cymru

Jennie Bibbings, Head of Campaigns for Shelter Cymru

Read the full mortgage rescue briefing in our policy and research library 

Wendy Dearden, Policy and Public Affairs Manager for Shelter Cymru, said: “We are becoming increasingly worried about the impact of increased mortgage interest rates.

“We are concerned for current owners coming to the end of fixed-term arrangements and facing significant increases to their monthly payments.”

The Bank of England has predicted around four million UK households will face higher mortgage payments during 2023, with the typical payment up by £250.

That takes the average monthly mortgage bill from £750 to £1,000, which is expected to cause severe financial difficulty for 220,000 households.

Wendy added: “Most people can only imagine the stress of potentially losing a home which they have emotionally and financially invested in.

“The gauge on that stress moves ever higher each month as the arrears figures grow and the inevitability of the situation takes hold. For a growing number, this is becoming reality.”

Wendy explained that mortgage arrears and repossession cases still, thankfully, represent a small proportion of Shelter Cymru’s casework, but the numbers are beginning to rise.

There was a 45% increase from August to November 2022, compared with the same period in 2021 – the team saw 126 cases in 2022, compared to 87 in 2021.

Jennie Bibbings, Head of Campaigns for Shelter Cymru, said: “We recommend that the Welsh Government makes creating a new mortgage rescue scheme for Wales a priority now.”

23 January 2023

By Liz Day

Winds of change: The legacy of Storm Ciara and Dennis

by Dewi John

The sky above us is grey… It is that time of year yet again, storm season, which for many people across Wales can only mean one thing… flooding. This will mean sleepless nights for hundreds of households across Wales – who worry about their homes every time it rains, thinking back to the memory of what happened this month two years ago. February 2020 brought with it record levels of flooding across Wales. Our communities are still dealing with the scars of these storms.

Shelter Cymru believes we must tackle our un-readiness to deal with the symptoms of climate change, especially as the Deputy Climate Change Minister warns that “the consequences of not acting will be profound for Wales”. Climate change will see sea levels rise by at least 1.3 – 2.6 feet by 2100. If we do not act now to mitigate the impacts of flooding and extreme weather events, we will further exacerbate existing inequalities, which will result in disruption to our infrastructure and will  cause some of our coastal communities to  disappear forever by 2050.

Together with our partners Tai Pawb and the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru, we are campaigning to enshrine the right to adequate housing into Welsh law. We’re pleased that the recent Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru includes a commitment to a White Paper to explore such a right. A right to adequate housing can help us to combat both the impacts of climate change but also catalyse our journey to achieving net zero.

A right to adequate housing will mean investment in flood defences for parts of Wales which are more susceptible to flooding, bringing a cost/benefit ratio of more than 5:1. It will help spur on the current Welsh Government’s ambitious housebuilding commitments, and, in the uncertain future, it will hardwire a commitment to improving people’s homes –  ensuring that good quality, greener homes are front and centre of the delivery agenda as well as defending and decarbonising our existing homes across Wales.

We welcome the commitment within the Cooperation Agreement to commission an independent review of the Section 19 reports produced into extreme flooding in Wales in the winter of 2020 and 2021, with the commitment to act on the recommendations made. We also welcome the commitment to deliver an increased investment into flood and coastal erosion risk management and mitigation over the course of this Senedd term to minimise the likelihood of flooding of homes by 2050.  We must not however, underestimate the scale of the challenge we face and its importance. Realising a right to adequate housing will require agile and deliberate collaboration across the layers of governance. This however, is the right thing to do, to ensure that the painful lessons of two years ago are repeated as infrequently as possible in the future.

Shelter Cymru believes that home is everything and that everyone deserves a good home. But unless our current and new homes can withstand the pressures of extreme weather events, our shared housing emergency will only become further entrenched by climate change.

There’s no place like home: dealing with LGBTQ+ discrimination within the housing sector

As we mark LGBTQ+ History Month, it is important that we reflect on the past and take note of the progress that has been made, but it is equally important to look towards the future and learn from our shared past to create a more equal Wales. Recent surveys have consistently shown that the Welsh public supports LGBTQ+ equality and it is imperative that we deliver on this goal.  A 2019 BBC Wales report showed that 56% of the population felt very comfortable about an adult being in a same-sex relationship, whilst only 8% felt not comfortable at all. At Shelter Cymru we welcome these statistics and the recently published Welsh Government LGBTQ+ action plan.

