Homeless To Receive Extra Housing Support Says Government

Thousands of vulnerable people, including the homeless and care leavers, will get more cash to pay their rent, thanks to changes to housing benefits.

These changes are coming into force from Monday 31 May 2021 – two years earlier than scheduled. This will offer £10 million of additional housing support, bringing the total projected government spending on housing support to £30 billion this year.

Increases to the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) are expected to benefit thousands of Universal Credit and Housing Benefit claimants, and have been introduced more than two years earlier than the original implementation date of October 2023. The SAR is applied to renters aged under 35 claiming support through Local Housing Allowance (LHA). It adjusts their benefit to the cost of renting a room in shared accommodation, but there is a higher, one-bedroom rate for people who need to rent solo housing.

There are two key changes to the Local Housing Allowance:

  1. Care leavers can now claim the higher one-bedroom LHA rate for longer, as the maximum age limit has been raised to 25, from 22. A care leaver is a person who has been in Local Authority care (e.g. residential or foster care) for 13 weeks or more since they were age 14, and ending after age 16.
  2. Anyone who has lived in a homeless hostel for 3 months or more, regardless of age, will also now be able to claim the higher rate, as the age limit has been removed.

For example, in Harlow and Stortford a single care leaver aged 23 could expect to receive up to £387 additional housing support per month as a result of the change.

Minister for Welfare Delivery, Will Quince, said: “These changes are an immediate boost for some of the most vulnerable young people in our communities. We know that having a safe, secure home is vital to getting on your feet and often into work. By bringing these changes in early, we’re able to help more people right now, as we all look to recover from the pandemic.”

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Homeless Woman Dies Not Knowing Of £600,000 Inheritance

A desperate homeless mum died in a shelter unaware she had £600,000 of unclaimed inheritance, reports The Mirror.

Cathy Boone, 49, passed away after efforts to trace her and hand over the fortune failed. The mum-of-two, from Oregon, USA, was the rightful owner of the money after her mother died in 2016. But despite newspaper adverts seeking her and the help of a private investigator, she was not traced in time.

Her father Jack Spithall has told KGW News she needed “help in the worst way” at the end of her life. Ms Boone had been suffering from drug and mental health issues when she passed away while sleeping rough in Astoria, Oregon. The city’s winter temperatures can dip below freezing.

“It just didn’t make any sense to me,” her dad Jack Spithall said in a TV interview. Boone grew up in the Portland area and later moved to Astoria, where her mother lived after her parents had separated.

Her $884,407 inheritance money now remains unclaimed in a state bank account after the estate’s representatives couldn’t locate her. The funds were moved to the Department of State Lands amid uncertainty over who has claims to them.

“Given a year and a half of effort taken by the personal representative and the attorney for this particular estate, there really isn’t much more that the state could do,” Claudia Ciobanu, a spokesperson for the department said. “This is a unique case and we sympathise with the family.”

Ms Boone’s two biological children and others could potentially have claims to her cash, the station said.

Homeless Man Becomes TikTok Star

A drama student who is officially homeless has become one of Britain’s top TikTok stars with more than 10 million followers.

Ehiz Ufuah, 22, lives with his family in emergency accommodation after they fell on hard times and lost their council home 15 months ago, reports The Mirror. Now his big ambition is to buy a house for his single mum, three sisters and two brothers after making a surprise breakthrough online – with a funny clip about doing the dishes. Ehiz was stunned when it went viral – and now earns about £3,000 a month through the video-sharing platform. And he hopes his success might even help him achieve his ambition of being a Hollywood actor.

But all this looked like a pipe dream as the Greenwich University student and his family lost their council home in Romford, East London, and were temporarily moved into a Travelodge in January 2020. Ehiz says he joined TikTok in February 2020 “to see what the hype was about”.

He posted a comic video of him pacing back and forth wondering whether to do the washing-up for his mum or leave it for his siblings – before racing to the sink as he hears her coming. Ehiz was gobsmacked when it hit 750,000 views, saying: “I’d only had about three followers until then. “My family and friends were texting me, telling me I was famous. I couldn’t believe all the attention that video got me.” Since then he has never looked back with his TikTok account’s popularity rocketing.

