Equal Ground Standard

The Equal Ground Standard is a tool for embedding person-centred principles in frontline homelessness services. It has been designed by service users in order to help further the aims of Part 2 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

We are offering free support to local authorities to embed the Equal Ground Standard and carry out user-led service evaluations.

Shelter Cymru has won funding from the Big Lottery Fund for the Take Notice project, a three-year initiative to develop the skills and confidence of service users and offer a service to local authorities and other providers to help check the quality of services.

Adopting the Standard is a process that can be taken as quickly or as slowly as resources allow – goals are short-, medium-, or long-term as required.

Download the Equal Ground Standard (Eng) →
Cymraeg →

We are keen to partner up with authorities across Wales to implement Equal Ground. If you would like to discuss this, please get in touch with Jennie Bibbings, Policy and Research Manager at [email protected]

The EGS is supported by the Welsh Government.

Shelter Cymru supports Welsh Ministers call to abolish ‘ right to buy’

Shelter Cymru has been campaigning for an end to the Right to Buy for several years. We have long believed that the Right to Buy has contributed to homelessness and housing need in Wales by reducing the social housing available.  It makes little sense to continue to sell rented houses at discounted prices when affordable housing provision still falls so short of projected need.

Of course the Right to Buy isn’t the only factor that we must think about. We must improve the supply of affordable housing across Wales, including low cost home ownership, secure and affordable private rented housing, and more social housing through the work of housing associations and local authorities.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-30918677

St Dwynwen’s Day

Sunday 25 January is Santes Dwynwen Day, the Welsh equivalent of Valentine’s Day. We believe that home is where the heart is, so this Sunday, why not show your love for Shelter Cymru and tell us what home means to you. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter feeds – we’ll be posting an image you can share or feel free to take your own picture. Just remember to use the hashtag #sheltercymrucartref or#sheltercymruhome Are you interested in our work? If you’d like to know more about our work, sign up below by typing your email address into the box and pressing ‘enter’ on your keyboard.

Or, to find out more, you can visit our What we do pages » Would you like to support us? If you’ve got a few pounds to spare and would like to support our work to prevent homelessness across Wales, then you can donate here »

Take Notice project

Take Notice is an exciting new project funded by the Big Lottery for three years to improve housing and homelessness services across Wales.

We want to give people who have experienced homelessness and bad housing a voice and to support them to lead a positive change in the way that the services they use are planned and delivered in Wales.

We offer full support and training and a range of activities to help participants to contribute to this process in the way that suits them best. You can be involved in a way that you decide!

Take Notice is supported by The Big Lottery Fund.

For more information please visit our projects page »

Hundreds of social tenants lose their homes as repossessions hit seven year high in Wales

Social housing repossessions hit a seven year high this year in Wales with nearly a thousand social tenant households losing their homes, a leading housing charity has revealed.

Shelter Cymru analysed Ministry of Justice data on court possessions and found that while mortgage repossessions have fallen in recent years, repossessions in social housing have risen 12 per cent over the last year and are now at the highest level since before the recession.

John Puzey, Director of Shelter Cymru, said: “This year has been particularly tough for social tenants, many of whom have suffered due to changes in welfare benefits and the rising costs of living. We have been working with landlords to ensure that they are doing everything they can to help tenants stay afloat – but these figures show that more clearly needs to be done.

“While some landlords are working hard to help tenants make the most of their income, others are failing to put support in place and are rushing to court far too quickly. We are hearing that some have started charging rent in advance from new tenants, forcing families into debt right from the outset of their tenancies.”

Social housing repossessions peaked in January to March 2014 – during these months Welsh social landlords were making more than 21 households homeless per week or three households homeless every day.

Across all tenures, nearly 2,200 households had their homes repossessed by bailiffs in Wales – equivalent to more than 42 households every week or six households per day. Many more would have lost their homes without going to court, so would not be included in these figures.

John Puzey added: “Tenants who are evicted from social housing have very few options open to them. Other landlords often won’t take them on if they have arrears so the only choice is the private rented sector where they may be vulnerable to rogue landlords.

