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Welsh social landlords ‘evicting 500 children a year’

More than 500 children were made homeless last year after their families were evicted from social housing, according to a report by Shelter Cymru.

The homelessness charity estimates that social landlords evicted 914 households in 2015/16. Almost a third of them (301) were of families with children.

The report estimates that the evictions cost Welsh social landlords £7.9 million in direct costs and cost the Welsh economy as a whole £24.3 million.

The most common reasons for evictions were rent arrears and anti-social behaviour. Arrears were most often triggered by problems with housing benefit and unmet support needs that interfered with tenants’ ability to engage with their landlord.

Shelter Cymru found excellent prevention work by some landlords but is calling for regulation to ensure that all tenants get fair and equal treatment.

People who had been evicted faced long-term homelessness and developing or worsening supported needs such as mental and physical health conditions and substance misuse. More than three quarters of the people interviewed were still homeless six months after their eviction.

Jennie Bibbings, Shelter Cymru campaigns 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.’

Landlords are meant to follow a rent arrears pre-action protocol before talking tenants to court to prevent unnecessary court action. However, the report found the protocol was not followed in a consistent way.

Shelter Cymru says one option would be the scrap the current protocol and replace it with a set of pre-action requirements, as happens in Scotland. Under this system, landlords would have to show they had taken to reasonable steps including interventions such as money advice, help with benefits applications, a support needs assessment and referral to Housing Solutions and independent housing advice.

Accessing and Sustaining Social Tenancies: exploring barriers to homelessness prevention is available here.


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