“I was in Primark last December and I had to be escorted out as too many people were crowding around me to get a picture,” says Ehiz. His growing profile was spotted by TikTok influencer agency Yoke Network. In March he was invited to make a Big Brother-style show for YouTube with four other TikTok stars in a Surrey mansion. Ehiz said: “It was an incredible experience, having a pool and movie theatre to enjoy. And while I didn’t make money from the show, it really raised my profile. I get recognised all the time in the street.”

His videos have even been reposted on Instagram by some of the cast of Love Island. “Megan McKenna from The Only Way Is Essex has reached out to me,” he says. “But the person I was most starstruck by was supermodel Adut Akech.” Now the drama student has his own dreams of stardom. He says: “I’ve always thought it would impossible to be a Hollywood actor but in recent years a lot of actors not from privileged backgrounds have made it.”

Nearly A Million People Face Homelessness

A ban on bailiff-enforced evictions designed to cut families some slack during the coronavirus pandemic has come to an end as of today, June 1st, reports The Metro.

Hundreds of thousands of households are worried about losing their homes as the Government confirmed the temporary measure introduced to reduce the burden on renters during difficult financial times will expire as planned. New research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) estimates 800,000 households fear eviction, with around half of that number expected to have already been given formal warning to pack their bags. Renters across the country have been plunged into arrears as furloughed workers and self-employed people not eligible for support saw their income shrink overnight.

The timing of the move will raise eyebrows, given warnings this week that the UK is in the early stages of a third wave of Covid-19 infections. The JRF said the temporary ban on bailiff-enforced evictions introduced in March 2020 – and extended several times since – has provided much-needed security to renters during the pandemic. Its survey of more than 10,000 households suggested ‘clear warning signs’ of a spike in evictions and homelessness as the ban lifts.

Rachelle Earwaker, from the JRF, said: “For the 450,000 families locked in rent debt, the prospect of securing a mortgage is simply unimaginable and, worse still, many will now struggle to secure a new home in the private rented sector just as the eviction ban ends. High levels of arrears are restricting families’ ability to pay the bills and forcing many to rely on hidden borrowing. This is not only deeply unjust, it is also economically naive and risks hampering our economic recovery, which is reliant on household spending increasing as society continues to reopen.”

She added: “The Government’s decision to provide a generous tax break to wealthier homeowners through the stamp duty holiday while failing to protect renters points to a worrying two-tier recovery in which those who were prospering prior to the pandemic will continue to do so while those who have been hit hard will sink even further behind. The cost of boosting support to tackle rent arrears is a fraction of the cost of the stamp duty holiday.”

Homelessness charity Shelter backed the JRF’s criticism of the decision not to extend the eviction ban on its Twitter account, writing: “The eviction ban has been a lifeline for renters who have weathered job losses, falling incomes and rising debts in this pandemic. The Government needs to do more. It cannot waver from delivering a Renters’ Reform Bill that scraps Section 21 “no fault” evictions altogether. And in the meantime, it must offer renters with crippling Covid-arrears a package of financial aid.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have taken unprecedented action to support renters and help keep them in their homes including introducing a comprehensive £352 billion support package, which has prevented widespread build-up of rent arrears. Thanks to the success of the vaccine programme, national restrictions are gradually being eased and it’s now the right time to start to lift the emergency measures we put in place. Tenants will continue to be supported with longer notice periods and financial help is still available such as the furlough scheme, which has been extended until the end of September. Evictions will not be carried out if a member of the home has Covid-19 symptoms or is self-isolating.”

Eviction Ban In Sefton Ends This Month

Tenants and landlords in Sefton have been urged to seek support as the government’s ban on evictions comes to an end on Monday, May 31, reports Tom Martin in The Champion.

The ban, which was brought into place in response to the coronavirus pandemic, was extended from its original September deadline but will now end on the last day of May. Sefton Council’s Homeless Prevention Service can provide advice to the borough’s tenants and landlords and they are urging anyone affected to get in touch. They can help tenants find support to help maintain their tenancy or with moving on to more affordable and suitable accommodation.