“The worst time of year for repossessions is always the first three months of the year. This year, perhaps social landlords should show some forbearance post-Christmas and not rush to court as soon as the holidays are over.”

Notes
The figures are based on analysis of Ministry of Justice Mortgage and Landlord Possession Statistics available herehttps://www.gov.uk/government/collections/mortgage-and-landlord-possession-statistic.

Over the last year (Oct 13 to Sept 14 – most recent figures available) 2,195 households had their homes repossessed by bailiffs in Wales. There were 1,002 mortgage repossessions; 958 repossessions from social housing; and 235 PRS repossessions.

Shelter Cymru is Wales’s People and Homes charity. We have offices all over Wales and prevent people from losing their homes by offering free, confidential and independent advice.

Last year we helped nearly 15,000 people, preventing homelessness in 89 per cent of the cases where it was faced, while more than 140,000 people visited our website looking for help.

Homes for All Cymru Manifesto

Homes for All Cymru brings together key housing organisations in Wales and aims to maximise the contribution housing makes to the health and wellbeing of communities.

The group provides a united voice on a range of housing issues and has recently agreed this housing manifesto to illustrate the combined concerns of its members and how improvements can be made to help people in housing need.

Membership

  • Age Cymru
  • Care and Repair Cymru
  • Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru
  • Community Housing Cymru
  • Cymorth Cymru
  • Disability Wales
  • Home Builders Federation
  • Homeless Link Cymru
  • RNIB Cymru
  • Rough Sleepers Cymru
  • Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
  • Shelter Cymru
  • Tai Pawb
  • Tenant Participation Advisory Service Cymru (TPAS Cymru)
  • Welsh Refugee Council
  • Welsh Tenants Federation
  • Welsh Womens Aid

Manifesto 2014

Affordable and suitable homes
There is a housing crisis with more than 90,000 households on waiting lists and at least 5,000 affordable homes needed in Wales each year to meet current demand. It is vital that we explore innovative ways to increase the supply of affordable homes and better utilise the existing stock for use.

We need a better understanding of peoples’ diverse housing needs; a more sophisticated approach to local housing market assessments and supply development is needed in order to address those needs and improve the planning and provision of specialist accommodation.

Providing more affordable homes not only meets need; it is a key lever for local economic regeneration and employment and job creation.

Tenancies
More families are finding themselves in the private rented sector in Wales because of a lack of alternatives. In order to provide stability for families and neighbourhoods, greater security of tenure is needed as well as improved consumer rights and defences against retaliatory evictions.

Improved levels of enforcement need to be in place to ensure that conditions are improved and those poorer landlords are held to account. Local authorities need to consider how they can work in partnership with third sector organisations to identify poor landlords and take action.

Private tenants also need greater access to legal advice to safeguard tenancies and should be supported in developing Private Tenants Associations.

Housing Conditions and Health
Poor housing conditions cost the Welsh NHS millions each year. The Building Research Establishment and Shelter Cymru estimated that Category 1 hazards cost Wales more than £160 million a year in treatment costs, lost time from work etc.

Access to secure, good quality housing is also extremely important for the whole population’s mental health and wellbeing. Poor housing or homelessness can cause or exacerbate mental health problems and have a negative impact on the health and recovery of people with mental illness.

Recognising the crucial public health and preventative role of housing, a greater emphasis on exploring jointly funding health and housing initiatives to address housing conditions should be explored.

Suitable housing for older people
Current policy and services are heavily weighted toward a crisis intervention approach. We need to develop a more coherent strategy and a proactive approach that informs, promotes, and facilitates greater housing choice in older age. To do this, we need to extend and improve the range of housing options and services. This includes:

Information and advice services that help people think about and plan for where they want to live when they are older
Improved services for helping people remain independent in their own homes, including Care and Repair services, housing adaptation services and financial help with getting repairs and improvements done (eg affordable loans and safe equity release) that make properties fit to live in.

Services that provide information and practical help that assists older people to move to different accommodation across all sectors – social, owner occupied and private rented.

