A summary of what the Housing & Welfare advice service did in 2016-2017
We now have nearly 7,000 clients on our database, having added 508 new clients in the last year – 41% of all clients seen. We saw 1,249 clients in total last year and the number of the visits from those clients numbered 2,371.
To enable us to serve this number of clients, the Advice and Welfare team provided 461 advice sessions – 84% of all sessions and 96% if we take into account annual leave entitlement
Who came to see us?
Predominately our clients were male – in fact, they comprised 85% of all clients seen and this is a similar picture to previous years. Looking at the age profile, the younger clients in the 18-25 age group have diminished – these tend to be younger migrant workers and our older client base is continuing to grow – up from 11.5% to 16% in this year. The bulk of clients do still fall within the 26-55 group – over 77% of our clients.
Our clients come from all communities – the largest single being African clients of whom form 30.5% of our total client group, followed by a category known as “White – Other”, who are largely composed of migrant workers. This group is however reducing.
Our largest single group in terms of status are British citizens of all origins – these citizens are 40% of all clients with 26% coming from Central and Eastern European nations, 18% are clients who have been granted refugee status, limited or indefinite leave.
Where in particular did they come from?
In our backyard – otherwise known as the London borough of Southwark, 54 different nationalities were represented.
Outside the borough boundaries, clients from 51 nations came through our doors.
Why did they come to see us?
Well, 37% came to see us due to a housing need and this was the single largest need documented – nearly 60% of our clients tell us that they are rough sleeping.
Apart from housing which we will cover more fully later, people came to see us to deal with benefits 13%, employment at 11%, maximising income such as getting grants or maximising benefits particularly for clients affected by disability – 10%. Lower down the list were issues relating to Housing Benefit and identity – both around the 5% mark
How have we helped those who needed housing?
Overall, we placed 224 the 464 who came to us for housing – 48%. A relatively new phenomenon has arisen which has swelled the numbers who we are not able to assist initially and relates to the additional document requirements for clients and we are relatively reliant as an in-reach service on them returning to us with those documents.
In addition, we have seen housing providers withdraw provision from clients who are receiving Universal Credit if they come from abroad unless they can prove residency in the UK.
We also have been affected by housing providers closing their waiting lists at various times which means there is an uneven flow of housing availability to us.
Why have they become homeless?
For a number of those given refugee status, it is quite simply that once leave to remain has been granted asylum support in terms of housing stops. We are seeing more clients come to us from rented properties – private and otherwise because of arrears which now accounts for 10% of all housing clients. With increasing use of sanctions and other mechanisms by the benefit agencies, clients are more likely to experience greater financial stress. Clients are moving from areas outside London or from overseas to the capital as they believe it will give them a greater chance of finding work and many are just asked to leave due to a relationship breakdown where they have no right of tenure in a property or they have just outstayed their welcome and it has become untenable.
Where have we placed our housing clients?
The two largest types of housing in which we have placed people are private rented accommodation and hostel accommodation.
We now have regular offers of housing being made to clients through emails we send out every day of housing offers made to us. They can then select what they might want to view but also reassures clients that something might come up that suits them as there is a constant flow of offers. It does demand that clients are pro-active and it is a less personal approach but given our resources it is the most effective.
We are continually looking to do more – looking for further financial resources to assist clients and a greater variety of housing offers. This work goes on and on as some landlords leave the market for various reasons.
For systematically disadvantaged groups, homelessness is more like the norm?
We know that the clients we serve are amongst the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. In a recent article by Suzanne Fitzpatrick – Professor of Housing and Social Policy at Heriot-Watt University suggests that it is a myth that we are all two paycheques away from homelessness. She suggests that for systematically disadvantaged groups, homelessness is more like the norm. Research she has completed shows and the picture given by national household surveys confirms that being younger, single or a lone parent heightens your vulnerability to homelessness and so too, in England, does being from a black or mixed-ethnic minority group. What comes out even more strongly in the research, Professor Fitzpatrick undertook is the overwhelming association with poverty.
It is also extremely distressing to see the increasing numbers of clients we see with a wide spread of additional factors that are contributing to their distress – lack of efficiency from government departments such as the Home Office or the DWP, greater levels of mental ill-health, poor employment practices to name but a few.
Thank you for helping us to work toward the prevention of homelessness and to maintain the vision of a fair and equitable society.
Click here for a fuller report of what our H & W advice service did in 16-17.