They can also assist landlords that are facing issues such as rent arrears and late or inconsistent rent payments. Landlords who have concerns about vulnerable tenants can also contact the team for support in resolving the situation.

The Homeless Prevention Service can be contacted at homeless.prevention@sefton.gov.uk or by calling 07966 698 065 or 07870 379586.

Cllr Trish Hardy, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing said: “The impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on many people’s circumstances and incomes is likely to be making the costs of housing a problem for some people in Sefton. We want any tenants who think they might be facing problems after the Government ends its eviction ban at the end of May to contact us as soon as possible so that we can work with them to find practical solutions. And we want to hear from landlords expecting difficulties, so that we can help them reach practical solutions without the lost rent and other costs that can result from evictions and disputes.”

Sefton Council wants to hear from tenants who have received an eviction notice or have rent arrears, who are managing outstanding and current debts or who are trying to reduce their expenses or get the most from their income. People having problems applying for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) and with concerns about their own or family members’ mental health, drug or alcohol issues affecting your tenancy should also contact the service. Landlords who contact the team may be concerned about affordability issues due to a change in circumstances, anti-social behaviour, their tenant’s mental health, addiction or other vulnerabilities that are affecting the tenancy.

Cllr Hardy added: “It is not always easy to talk about these issues, but Sefton Council’s Homeless Prevention Service can help start that conversation easier and then to find constructive ways to overcome the problems. I would urge any tenants or landlords who are worried to contact the Team now at homeless.prevention@sefton.gov.uk  or on 07966 698 065 or 07870 379586.”

New Advocacy Guidance For Homeless 16 And 17 Year-Olds

Young people aged 16 and 17 who become homeless can be housed under the Housing Act or the Children Act, writes Lauren Page-Hammick at Homeless Link.

The piece of legislation they are housed under will affect what support they are entitled to, where they are housed and whether the local authority has owes them a corporate parenting duty. Sadly, research from Just for Kids Law, a UK charity that works with and for children and young people, providing legal representation, advice, direct advocacy and support, has shown that young people are not always housed under the right legislation. This impacts the support they are entitled to in the short and long term and affects both their experiences of homelessness and risk of future homelessness.

It is important that 16-17 year olds are housed under the most appropriate pathway to meet their needs. The systems and legal responsibilities at play, however, are complex and can be hard to navigate. We know this can be challenging, and both young people and frontline workers can experience gatekeeping, receive incorrect information, or get lost in systems.

Homeless Link’s research ’We Have A Voice, Follow Our Lead’ highlighted that young people want better information, earlier on, and how they value youth and homelessness practitioners who support the through these systems. We have developed this guidance with Just for Kids Law, so workers are equipped with the information needed to support and advocate for the rights of the young people they work with. Alongside a guide to the legal rights of young people, this resource provides information so workers and young people can plan and prepare to present at local authorities.

The decision to seek support through their local authority may be the first significant decision a young person has made, that is not dictated by threats to their own or others safety. This guidance centres a trauma-informed approach that focuses on how to maintain young people’s sense of safety and control. Young people deserve to have an advocate to help them navigate their homelessness journey. Workers deserve to be equipped with the knowledge and tools to advocate for the young people they support. We hope this resource will help any professional do just that.

You can find out more at: www.justforkidslaw.org/news

London Boroughs Fear A ‘Wave Of Homelessness’

Homelessness in London is expected to reach its highest ever levels by Christmas boroughs are warning.

The Evening Standard reports that London Councils said the capital faces the “most severe homelessness crisis” in the country and a “triple whammy” of the government ending of the eviction ban, Covid emergency funding and the furlough scheme over the coming months could see thousands more families pushed into temporary local authority-funded accommodation.

Figures released by the cross-party group show there are now 165,000 Londoners living in temporary accommodation – more than the entire population of cities such as Norwich or Oxford, and double the number of 10 years ago. Some 90,000 are children. Last year boroughs collectively spent more than £1.2billion on the homelessness crisis and today called on the government to increase investment in services.