In the social housing sector, develop more options and provide more choice – sheltered, extra care, retirement villages, residential care, on the strength of more robust data and local needs assessments and local strategies for housing older people.

Continue to plan and develop lifetime homes but in addition, plan and build accommodation that is not only simple to adapt in later life, but straightforward to extend and increase space – such as the ability to extend or convert lofts, to accommodate older relatives moving in.

Fuel Poverty
We believe that the time has come to stop the 2,000 plus excess deaths every winter of older people in Wales because they cannot afford to heat their own homes.

To achieve this, better use needs to be made of the significant schemes and funding that already exist to help alleviate fuel poverty, such as ARBED, ECO and NEST. Over recent decades schemes such as HEES, HEES Plus, CESP and CERT have made inroads into improving energy efficiency of social housing in particular, but much remains to be done.

This includes greater emphasis on more difficult to reach, and more widely dispersed properties in the owner occupied and private rented sector, occupied by fuel poor older people and others on low incomes. There needs to be better use of data on scheme activity to date, in order to understand where future effort most needs to be targeted.

Homelessness
The number of people experiencing and facing the trauma of homelessness is increasing. The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 sets an important new framework with an emphasis on prevention and partnership work. It is crucial that this new framework influences positively the culture of homelessness services, making them more user-focussed, including involving users in the design and delivery of services.

This culture change needs to include a commitment to respect people’s points of view and meet their stated needs wherever possible. In each case local authorities should strive to ensure that the household agrees with the identified course of action.

In order to assess and continually improve the effectiveness of homelessness prevention work, user feedback, which captures important person-centred outcomes such as confidence to manage a tenancy and social support networks, should be simultaneously collected alongside the service prevention performance indicator data. Such a dual measurement will then highlight the gaps between the professional assessments of success with those of the people actually receiving the service.

The new Act also provides an important opportunity to align support for the most vulnerable citizens with developments under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act to ensure services work collaboratively to prevent homelessness.

Poverty and Equality
We believe that investment in, and the provision of, affordable and social housing is critical to supporting wider equality and anti-poverty agendas.

The Welsh housing industry has pioneered the principle that public and housing investment programmes can deliver wider community benefits, with a particular focus on maximising targeted recruitment and training (TR&T) opportunities and developing local supply chains through the use of the principles of the i2i Can Do toolkit.

This approach has travelled beyond both housing and Wales. Community benefits are a long-term solution for bringing employment, economic and social gain to disadvantaged populations, to help break the cycle of poverty and to promote the principles of equality and inclusion, as well as to help resolve the current housing crisis.

Housing organisations provide a range of additional functions for the communities in which they work, including services and projects relating to digital and financial inclusion and tackling domestic abuse and anti-social behaviour.

We believe that housing organisations are critical to developing partnerships that implement innovative and proven methods to tackle the further marginalisation of diverse and disadvantaged groups caused by increasing poverty, stigmatisation and prejudices.

Funding and budgets
Funding for housing and housing-related services should be safeguarded and increased to better reflect the preventative nature of work and outcomes delivered.

Essential programmes such as Supporting People and Care and Repair keep older and vulnerable people safe, warm and independent at home, out of less appropriate and more expensive institutional care settings, reducing demand for overstretched ambulance services, GPs and emergency hospital admissions.

There is a need for greater transparency of all publicly-funded grant streams, with clarity of purpose and much better cross-cutting understanding and working so that shared outcomes can be achieved more efficiently and cost-effectively across Welsh Government Directorates and other funding streams.

There is also a need for more flexible funding to allow planning over a longer period rather than being constrained by annual budgets.

Devolution
Wales has an opportunity to maximise benefits for Welsh communities and business through a better constitutional settlement in both fiscal and democratic terms. We would welcome the opportunity to introduce further powers to vary taxation or where appropriate to devolve further purposeful powers to enable Wales to better respond to changing demands in housing.

Cyclists Gear Up for 6 Nations Challenge

The Wales Team have thrown their support behind Shelter Cymru’s Ride to the Rugby Challenge for 2015. Internationals Luke Charteris and Dan Lydiate took time out from training for the Autumn Series to meet some of the cyclists.