A recent story from BBC London has shone a spotlight on the issue of LGBTQ+ discrimination within the housing sector, which is still a problem in 2022, with a gay couple being refused a house viewing and purchase. It is important that we take notice and stand together against prejudice and discrimination. We know that this issue isn’t just limited to LGBTQ+ people purchasing properties but also trying to access private rental properties. Our soon-to-be-released report based on a survey of private landlords in Wales shows that although the vast majority of landlords are accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, a minority of prejudiced attitudes still persists. Although over 90% of landlords said they would let a trans person, 4% of landlords said that they would not rent to someone who is transgender on the basis of old stereotypes directed at the LGBTQ+ community such as promiscuity, with one landlord saying “with regular different partners you would have your property trashed.”

We know from our research that LGBTQ+ people are disproportionately at risk of homelessness due to familial rejection. The same report showed that this disproportionate risk is even greater among transgender people due to family rejection, relationship breakdown and economic precariousness. To make matters worse there is a mental health crisis within the LGBTQ+ community, with an increased risk of mental illness and an increased risk of suicide as a result of bullying and discrimination. Clearly more needs to be to encourage and facilitate joint working between public organisations to tackle the scourge of hate crimes in Wales. A recent Vice report highlights the true extent of what discrimination can lead to: homophobic hate crimes have risen by 210% over the past six years in the UK, whilst transphobic hate crime has risen by 332%. To help tackle the higher risk of mental illness and suicide within the LGBTQ+ community, we must all work together to end the scourge of violence and discrimination, otherwise we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our shared past.

The fight for home must also be a fight against discrimination

Supported by Shelter, Stephen, who is disabled,  successfully proved ‘No DSS’ discrimination is unlawful and in breach of the Equality Act
By Matthew Palmer

Did you know that if a landlord or estate agent discriminates against someone claiming housing benefit in Wales, then they are in breach of their licensing conditions? Many people may not know, which may be why we are still seeing cases of discrimination against people across Wales who are in receipt of housing benefit.

Even before the pandemic, around half of the Welsh population received some kind of benefit. Unsurprisingly, as the effects of the pandemic hit, more people claimed benefits as incomes fell.

Despite this additional pressure falling upon so many people, we are still seeing cases of people entitled to housing benefit being discriminated against when trying to secure somewhere to call home. Discrimination should never deny the right to a safe home.

This discrimination can take many forms. From blatantly unlawful ‘No DSS’ or ‘no Universal Credit’ adverts, to more creative approaches, such as advertising for ‘professionals only’ or asking for multiple months’ rent in advance.

Our recent research showed that around 75,000 (3%) of adults in Wales said they had experienced discrimination when they tried to find their current home and felt it was because of their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion or disability. While we know that it is a minority of landlords wriggling through loopholes or brazenly breaking the law to discriminate against people on benefits, one instance of discrimination is one too many – as it means yet another person in Wales is denied the right to a safe home.

At a time where incomes for many are stagnated or still falling and the cost of living is increasing, it’s vital that we take action. That’s because home is everything, and without it we cannot lead happy, healthy and productive lives. We’re campaigning to end housing benefit discrimination, by ensuring that landlords and agents who breach their licensing conditions in this way don’t get away with it.

So, if you agree with us – and the law – that one instance of discrimination is one too many and you want to do something about it, then drop Matt an email ([email protected]) and we’ll let you know how you can help. As little as one hour of your time will help us take discriminating landlords to task.

Together we can end this awful practice and take another step forward in our fight for home.

The 6th Senedd

On behalf of Shelter Cymru, I congratulate each and every new and returning member of the Senedd. We look forward to working with you all over the course of the 6th Senedd.

The 6th Senedd starts during a period of immense challenge across Wales. As we look to build back better and fairer from the pandemic, we must ensure that people’s homes are front and centre. We cannot expect people to get back into work, children to excel in their education and for people to live healthy and happy lives without good homes. Home is everything.

All parties gave housing attention and focus in their campaigns. We now need to start address the housing emergency. We’re keen to work with the new Welsh Government to deliver on their key commitments to housing. From 20,000 new social homes, more protections for renters across Wales and  ensuring that people in temporary housing are helped into long term homes, and no-one is forced to return to the streets. The challenges are immense. Only by working in partnership, will Wales be able to achieve the ambitious goal of ending our housing emergency, once and for all.

Shelter Cymru has a proud record of supporting people in housing need and fighting for good homes for everyone. We stand ready to help all of our new MSs as they face some of the biggest challenges of our time. We also stand ready to push and drive change where needed, being a critical friend to government and making the  voices of people – people across Wales whose daily lives are affected by homelessness or poor and unaffordable housing –  heard at the highest level. There is lots to do, but we look forward to contributing to ending the housing emergency in Wales.

