Thousands of people in the North East risk losing their homes this month, new research has revealed.
One in 13 rent or mortgage payers across the region are worried they will be unable to make payments this January, homeless charity Shelter has claimed.
The research, conducted in partnership with YouGov, also revealed 62% of people are already struggling to keep up with their housing costs.
The figures have prompted the charity to warn that ignoring money worries rather than seeking advice could lead to people’s home being put at risk.
A quarter of people in the region said they would feel too ashamed to ask for help if struggling with housing payments.
Shelter has seen a surge in the number of people visiting its website for advice on rent and mortgage arrears, and is urging anyone having difficulty meeting their housing costs to get help as early as possible.
One person who sought help was mother-of-two Katharine, who works unpredictable shifts and lives in constant fear she won’t be able to meet her rent payments each month.
“I work every hour I can to support my family but each month I wonder if I’m going to able to make my rent, and I’m expecting things to be especially bad at Christmas, even though we cut back on spending as much as we could.
“I’ve borrowed money from family and even had to stop paying bills to keep the roof over my children’s heads.
“It’s horrible to start another year not knowing if I can afford to keep my home.”
Shelter’s helpline adviser Nadeem Khan said:
“Every day at Shelter we hear from people who are feeling overwhelmed by mounting rent or mortgage bills, as the increasing pressure of sky high housing costs continues to take its toll.
“Many have spent a long time thinking they have nowhere to turn and are often close to breaking point by the time they come to us. If you’re in this situation, it’s so important to remember you’re not alone and that help is available.
“I spoke to a lady recently who was sick with worry for months because she couldn’t meet her mortgage payments and felt too ashamed to ask for help. When finally a court notice landed on her doorstep she came to us and we were able to help the family keep their home.
“We all understand how tempting it is to bury your head in the sand, but advice from Shelter is only a click or a phone call away – so get advice early to prevent things from spiralling out of control.”
For free and independent advice from Shelter, visit shelter.org.uk or call the helpline on 0808 800 4444
Shelter’s top 5 tips to avoid eviction or repossession:
- Get expert advice. If you are struggling to pay your rent, talk to an expert adviser who can take you through your options and advise the next best steps for you. Visit www.shelter.org.uk/advice or call Shelter’s free helpline on 0808 800 4444.
- Make the mortgage or rent your priority. Paying your mortgage or rent should always be your number one priority. If you have other debts such as credit cards and phone bills you can take action to deal with these separately.
- Respond to letters and phone calls. It’s natural to want to keep your head down and hope it’ll sort itself out but it’s important to read everything your mortgage lender, landlord or letting agent sends to you. Keep records of every letter and phone call.
- Have a rainy day plan. It can take just one thing, like losing your job or falling ill, to put your home at risk. Avoid payday loans, there are usually much safer and cheaper alternatives.
Turn up for court hearings. If the worst comes to the worst, make sure you attend the possession hearing so that you can put your case to the judge. If you don’t have legal representation you can be assigned a court duty solicitor on the day. Get advice as soon as you get the hearing date to give yourself the best possible chance.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Jan 2015
Families are “teetering on a financial knife-edge” with one in every 121 households in the North East at risk of homelessness, a charity claims.
Shelter says 140 children in the region will wake up homeless this Christmas, while 58 people are being put at risk of eviction or repossession every day.
“Imagine the panic of receiving a notice through the door saying that you could lose your home – that’s the devastating reality for thousands of people every week,” said Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter.
“The sky high cost of housing is making it harder and harder for families to keep a roof over their heads. And with the stakes so high, all it can take is one piece of bad luck to send a family spiralling towards homelessness.”
Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that in the 12 months to the end of September there were more than 7,250 possession claims – the first stage in a court process which can end with the loss of a home – issued in county courts for homes in the North East.
Of those the highest number – 1,853 – were for properties in County Durham, followed by Newcastle (1,230) and Northumberland (1,016).
However, the highest proportion of homes on which possession orders were sought was in South Tyneside, where 938 orders were applied for – one for every 72 homes in the borough.
