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    Where people are evicted into homelessness we exchange short-term challenge for long-term damage Clare Budden, ClwydAlyn
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Ending homelessness from social housing can happen – a 'zero evictions' approach will be a catalyst

Clare Budden, ClwydAlyn

 

In April 2019, ClwydAlyn set out a new mission based on ending poverty. One of its first acts was a commitment to not evict anyone into homelessness, with an aim for zero evictions overall. In October, Welsh Government called for a pact between all social housing providers to end evictions into homelessness. Here, ClwydAlyn's chief executive, Clare Budden, talks about the how a zero-eviction policy can work and their plans to go further in the future.

A shift towards zero evictions is bold, ambitious but ultimately achievable.

If we are serious about ending homelessness in Wales, then as housing providers we must consider where we can have the most significant impact and what we can do better for people and communities.

That might mean tearing up the rule books and getting rid of traditional approaches which are now outdated.

Some evictions are, unfortunately, unavoidable. But in the majority of cases they simply move the problem down the road. Another provider or agency picks up the tenant and the cost, and the underlying issue is rarely addressed.

In cases where people are evicted into homelessness we exchange short-term challenge for long-term damage. Individuals and families come back into the system as a more complex and expensive case. Operationally and financially the approach makes little sense. And that's without considering the emotional and mental health impact.

A new approach

In April 2019 we launched our new mission for ClwydAlyn that centres around ending poverty. One of our first acts was to set a new target of working towards no evictions.

In October, Welsh Government set out its own strategy with the aim that homelessness is rare, brief and unrepeated. It was good to see the call for a pact between providers to ensure no evictions from social housing into homelessness.

Our experience of moving towards a zero evictions approach has been a positive one.

Overall evictions are down 85% on last year with only three evictions for rent arrears this year.

Where possible we've looked for positive solutions. For example, we recently had to take possession proceedings for a tenant in a four-bedroom property where we faced a number of issues including non-payment of rent.

The property was much bigger than he needed so we found him another smaller and more suitable property which we know will also help him to alleviate some of his issues with family members.

A focus on prevention

Operationally, we've switched our approach so that it is now much more focused on prevention and acting quickly to address low level arrears.

We have appointed an Early Intervention Officer who focuses on all new tenancies and who works with tenants who have low level arrears to prevent them escalating. Our Welfare Rights Team has been refocused on providing priority referrals for people who are in arrears.

Our Crisis Fund enables Housing Officers and other staff to use this money for any tenant who is in financial hardship. This can be used for a multitude of needs, from repairing a vehicle to enable the tenant to get to work, to travel cards, carpets or white goods.

Income collection

We've also reviewed our income collection approach, with new case management software and a project with Voicescape that will contact all tenants with low level arrears and missed payments.

Income Officers now run arrears meetings where they discuss all cases where we are not getting engagement from a tenant. We work together with teams across the business to share knowledge of the tenant, make enquiries about other agencies and look for ways that we can understand an individual's circumstances.

Final interventions

If we reach the end of our options and we are at the point of making a warrant application, we identify an alternative housing option for the tenant, should the eviction have to go ahead.

When a tenancy ends with an eviction, a review of the case takes place to look at what we could have done differently and whether there were options to provide support at a much earlier stage that would have enabled us to resolve issues.

Looking to the future

We want to take three evictions this year to zero next year.

The reduction this year shows that our approach is working. We believe that longer term any additional resources needed will be more than covered by savings on void properties, lost rent, repairs and re-letting costs and legal costs.

Now we are starting to look at how we can end evictions from temporary accommodation; where some of the most vulnerable in our communities live.

We know that in these properties, behaviours can be challenging and the threshold for evictions is much lower. However, the same issues apply. We can't keep moving people down the road and making them someone else's problem.

While there was more money for housing delivery in the latest budget, calls for an increase to the Housing Support Grant to enable local authorities to commission more housing-related support services have not been met. This must be reviewed in the future.

Homelessness is one of the shameful challenges facing our generation. At ClwydAlyn we think we are developing a credible plan to show leadership in tackling it.

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© Cymorth Cymru 2020
Company Registration No: 5093332
Charity No: 1116774