CHAS (Bristol) Housing Advice Service is delivered by a full-time Housing Advice Manager and part-time Housing Advisor. They are supported by a Partnership and Development Manager and Office Manager. We have a set of clearly defined policies and procedures and advice services are consistently provided to the highest standard and we hold the Advice Quality Standard at General Help with Casework level in Housing.
CHAS (Bristol) has a vision of society where all members of the community have a place they can call home. We believe that everyone has a right to a decent home, based on the values of the equality and dignity of each human being. We believe that housing is central to the development of individuals, communities and society as a whole. We are therefore striving to ensure that everyone has a place to live, with a particular focus on those in the greatest need.
In 2016/7 CHAS (Bristol) helped 610 households during the year, compared with 379 helped prior to the legal aid cuts of 2012/13. Of the 610 households supported, we provided one-off information and advice to 470 people who called with new enquiries and took on 61 new cases (clients needing intensive or sustained support) involving 293 ‘presenting problems’. We also continued to help 79 clients from the previous year. Homelessness, the threat of homelessness or street homelessness was a presenting problem in 66% of cases, and the primary problem in 38% of all cases.
Insecurities in private sector renting
In 2016/17, 30% of our clients were living in private rented accommodation; an increasingly insecure market due to Bristol’s rising rents (18% in 16/17) and house price increases (9.6% in 16/17). We supported Sarah, a 38-year-old mother of five children (two with severe disabilities) who was living in an overcrowded private rented house. Their landlord wanted to sell the property and issued a Notice Requiring Possession, threatening the family with imminent homelessness. We negotiated with her landlord to delay the eviction and advocated on her behalf to increase her priority for emergency rehousing. As a result of our support the family were rehoused to a permanent council house and homelessness was prevented.
Sarah: “I would like to say a big thank you for all you’ve done. I could never have done this without you. You have been fantastic through all this.”
A place of safety
In 2016/17 18% of our clients sought help due to domestic abuse. An example of a positive outcome for one of these cases involved Elena, a pregnant mother of three who fled her home because of domestic violence. The Council refused to pay housing benefit on her home while she was in a temporary accommodation. As a result, she was evicted due to £3,000 rent arrears and blocked from rehousing. CHAS successfully represented Elena at tribunal; her housing benefit claim was paid, rent arrears cleared and her rehousing application was reinstated. Further advocacy from CHAS ensured that she received the highest priority for rehousing and she moved into a permanent Housing Association home just before Christmas last year.
Elena’s mother: “thank you so much for all your help with this, you have been an absolute catalyst in this process and we are for ever in your debt”.
In 2016/17, 39% of our clients suffered from mental, physical, or complex health problems. Aisha, a disabled woman with mental and physical health problems, urgently needed transfer to larger accommodation so that she could retain her independence by having a carer stay overnight. We supported her to apply for rehousing and achieve the correct priority so that she secured a long-term council tenancy.
Aisha: “CHAS is an invaluable organisation which has supported me through many housing issues that have caused considerable distress for a disabled lady like myself. The dedication from the staff of CHAS is inspiring and humbling. Thank you for your help.”
OTHER SOURCES OF HOUSING ADVICE
Shelter: 0344 515 1430 or the National Housing Helpline 0808 800 4444
South West Law: (0117) 314 6400
Avon & Bristol Law Centre: (0117) 924 8662
CAB Good Tenants’ Scheme: 0344 499 4718 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org