Our advisers are better than your barristers ….. (and justice prevailed!)

One of my colleagues spent yesterday in Court successfully defending four bailiffs warrants.  All four warrants were stopped, and families can remain in their homes.

The best bit of my colleague’s day came with her last case.  She described it as a “titanic battle” arguing the case for over 45 minutes.  The warrant had been due to be executed later in the day and our client would have been homeless.

After the Court decided in favour of our client, the client turned to the (well-paid) barrister acting for the landlord and said of our (much less well paid) adviser: “Sorry you lost mate.  It’s just that she’s better than you.  Innit?”

Here are contact details for the BHT Advice Centres in Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings:

Brighton

Eastbourne

Hastings

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An exciting job in Fulfilling Lives, our multiple and complex needs project

Fulfilling Lives is an eight-year Big Lottery Funded national project, currently in its fourth year, focusing on providing more effective, more efficient and better co-ordinated services for people with multiple and complex needs. The project operates in Brighton and Hove, Eastbourne and Hastings and is delivered through multi-agency delivery partners in each area.

We are looking to recruit an Operational Manager. 

This is an exciting opportunity for a dynamic and driven individual to join our Management Team. The post holder will be responsible for the operational management of the Project, ensuring its effective and efficient delivery. The post encompasses service planning and delivery, staff support and supervision, managing relationships with external bodies and funders, robust data recording, service reporting, and ensuring effective service delivery in line with the project’s goals and objectives.

The post holder (or post holders – this role could suit a job share) will, together with the Senior Manager, be responsible for the successful delivery of the Fulfilling Lives South East Project.

The post holder(s) will have a relevant professional background in the field of complex needs including homelessness, substance misuse, mental health and offending, with significant management experience including experience of change management and operational planning. We are looking for exceptional communication skills and the ability to motivate effectively.

The post holder(s) will need to evidence experience of working in the field of multiple and complex needs, alongside management experience and partnership working.

The post is based in Hastings, but the post holder(s) will be required to work across all 3 sites in Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings

For full details and to apply please go to our website or email us.

Closing Date: 12 noon, Wednesday 20th June 2018

Interview Date: Wednesday 27th June 2018

On the closing of Brighton’s winter shelter

(Extracts from this post appeared in an article in the Brighton Argus on 10th March in a feature on the winter shelter)

The City Council’s winter shelter closes this weekend. Compared to the lack of action, and an apparent lack of concern, in neighbouring areas like Eastbourne and Rother, Brighton and Hove City Council should be applauded for this and other initiatives.

Rough sleeping numbers have quadrupled in Eastbourne in the last two years, yet nothing is being done there to accommodate rough sleepers.

Nationally, the number of rough sleepers has doubled since 2010.  The government has promised to end rough sleeping by 2027.  A task force was announced last year to take this work forward.  But such is the apparent importance of this work, this task force has just met for the first time – last Wednesday!

For as long as the nation fails to provide the housing needed, we will need a range of provision for rough sleepers, from emergency shelters when there is an immediate risk to life in severe weather, to winter shelters and hostel accommodation.

I don’t go with the idea that services for homeless people act as a ‘pull’ for others to come to the city.  People come because of the reputation of the city for the drug and party scene, because it is the LGBT capital of the UK, because of the universities, and because other places are a dump!  I have never heard anyone say they came to Brighton because of the excellent services.

I would be concerned if an open-ended commitment was made that anyone arriving in Brighton will be accommodated.  That would provide licence for local authorities across the south east, Eastbourne and Rother included, to abrogate their responsibilities by providing all rough sleepers in their area with travel warrants to Brighton.

Brighton and Hove is full and the housing is increasingly unaffordable.  We need to discourage people coming to the city seeking accommodation.  Their hopes and aspirations will not be achieved here.

Rough sleeping is fast becoming the shame of Eastbourne

The worsening situation for rough sleepers in Eastbourne has become far more obvious in recent times.

In February, the Eastbourne Herald reported that the number of rough sleepers has quadrupled in the past two years.  It is not due to the proximity to Brighton, as claimed by a spokesperson from Eastbourne Borough Council.  Rather it is due to the absence of emergency accommodation in the town.

In the freezing weather an emergency shelter was opened to preserve life.  While this is to be welcomed, it is the bare minimum.  An affluent town like Eastbourne should make sure that there is no reason for anyone to sleep on the streets.  It is not good for the reputation of the town and it is certainly not good for those sleeping on the streets.

 

 

A national spotlight was shone on Eastbourne recently when BBC News ran an item about the fear that homeless people have about sleeping rough.

Government figures show that Eastbourne now has the ninth highest rate of rough sleeping in the country.

Rough sleeping is fast becoming the shame of Eastbourne.

Private rented housing is “out of reach” for under 35s, says the Chartered Institute of Housing

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) recently carried out research into the gap between rents in the private rented sector and what Local Housing Allowance (LHA) will pay.

LHA is based on the 30th centile of the range rents charged in the private rented sector. Except it isn’t. That was how it was supposed to be (having previously been reduced from there 50th centile). In fact, the level of payment has been frozen for three years and will be frozen until 2019/20. LHA no longer reflects in any way the reality of rents in a locality.