London Councils’ executive member for housing, Darren Rodwell, said: “There’s a very real risk of London’s homelessness crisis getting even worse. In the coming months we can expect a triple whammy of continuing job losses in the capital, the imminent lifting of the evictions ban, and uncertainty over future funding levels for local homelessness services.

Mr Rodwell added: “Boroughs are doing everything we can to tackle homelessness in the capital, but ultimately we need the government to rethink its welfare policies and to boost long-term funding for local services if we’re to reverse these disastrous trends.”

Homelessness in London previously peaked in 2005 when there were 63,800 households in temporary accommodation. Today there are 60,680 households, as well as some 3,600 rough sleepers who were placed in emergency housing during the pandemic. Almost a quarter of a million London households are also on council house waiting lists.

London Councils said if the government confirmed social rent levels for the next ten years and ended restrictions on how town halls can use Right to Buy sales receipts boroughs would be in a much “stronger financial position to invest in new social homes”.

The government is giving councils across the country £203 million through its Rough Sleeping Initiative fund, which was created to help local authorities get people off the streets. It is part of the £750 million pledged to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping this year. The government has also extended four-month notice periods landlords have to give tenants until at least end of September.

How One Young Woman Escaped Homelessness

Over 121,000 young people experienced, or were at risk of homelessness at the start of 2020, which is an increase of 10% when compared to 2019.

Over the pandemic the situation has worsened – calls to homeless support helplines have risen by 50% while mental health support has decreased. To help combat this wider issue, the Health Fund has been set up by End Youth Homelessness – a UK-wide movement of local charities tackling youth homelessness, that The Body Shop is the founding funder of.

When Jamie Hurley became homeless at the age of 16, she could either choose between independent living or foster care. Anxious about who she might be paired with, she chose independent living – something that she now believes she was too young for, as she tells Metro.co.uk. Her story is proof of a failing system and how charities and vulnerable individuals have been forced to pick up the pieces.

Jamie’s experience ends positively – but this won’t be the case for everyone. Her homelessness story began when she was speaking to a counsellor (first assigned to her to help with an eating disorder). She said: “It just kind of come up that things weren’t so great at home, and I didn’t realise – I thought I was just speaking to them candidly, but because of that conversation they had a duty of care to contact social services. After that day I had my own social worker. Things progressively got worse in my home situation and at 16, a year later, I ended up moving into Centrepoint.”

Centrepoint is a charity, part of End Youth Homelessness, supporting homeless young people specifically. Speaking on independent living, Jamie calls the situation ‘kind of nuts’. “Being only 16 I think is a bit too young to go into that kind of living arrangement. But just the way that the government laws are set up, you are old enough to live on your own and take care of finances, take care of your mental and physical health, to live as an adult freely. I went straight from being at home in my own bed one night, the next night being in a room in a hostel.”

Understandably, this was a ‘scary’ experience, especially as the hostel space was shared among different genders so Jamie had close contact with older boys and men who were also displaced. Without going into detail, she admitted ‘many’ things happened in that environment she wasn’t comfortable with. “You don’t have time to think – you just feel,” she says, adding that she felt ‘powerless’. Overall, Jamie moved in and out of Centrepoint four times and believes their support is invaluable, along with the provided mental health services.

One of her attempts to find a home, at the time aged 18, involved living in a grotty and unfit-for-living bedsit with an ex-boyfriend and family member. “We were in this bedsit and it was ridden with mice and we all got scabies,” Jamie says. Around a year later the three of them were evicted, and Jamie was once again homeless.

At 19 things started to change after a therapist at a hostel got her proactively thinking about the future. “There was this one therapist at the hostel and I did weekly sessions with him and we sat down one week when I just wasn’t feeling so great and we spoke about how I saw my life five years in the future. So we did like a manifestation therapy [exercise] and it was the first person I met that I felt really positively influenced my life and that made me feel like calm and that I could actually do something, and that actually believed in me. That was a big factor in me just not letting my whole youth spiral out of control. Looking back now I could have really easily continued going down a certain path and gone a really negative direction.”