In February 2014, 35 cyclists raised £50,000 for Shelter Cymru by cycling between the Millennium Stadium and the Aviva Stadium.

Once again Ride to the Rugby Team Captain is Wales and British Lions forward Colin Charvis and riders will also be joined by another former Wales International and Grand Slam winner Haldane Luscombe. Colin and Haldane will be leading a party of nearly 70 cyclists across to France.

Ride to the Rugby Team Captain Colin Charvis said:

“This season’s event promises to be bigger and better than last, and what an adventure that was! I’m proud to be associated with Shelter Cymru once more. Hopefully the team can raise vital funds for the organisation whilst enjoying the journey and ultimately the match. Paris here we come.”

Wales second row Luke Charteris said:

“The 6 Nations is a very special competition and takes on even more significance in World Cup year. The cyclists went through some very tough conditions to get to Ireland last year and the whole squad is appreciative of their efforts to get to the game in France. We will be going all out to make sure they see a Welsh win. At the same time to be raising so much money to help families across Wales find and keep a home, Shelter Cymru is a charity we are proud to support.”

Andrew Jones, Shelter Cymru’s Fundraising Manager, said:

“Demand for our services continues to increase at a time when funding is ever more difficult to secure. Ride to the Rugby has captured the imagination and brought Shelter Cymru to a new audience. Getting everyone to Paris will be a great adventure but after the success of Dublin something we are all very much looking forward to.”

Sam Seward, Managing Director of Gullivers Sports Travel, said:

“Shelter Cymru helps vulnerable people in crisis and at Gullivers we are delighted to be supporting this valuable and hugely worthwhile cause. As Official Travel Supplier to the Welsh Rugby Union, we’re looking forward to coming together with thousands of our customers and other rugby fans to welcome the cyclists at the Stade de France.”

The Ride to the Rugby is a challenging four day cycle ride between Cardiff and Paris, arriving in time for kick off for France v Wales at the Stade de France. In potentially difficult weather conditions cyclists will complete nearly 300 miles and have been asked to raise as much money as possible for Shelter Cymru with a minimum target of £1,500.

Shelter Cymru is very grateful to the companies that are supporting the event and in particular Nation Radio, which will be providing on air updates throughout the Challenge, Gulliver’s Sports Travel for assisting with logistics in France, and Creigiau Travel, which will be providing daily support and bringing the cyclists home.

Caroline’s story

Things started to go wrong for Caroline after she was diagnosed with MS. A single mother with two children, she worked as a carer until she was forced to give up due to ill health. Despite the recommendations from her GP and hospital specialists, Caroline was found fit to work by the DWP medical assessment. As a result, her sickness benefit stopped and she fell into debt.

“Physically I lost weight as I couldn’t afford to eat. On several occasions I went several days without food. I had some help from food banks but you can’t have more than three vouchers. On one occasion I went four days without hot water as I had no money for gas. I had to sacrifice my car – I couldn’t afford to run it. This meant it was difficult to get out of the house, especially on the days when my legs were bad. I was just stuck in the house constantly. I think it would have helped me to cope with my health problems better if I had been able to see friends socially but there was no way I could go out with no money. My rent arrears continually went up … I couldn’t afford to pay the shortfall – I ended up in court where I was afraid of being evicted. It was very stressful and the stress of it made me even more ill.”

Caroline contacted Shelter Cymru for support and was put in touch with Suzanne, her local adviser. Suzanne has worked for Shelter Cymru for nine years.

Suzanne is our Housing Support Worker in Flintshire and has worked for Shelter Cymru for nine years.

“With Caroline, her illness made her extremely vulnerable, having to give up work not only increased the financial pressure on her and her family but also had an impact on her mental wellbeing. She simply couldn’t make ends meet. Facing potential homelessness at this point was the final straw and she felt so low that at times she felt that she couldn’t face the future.”

Suzanne has been working with Caroline and her family for two years, helping Caroline deal with her welfare benefit issues, her rent arrears and financial management, getting her back to work and supporting her with her health problems and mental wellbeing.