In Brighton and Hove the rates are £82.66 for a room in a shared house, £153.02 for a one bed flat, £192.48 for a two bed property. The average one bed flat in Brighton and Hove is now £971 per month compared to LHA of £612.08 for the same period.

In Eastbourne the rates are £67.00, £116.53 and £151.50, and in Hastings £69.77, £92.06 and £120.29. (There are higher rates for 3 and 4 properties).

It is worse for you if you are under 35 where you are restricted to claiming LHA for just a room in a shared house.

And if you think it is bad for under 35s, it is EVEN worse for those under 21 for whom the rate is zero (unless you are ‘lucky’ enough to qualify for one of several exemptions – merely being a rough sleeper is not enough).

So what has the CIH found? It has found that the gap between LHA and rents has widened to the point where private rented housing is “out of reach” for under 35s.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote how the senior civil servant responsible for housing policy at the Department for Work and Pensions, Darrell Smith, said that the government is now going to use LHA rates to set new, lower rents for specialist supported housing. Why? Because it is such a good barometer for the market? No. He said: “The one advantage of (LHA rates) is that they are already there, so it doesn’t cost the government anything to set it up. I know”, he continued, “that isn’t a great answer but that’s all I have got”.

Housing in Hastings: Universal credit and the 6 week wait for the first payment

(This is the first of five daily items I will be posting this week. My thanks to my colleague Sue Hennell who wrote a briefing paper on which I have drawn for these posts).

Hastings is one of the areas that is now in the ‘full service’ roll out of Universal Credit. BHT’s Hastings Advice Centre has found it is dealing with tenants in rent arrears due to the waiting time for payments to commence.  This can mean that the tenant accrues rent arrears and it can increase existing arrears.  For some clients they have had to wait longer than 6 weeks for their first payment.

While social landlords on the whole are willing to wait for their rent and will arrange a repayment plan for any rent arrears due, many private landlords are not so willing to wait and will serve notice.

This is not just a problem in Hastings, but one that is replicated across the country. The Guardian in January of this year reported:

  • Eight out of 10 social housing tenants moved on to Universal Credit are falling into rent arrears or increasing the level of pre-existing arrears.
  • Families unable to manage the regulation 42-day wait for a first payment are regularly referred to food banks by housing associations or local MPs.
  • Some claimants are waiting as long as 60 days for an initial payment because of processing delays on top of the formal wait.
  • Uncertainty about the system has contributed to a dramatic decline in the number of private landlords willing to take on benefit recipients, even if they are in work.

Private landlords said that without changes they would be reluctant to let to Universal Credit recipients because of the high risk of tenant arrears. Alan Ward, the chairman of the Residential Landlords Association, said: “Landlords are rapidly losing confidence in the system.”

Meanwhile, membership surveys by the National Landlords Association reveal that the number of private landlords willing to let properties to recipients of Universal Credit – or the local housing allowance that predates it – has fallen sharply from 46% in 2010 to 18%.

A question I ask from time to time, where are people going to live if social housing isn’t keeping pace with need (and it is certainly not), and private landlords are less willing to rent to claimants?

If you are facing eviction due to rent arrears, get advice early from one of BHT’s Advice Centres in Hastings, Eastbourne and Brighton, the CAB or another advice centre.

Here are details of the BHT Advice Centres:

Brighton

Eastbourne

Hastings

How does society allow people to sleep rough in freezing conditions?

Today I received an email from a colleague who lives and works in Hastings. I would like to share it with you:

“This morning my phone (how does my phone know these things) told me that it was minus 5 degrees as I stepped out for my walk to work. It was dark as I set out.

“During my walk I witnessed two sights that will stay with me today.

“One created by the Earth, the stunning sunrise over a beautiful calm sea (my photo doesn’t do it justice).

hastings-sunrise

“The second sight, created by Humans (I was going to say Human Kind, but there is no “Kind” in this). Rough sleepers bedded down. Remember my phone was saying it was minus 5.

rough-sleepers-hastings

“This second sight makes my heart sink. How do we as a society allow people to have to sleep rough in this weather. I do not know if SWEP is currently activated in Hastings. It was for the Thursday night we had snow, but I see these rough sleepers every morning including the Friday after the snow. It was de-activated on the next day (the Friday).

“Does the Government or DCLG check that local authorities are actually activating SWEP (the protocol that requires emergency shelters to open in severe weather conditions)? Probably not as they don’t make sure local authorities are applying homelessness legislation under Part VII of the Housing Act.”

(For information, Part VII of the Housing Act includes an interim duty on housing authorities to ensure that accommodation is available for an applicant (and his or her household) pending a decision as to what duty, if any, is owed to them under the Housing Act. Rough sleeping is not appropriate accommodation. It is costly for local authorities and it can be difficult to source such accommodation, but the legal duty remains. BHT’s Advice Centres in Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings are there to prevent homelessness, enforce tenants rights, and ensure that local authorities honour their legal duties).