News: Eviction nightmare rising

Mon, 03 Sep 07

Thousands of people across England and Wales have been forced out of their homes through eviction this year...

About 14,000 homes have been repossessed in the first six months of 2007. This is a rise of nearly 18% (from 11,900) compared with the previous six months, and is nearly 30% higher than the first six months of 2006.* Many of these people do not know whom to turn to when a housing crisis occurs.

Carolyn Regan, Chief Executive of the Legal Services Commission, said: “Facing homelessness can have a devastating effect on people and their families. The Legal Services Commission funds a number of different legal aid services that enable people to receive high quality advice in order to ensure they can get timely help with their housing problems in a way that is best suited to their needs.”

Figures released by the Legal Services Commission (LSC) show that 133,311 housing cases were funded by legal aid last year a 21% increase on the previous year.

Those entitled to legal aid can access free advice and information on issues relating to housing, debt and a range of other problems by contacting the Community Legal Service Direct telephone helpline on 0845 345 4 345.

Fighting for your rights

Laura was one person who received advice paid for by legal aid. At the time she was pregnant and needed accommodation for herself and her family, including a four month old baby, so she called Community Legal Service Direct. As she explains:

“My local council refused to help us with temporary accommodation even though we were told they would for months, and had this in writing. I was pregnant and I already had a four month-old baby. In total, there was seven of us in one house with no beds or facilities but they told us we could still live there.

“We now have a permanent place to live. Thanks to the Community Legal Service I can make a safe home for my two children. We still have a lot of problems to deal with but with thanks to the Community Legal Service I can fight for my rights with a roof of my own.

”Community Legal Service Direct didn't just help solve my problems, it put my mind at rest as well because I was really worried and stressed out about my debts, but I feel a lot better now.”

The LSC also funds solicitors and not-for-profit organisations such as Shelter and Citizen’s Advice Bureaux to provide face-to-face advice to people on a low income or benefits. Details of local advice providers can be found on www.clsdirect.org.uk

Real-life nightmare

Adam Sampson, chief executive of Shelter, said: "Millions of us love watching BB housemates being evicted, but the threat of eviction is a real-life nightmare for families and children all across the country. Living under the shadow of eviction is just one part of the grim reality of bad housing faced by more than 1.6 million children in the Britain - robbing them of their health, education and future chances."

In addition the LSC funds schemes in most county courts, across England and Wales, to help anyone who has a possession claim issued against them and are in immediate danger of losing their home. Those just starting to get into arrears should seek advice from your local advice agency, solicitor or call Community Legal Service Direct as soon as possible.

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