In the session, she pinpointed her love of dancing and decided to focus on building a career in the industry, as well as going to university, finding a home of her own, having stable friendships and working on her eating disorder. “By the time I’d reached 24 I’d done all of that,” she says, adding that she even went on to do a Masters degree. Living now in a part Housing Association, part council rented property, she’s able to work on the dance and healing workshop programme she facilitates for young people. She is still in therapy ‘to dismantle’ some of her believes around her family situation, sharing that: “I felt a lot of guilt about leaving my mum and not feeling good enough. I felt [leaving] was something that I had to do.”

With the right support and charities to help young people facing homelessness, Jamie was able to build a life for herself that she’s happy with. Her advice to other young people, regardless of their circumstances: “Make yourself the project your work on.”

Funding For Rough Sleepers ‘Will Only Scratch The Surface’

More rough sleepers in England will be helped off the streets and into housing this year as part of a £203m programme, the government has announced.

Some 2,688 people were estimated to be sleeping rough on any single night in England last autumn, reports the BBC. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the money will be given to councils to support shelters and specialist mental health or addiction services. But charity Crisis warned the funding “will only scratch the surface”.

The government said its Rough Sleeping Initiative had reduced rough sleeping by nearly a third compared to areas that have not taken part in the programme. Up to 14,500 beds and 2,700 support staff will be funded through the new investment, Mr Jenrick said. The government said the funding was an 81% increase from the £112m allocated for the initiative last year.

“At the beginning of the pandemic we took swift and decisive action to bring rough sleepers in from the streets and settled them into longer-term accommodation in record numbers,” Mr Jenrick said. “That work continues, the results are clear and are a huge credit to all involved.”

Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of homeless charity Crisis, said the work in the past year to get people off the streets has been “vital”, and he welcomed the additional funding. “But the number of people helped by this funding will only scratch the surface,” he added.

The announcement “falls short” for those with multiple support needs who require specialist help, like housing first, Mr Sparkes said, adding long-term solutions were needed. “Without such sustained support, those helped off the streets today risk returning to them tomorrow.”

Paint Thrown Over Homeless Woman In Liverpool

Police are investigating after a homeless woman sat outside a south Liverpool shop was covered in paint in a shocking attack.

The horrific incident happened on Saturday evening outside the Tesco Metro store on Aigburth Road in the St Michael’s area of south Liverpool, reports the Liverpool Echo. The woman, who is believed to be homeless, was sat on the floor outside the store at around 5.30pm when police said a man came past and threw paint over her. Eye-witnesses have described the ‘disgusting’ attack and said that because it involved gloss paint it was hard to remove.

Shelley Freeman arrived at Tesco just moments after the assault and saw the woman in a very distressed state. She said: “She was shaking, she said at first she thought it was acid that had been thrown over her. But it was white gloss paint and it was all over her head and face and clothes – what a disgusting thing to do. She was completely covered in it, I felt so sorry for her. Because it was gloss paint it wasn’t coming off her, there were lots of people trying to help and a lady from Tesco took her inside the shop to help get her cleaned up.”

Ms Freeman was so angry about the attack that she posted about it in a local Facebook group to see if anyone could identify who had carried it out. She said the response from local people was amazing. She said: “My phone did not stop going off because so many people were getting in touch to offer help to the woman.” Local people brought clean clothes, coats and food for the woman to help her recover. White paint remains splattered on the floor outside the spot where the woman regularly sits.

Merseyside Police has begun an investigation into the incident and CCTV and witness enquiries are in the process of being carried out – with anyone who may have information urged to come forward. Community policing Inspector Dave Uren said: “This was a shocking incident to have taken place. I would urge anyone who was in the area who saw what happened or can assist our investigation to contact us as a matter of urgency.”

Anyone who witnessed the incident or has any information is asked to DM @MerPolCC or @CrimestoppersUK on 0800 555 111 quoting reference 21000297748.