We wish you all success in rising to the challenges and opportunities of the 6th Senedd.


Ruth Power | CEO, Shelter Cymru



Wales goes to the polls, what next for housing?

By Rob Simkins, Campaigns Manager


Tomorrow, Wales will go to the polls to elect our next Welsh Government and members of the Senedd, MSs. In the midst of a housing emergency – among the other crises gripping our nation – we’ll take a look at what we think our next MSs will be grappling with when it comes to housing during the 6th Senedd.


Social Homes
Each of the main parties have made strong commitments to drastically increase the number of social homes in Wales. Shelter Cymru have long argued that another 20,000 social homes are needed to help alleviate some of the pressure on waiting lists across the nation and get families into homes they can afford. We will be watching closely to make sure that targets are met and that these homes are of a good quality, meet local need and are genuinely affordable to rent.


Supporting Renters
A Resolution Foundation report released earlier this year helped to paint the picture of: a growing crisis of debt and rent arrears in the social and privately rented sectors. 24% of private renters saw their incomes fall compared to 16% of adults with a mortgage and there are three times the amount of private renters behind on their rent as people behind on their mortgage payments. This figure increases to nearly five times the amount of social renters behind with their rent when compared to people with mortgages arrears.

While the current Welsh Government put in place the Tenancy Saver Loan scheme, the take-up of this has been limited and whoever forms the next Welsh Government will need to take swift action to stop the build-up of debt and arrears among renters. Failure to take action could result in a tidal wave of post-pandemic homelessness, damaging lives and perpetuating inequalities.


Priority Need
The Covid-19 pandemic saw a multi-partner effort from government, councils and the charity sector to provide temporary accommodation to everyone who was homeless for the duration of the pandemic. This was a huge success, dramatically driving down the numbers of people sleeping rough and providing a safe place to stay for thousands of people who normally would not have the right to temporary accommodation, due to not being deemed ‘priority need’. But the strain this put on temporary accommodation providers and the wider system across Wales cannot be underestimated. There are now more than 6,000 people now in temporary accommodation compared to a little over 2300 in March 2020. The next key step for whoever makes up the next Welsh Government will be to ensure that there is:

  • No return to the streets for people who were previously sleeping rough, and that
  • Households are not trapped in temporary accommodation and are moved into suitable, stable and long-term homes as soon as possible

To do this, we mustn’t be constrained by the old way of thinking when it comes to homelessness. The priority need test saw many homeless people fall through the gaps of a complex system of gatekeeping. It’s time to consider each person who is homeless or at risk of homelessness  as equally deserving of help.


The challenges in getting a social home
It is high time we reviewed the way social housing is allocated in Wales. Housing is devolved and yet allocations are still based on the non-devolved Housing Act 1996. One of the factors currently keeping many people trapped in temporary accommodation is the inflexibility of local allocation policies. Over the years various unhelpful practices have developed such as the automatic exclusion from waiting lists of people with old unpaid rent arrears. While there is much good practice out there (and much creative interpretation of old, inflexible local exclusion policies), too many people are still excluded from social housing because of past mistakes or misfortunes. Our good practice guide describes how landlords can ensure they get some of their rent owed paid back, while tenants are not stuck in homelessness but can get a fresh start. The bigger challenge, though, is how we get more consistency and fairness in how social housing is allocated across Wales – a new Government, committed to a large-scale programme of social housebuilding, must quickly give attention to this issue.


The Housing Emergency
Thought we’d save the little one for the end…

Wales is indeed in the midst of a housing emergency, which began before Covid-19 turned everyone’s world upside down. Waiting lists for social homes are at record levels, a generation face being trapped in high-cost, low-security private rented accommodation  and people in parts of Wales are being priced out of where they are rooted by a surge of second / holiday homes.

These problems are not new, nor are they small. They are, however, fundamental to the health and wellbeing of our society and the next Welsh Government must be bold and proactive in addressing them. Many of the issues talked about above are essentially rooted in the wider housing emergency, driven by the gap between ordinary people’s incomes and the cost of a home – this is not a time for tinkering with a system, which fails so many people in Wales.

It’d be remiss not to acknowledge, that the renewed focus on housing – reflected by party pledges and manifesto commitments – is both very welcome and a positive first step. We look forward to working in partnership with whoever takes up office after the 6th of May, so that together, we can radically re-think how we enable every person in Wales to have a decent home. Homes that provide the foundation of people’s personal, social and economic wellbeing.

We must end the housing emergency in Wales once and for all.

We’re excited to get to work with the next Welsh Government, fighting for good homes up and down Wales.