As a new Welsh Government digital campaign begins on Housing Advice during Covid-19, Housing Minister, Julie James, has called on the people of Wales to seek help now if they’re experiencing housing issues.
Developed with Shelter Cymru, the campaign will direct people to the Welsh Government website where they will be able to access advice related to different housing issues.
The campaign aims to inform and reassure people that help and support is available and make it easier for them to access that help and support, particularly as many won’t have been in this situation before.
Shelter Cymru has reported that demand for their live online support and telephone helpline has more than doubled in recent weeks.
Based on feedback from Shelter Cymru and other housing and homelessness organisations in Wales, the campaign is focusing on five common concerns:
- Struggling to pay rent or mortgage
- Worried about eviction
- Getting repairs done in a rented home
- Having a safe or suitable place to stay
- Self-isolating in shared accommodation
The Welsh Government website will set out what people can do about these issues and signpost them to further help from organisations such as Citizens Advice, Crisis, Shelter Cymru and specialist providers such as Llamau. The website will also refer people to the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions where appropriate for further information on benefits.
In addition, the Welsh Government is running a campaign with Shelter Cymru and Llamau around hidden homelessness and the impact of the coronavirus. This is targeted mainly, but not exclusively, at young people who may have been sleeping on a friend’s sofa or staying somewhere temporarily like a hostel, night shelter or bed & breakfast.
Announcing the start of the campaign, Minister for Housing Julie James said:
“Many people are finding themselves in a situation where they are struggling to pay bills or they fear eviction for the first time ever - our message to people is to get help now.
"This campaign is all about making sure people know their rights, they know their entitlements and that they can take advantage of the help and advice that’s available from the organisations and charities we regularly work with.
“We’ve worked closely with our partners to ensure the concerns they are hearing about most often are reflected in the campaign so that people understand they are not alone and that help is available We will continue to listen to them and adapt as this campaign progresses.”
John Puzey, Director, Shelter Cymru said:
"We are pleased to be working with the Welsh Government to get the message out there that help is available. Many people in Wales are worried about their housing situation and don’t know who to turn to. It’s good that the Welsh Government has made it a priority to raise awareness of our service as well as other services that can help people during this crisis."
Rebecca Woolley, Director of Citizens Advice Cymru said,
"At Citizens Advice Cymru our advisers have seen over 19,000 people since lockdown began. We know that often people don't know how to access the support they're entitled to. We're pleased that the Welsh Government are putting together this campaign that aims to inform and reassure people about the help and support available, and bring it together in one place."
The campaign aims to help people like Marie who lives in Flintshire with her six children.
Marie explains: “I’ve lived in my house for over 6 years and have never missed a payment. Two days before the lockdown was announced, my landlord’s agent gave me eight weeks notice to leave as the landlord wants to live here herself.
“Then the lockdown came and I couldn’t go out to look for a new house as I have to home school and look after my kids. I was very worried about the future and angry with my landlord and the agent. I’ve paid more than £50,000 in rent over the years but they still gave me notice at the worst possible time. I contacted the council and they suggested I contact Shelter Cymru for advice.
“I was put through to Gemma. She has been brilliant. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t know what to do and I’d be so stressed. Gemma told me the government’s legislation means the landlord can’t start eviction proceeding against me until June at the earliest so I don’t need to find a new home straight away. The agent has been emailing me, putting pressure on me to leave but I send them all to Gemma and she reassures me he must follow the correct procedures in Wales.
“Knowing where I stand has given me the confidence to stand up to him. I will leave, but not until it’s safe for me to find a new home for myself and my children.”
- The Welsh Government guidance can be found here: gov.wales/coronavirushousingadvice
- Marie (not her real name) is available for interview but her identity must be protected due to an injunction against an abusive former partner. Please contact Anna Miller on 07976 610366 to arrange an interview with Marie or with the Minister for Housing and Local Government.
- For interviews with a representative from Shelter Cymru, please contact Heddyr Gregory on 07970 706902 or Jennie Bibbings on 07884 261702