Councillor Allan West, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for housing, defended his authority’s approach to dealing with homelessness.
“Following a review in 2013, South Tyneside Council developed a new homelessness strategy which made homeless prevention one of our key priorities,” he said.
“Our proactive approach means that we step in to prevent households becoming homeless before their case becomes critical.
“This is reflected in figures released recently by the Department for Communities and Local Government which highlighted that the number of times we intervened during 2013/14 was almost five times the national average.
“As a social landlord, we have an early intervention approach to rent arrears and nowhere has this been better demonstrated than in the award-winning work of our Welfare Reform Team which has enabled over 92% of tenants who wanted to keep their homes after the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ maintain those tenancies.
“Eviction is used as a last resort when all other methods of engagement and arrears collection have failed.
“Since quarter four of 2013 the number of mortgage possession claims in South Tyneside has reduced from 254 to 147 and evictions resulting from possession claims from Council tenancies have reduced from the same period last year.”
At the opposite end of the scale Sunderland had the lowest proportion of applications for possession orders, with 696 – one in every 172 homes – and Gateshead saw the fewest applications overall, with 652.
According to the MOJ, of the around 223,000 possession orders applied for nationally in county courts each year, just under 53,500 result in repossessions.
If the same was true on the regional level that could mean that around 1,740 North East families have had their homes taken off them in the 2013/14 period.
And as Christmas approaches Shelter is warning that continuing “sky-high” housing costs coupled to families having little or no savings to fall back on, mean that “just one thing, like a sudden illness, can be all it takes to tip a family into a downward spiral towards losing their home.”
“Our advisers will be working non-stop this Christmas to support families who find themselves battling to keep their home – but our services are already over-stretched and we’re struggling to meet the demand, ” said Mr Robb.
“We desperately need more support from the public to help us make sure no-one is left to fight homelessness on their own this Christmas.”
To support Shelter’s emergency Christmas appeal please visit shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70060 to donate £3
Source – Newcastle Journal, 02 Dec 2014
In a move that will bring new hope to struggling payday lenders, the DWP have extended the waiting days for employment and support allowance (ESA) and jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) from 3 days to 7 days from today.
The new rules mean that claimants applying for ESA or JSA will not be entitled for any payments during the first 7 days that they would otherwise be eligible for benefits.
Claimants will not be affected if they have made a previous claim for ESA or JSA in the preceding three months, however, as they will be considered to have already served their waiting days. ESA claimants will also not be affected if they have claimed statutory sick pay immediately before claiming ESA.
Terminally ill claimants are exempt from serving waiting days.
The move has brought condemnation from trade unions and charities, but the chancellor, George Osborne, argues that: “Those first seven days should be spent looking for work and not looking to sign on.”
Last month Wonga was forced by the Financial Conduct Authority to write off £220 million in loans interest and charges to people who should never have been given loans in the first place. There have been calls for other payday lenders to suffer similar penalties.
But the decision by the Coalition to extend the waiting period for ESA and JSA to seven days means that there is likely to be an upsurge in applications for short-term loans by people with no other resources to fall back on.
Given that waiting times for a first payment of Universal Credit (UC) are likely to be around 6 weeks – and up to six months for people whose earnings were too high, according to new government proposals – and bearing in mind that UC also includes a housing costs element, the future for payday lenders is beginning to look rosy again.
Source – Benefits & Work, 27 Oct 2014
3.4 million households across the UK are living on a “financial cliff-edge”, where a small drop in income could cost them their homes, new figures reveal today.
Analysis of government data by the University of St Andrews, on behalf of the homeless charity Shelter, reveals that one in eight low-income families are living with unaffordable housing costs.
Average rental costs in the UK currently stands at £694 a month but rents in London have soared to £1,412 a month – more than twice the national average.
Rent has also become less affordable in the South-west and South-east of England, where average income is 2.55 times and 2.93 times the median national average respectively.
Mum of two Lou, 42, works full-time but still struggles to cover housing costs.
“Even though I work every day and live in a small flat, the rent eats up so much money that it’s almost impossible to make do with what’s left over each month, and I can’t move because there’s nowhere else remotely near to work I could dream of affording”, she told Shelter.