“I am so pleased Caroline is now feeling well enough to be doing permitted work (which is designed to support people to get off benefits and back into employment). Caroline was embarrassed to be on benefits but she like many others had no choice. Being back in work has made a huge difference both financially and mentally to Caroline. Although she is still suffering from MS, she can now look after her family again, something every mum wants to be able to do.”

“I don’t know how I would have coped on my own. The way the support has been delivered has been great – home visits were perfect for me as I know I wouldn’t have been able to get to appointments when I was feeling so low. I really don’t know what I would have done without Shelter Cymru’s support.”

Caroline and her family are unfortunately not alone. Family break ups, job loss, sudden illness, debt, the list of reasons why a family falls into rent or mortgage arrears is endless but the result is often the same, that their home is put at risk.

That’s where we come in. Every day, we work with families at risk of losing their homes.

Please help us this Christmas to support more families across Wales at risk of losing their homes by donating to us today.

British Gas Energy Trust to fund Wrexham debt advice service

A Wrexham-based debt advice service that was facing closure has been thrown a lifeline thanks to a new partnership with the British Gas Energy Trust. 

The existing debt advice service run by Shelter Cymru has been under threat due to funding cuts, but will now but will now be supported by the British Gas Energy Trust as part of a national partnership between British Gas and Shelter in England, Scotland and Wales.

The service was launched in Wrexham by Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Lesley Griffiths, on Friday 7 November.

The Minister said: “I want to ensure everybody in Wales, especially the most vulnerable, have access to the support they need to overcome financial problems and cope with the impact of welfare reform.

“The new partnership is a significant milestone for Shelter Cymru, which will enable them to build upon the successful debt advice service they have provided in the area for many years. This new service will play a vital role in providing trusted advice and preventing homelessness.”

The debt advice service will tackle the root causes of homelessness, money problems and fuel poverty, helping local people to clear their debts and get back on their feet.

The British Gas Energy Trust is a charity funded solely by British Gas, which has donated £75 million to it over the past 10 years to help 120,000 households. The Trust is open to everyone in need, regardless of whether they are British Gas customers.

Established in 2004, the Trust funds over 50 specialist energy debt advisers across the UK, like the Wrexham based service, based in the heart of communities to offer help to those struggling to pay their energy and other household bills.

The debt advisers talk to people individually and confidentially about their personal circumstances to understand their problems and give face-to-face advice.

The Trust can also provide grants to clear energy debts, to purchase energy efficient household appliances like fridges, cookers and washing machines, or to fix or replace a boiler.

Janet Loudon, Head of Operations at Shelter Cymru, said: “Our debt advice service has helped hundreds of people to deal with money problems over the last few years so the prospect of losing it was a real worry.

“We know that getting independent advice can make a huge difference and prevent problems escalating to crisis point. This new funding means that we will be able to build on the valuable service we’ve established and ensure that we are there for people who are struggling with debt and other financial worries.”

British Gas joined forces with Shelter in 2012 in a five-year partnership to work together for better homes for Britain. Their shared ambition is to improve one million homes in the private rented sector.

Christine Tate, Head of Corporate Responsibility for British Gas, said: “Last year the British Gas Energy Trust’s advisers in Wales helped 1500 households who were struggling with debt. Working with Shelter Cymru to deliver face-to-face advice in Wrexham will benefit the community and give real support where it is needed most, helping more local people to move on with their lives.”

Debt advice surgeries will held at a range of community venues in and around Wrexham. Call 01978 317911 for more information.

Notes

British Gas and Shelter
British Gas and Shelter joined forces in 2012 as part of a five year partnership to help tackle the problem of poor quality private rented homes in Britain. The partnership will tackle five key areas: safety, warmth, landlord advice, renter advice and standards.

British Gas
British Gas is the UK’s leading energy supplier, and serves around 12 million homes in Britain – nearly half the country’s homes – as well as providing energy to one million UK businesses. British Gas provides value for money, dedicated customer service, innovative energy solutions and the highest quality Home Services expertise in the country. Find out more at www.britishgas.co.uk.

