500 Welsh children homeless due to social housing evictions

The Welsh Government has said it will ‘study closely’ a new report from Shelter Cymru showing some 500 children were made homeless last year through social housing evictions.

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Shelter Cymru timed the release of the report to World Homeless Day to focus on the financial and human impact of evictions from Welsh social housing.

The report – Accessing and Sustaining Social Tenancies: Exploring Barriers to Homelessness Prevention – found that dealing with the consequences of these evictions cost the Welsh economy an estimated £24.3m, including more than £7.5m to landlords.

In a key finding, the report reveals around 500 children were made homeless last year after social landlords evicted around 914 households over 2015/16.

The report also exposes the extent of evicted tenants finding themselves without support to go into stable housing, facing long-term homelessness or experiencing the deterioration of support needs.

Rent arrears and the threat of eviction were found to happen for two main reasons: structural barriers like changes to welfare reform, unstable or no employment and housing benefit challenges, or support needs not being met.

More than three quarters of people interviewed were still homeless six months after their eviction, the report says.

The study found that social landlords vary in their approach and methods in preventing evictions and it is clear that there is excellent work currently being undertaken in Wales.

However, the report reveals tenants are not receiving a consistent response to the prevention of evictions.

The Shelter Cymru study reads: “We found many examples of good practice and some outstanding practice in inclusive lettings and in the prevention of eviction. However, we also found instances where people had been excluded from social housing when it was inappropriate and unfair to do so.

“Our evidence suggests that more can be done to ensure that Welsh social housing is continuing to meet the needs of people on very low incomes.”

The report makes a number of recommendations, including Welsh social landlords and the Welsh Government working together to develop a Wales-wide approach to financially inclusive lettings, improving the current knowledge base on eviction prevention and tenant engagement and ensuring local authority housing solutions and housing benefit teams work together.

Jennie Bibbings, Shelter Cymru’s campaign manager, said: “The findings of our study are very worrying in terms of inconsistencies between Welsh social landlords’ approaches to preventing evictions.

“When it comes to something as vital as losing a home, a patchy approach just isn’t good enough. We sincerely hope that this report resonates with social landlords and their belief in the social ethos of the service that they provide.”

Offering the study the report closely, The Welsh Government stood by legislation introduced last year to help ensure everyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness gets the help they need came into effect.

In a statement, the Welsh Government said: “The first year’s statistics are very encouraging, with homelessness successfully prevented for almost two thirds of all households assessed as threatened with homelessness within 56 days.

“We provided an additional £5.6m to help local authorities prepare for and implement the new duties and we will continue to support local authorities to improve on this very positive start.”

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