“I’ve had to borrow money off my friends and family to cover my rent, and I’m always making tough decisions on what I can and can’t afford for my youngest. Things have got so bad that I’ve even missed paying bills because I had to put food on the table, and that’s when the debts start to mount up.
“It’s such an uphill battle. I’ve faced losing my home before and I live in dread of having to go through that again. The idea of losing my job just doesn’t bear thinking about.”
The Housing Benefit bill for working families is set to soar by more than £1 billion by 2018. Years of lower than inflation wage rises, and the lowest ever levels of house building, have resulted in a rising number of households who are struggling to cover housing costs.
Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said:
“Every day at Shelter we hear from people who, through no fault of their own, are finding it impossible to keep up with sky-high housing costs. It’s terrifying to think that many of us are resorting to avoiding bills or selling possessions in a desperate bid to make ends meet.
“The government must make sure families who are already battling to keep their heads above water don’t slip through the growing holes in our safety net, and into a downward spiral which could result in the loss of their home.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 09 Sept 2014
Almost a MILLION working parents are being forced to skip meals so that they can afford to pay the rent or mortgage, shocking new figures reveal.
A survey by YouGov, on behalf of the housing charity Shelter, has revealed that more than one in ten working families are going hungry to pay housing costs, while over a third admit they have cut back on buying food.
36.7% said they had cut back on how much they spend on food and 12.9% had put off buying shoes for their children. 9.7% said they had delayed purchasing school uniforms.
Government figures show that households spend, on average, 28% of their total income on housing costs. This rises to 40% in the private rental sector.
Shelter highlights the story of Katherine and her husband who both have full-time jobs but still struggle to pay their mortgage. “My husband and I don’t have breakfast because we can’t afford it, and we miss evening meals two or three times a month to help with the mortgage”, Katherine said.
She added: “We’ve really had to cut back on the basics, and I even had to send our daughter to school in an old uniform that I knew was too small; it made me feel horrible. We are already at breaking point, so I honestly don’t know what we’d do if our financial situation got worse; it really frightens me.”
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:
“No parent should be forced to choose between putting food on the table and paying for the roof over their children’s heads. These shocking figures show that millions of us are having to make these kind of agonising choices every day.
“Sky-high housing costs and cuts to support are leaving many families trapped on a financial knife-edge.”
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves said: “This report provides shocking new evidence of how the Tories’ cost of living crisis is hitting hard-working families.
“While David Cameron says the economy is fixed, people who put in the hours to provide for their children are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.”
The number of calls Shelter receives related to rent arrears has more than doubled in the last three years, and the majority of people regarded as living in poverty in the UK are in work.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:
“Housing costs have left some families standing on a financial cliff edge. Working households that have already cut back on spending to get by could find themselves in the red if interest rates go up.
“Citizens Advice research shows 3 in 5 households are worried about the impact of rising bills this year, with over half forced to cut spending to balance the books.
“The competing pressures of sky-high childcare bills, rising energy costs and wages which are consistently below inflation, mean many people are struggling to pay for the roof over their head.
“Citizens Advice dealt with nearly 87,000 social housing rent arrears problems last year, up 10 per cent from 2012.
“It is welcome news that more people are in work, putting more households in a position to get on top of their bills. However, with record numbers of people becoming self-employed and increased numbers of jobs with uncertain hours, families face increasing instability in their income.
“An interest rate rise would put some in a more precarious position, so any rise needs to be slow and steady in order for families to manage the extra cost.”
According to the latest figures, there has been a 19% rise in cases of malnutrition in the UK over the past twelve months. Food prices have risen by 12% in seven years, while average wages have only increased by 7.6% over the same period.
Tory Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: “Contrary to Shelter’s claims, repossessions are actually at their lowest since 2007 and down almost a third since last year.
“Our efforts to tackle the record deficit we inherited have helped keep interest rates at a record low, meaning home ownership is at its most affordable since 2007 while private rent levels are falling in real terms.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 28 Aug 2014