The British Gas Energy Trust (BGET)
The first nationwide trust of its kind in the UK, BGET is funded solely by British Gas, which has donated £75 million to the charity over the past 10 years to help 120,000 people to clear their debts and get back on their feet.

Established in 2004 to help individuals and families facing fuel poverty, the Trust offers support which includes grants to clear energy debts, to purchase energy efficient household appliances like fridges, cookers and washing machines, or to fix or replace a boiler.

The Trust also funds over 50 specialist energy debt advisors across the UK, based in the heart of communities to offer help to those struggling to pay their energy and other household bills. The advisors talk to people individually and confidentially about their personal circumstances to understand their problems and give tailored advice and support.

The Trust is open to everyone, regardless of whether they are British Gas customers. It is governed by a Board of independent Trustees.

In 2013 BGET made nearly 12,000 (11,771) awards, totalling £7.3 million. Over 9,000 awards were made to clear energy debt and over 2,500 awards were for further assistance eg white goods etc. The average grant in 2013 was £618.

Bergamo Declaration

Implement innovative and effective approaches to fight homelessness in Europe.

Poverty has been increasing since the launch of the Europe 2020 agenda.  Indeed, since its adoption in 2010, 6 million more people are now living in poverty and social exclusion in the European Union (EU).  The EU has drifted away from the target it set itself in 2010 of lifting 20 million people out of poverty.

Rising poverty has also led to a dramatic rise in homelessness and the number of people threatened by eviction in the majority of EU Member States.

Homelessness is a pressing social challenge throughout the EU. It denies people access to fundamental rights and incurs significant societal costs. In the context of its commitment to fighting poverty and social exclusion, the EU plays an important role in supporting Member States to develop and maintain strategies to combat homelessness.

FEANTSA gathered around 450 practitioners and activists on homelessness at its 2014 Policy Conference ”Confronting homelessness in the EU“ held in Bergamo, Italy. Conference participants discussed a wide range of challenges in the fight against homelessness at European level and beyond, as well as the solutions to homelessness that exist, some of them new and innovative.

With a new European Commission and European Parliament, the European Union is at a turning point.  In her recent inaugural hearing, Commissioner-elect for Social Affairs, Employment and Inclusion, Marianne Thyssen said that homelessness was obviously a priority for her.  FEANTSA welcomes this recognition of the importance of homelessness.

FEANTSA therefore urges the EU and its Member States (MS) to implement innovative and more effective approaches in the fight against homelessness:

  1. The EU and MS should design integrated action plans on all policy levels to deal with the rise in homelessness and evictions.
  2. They should tackle the rising proportion of EU-migrants among people who are homeless. While maintaining the right to free movement of EU citizens, migration policy must be renewed to provide greater security for EU citizens who have migrated to other Members states.
  3. They should accept that poverty and homelessness are not lifestyle choices and that people should not be punished or criminalised for their destitution.
  4. There should be more support for homeless people and those threatened by eviction in housing policy – including using eviction prevention schemes and access to housing, for example through the proven programme ”Housing First“, as keys to reducing homelessness.
  5. The EU – through Eurostat – and MS should collect data on homelessness in order to inform effective homelessness strategies.
  6. The EU and MS should take account of the legal and rights-based dimension of homelessness.
  7. The EU and MS should make use of the Structural Funds in efforts to combat homelessness.

Bergamo, 24.10.2014


 

This publication is supported by the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity – PROGRESS (2007-2013). This programme is implemented by the European Commission. It was established to financially support the implementation of the objectives of the European Union in the employment, social affairs and equal opportunities area, and thereby contribute to the achievement of the Europe 2020 Strategy goals in these fields.

The seven-year Programme targets all stakeholders who can help shape the development of appropriate and effective employment and social legislation and policies, across the EU-27, EFTA-EEA and EU candidate and pre-candidate countries.

For more information see: http://ec.europa.eu/progress.

The information contained in this publication does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of the European Commission.

FEANTSA works with the European Commission, the contracting authority for the four-year partnership agreement under which this publication has received funding.