At Shelter, we believe that everyone has the right to a safe home.
The pandemic has exacerbated the problems facing millions of people living in poor housing in the private rental sector.
We have seen a sharp increase in the number of people coming to us with problems, such as rent arrears due to job loss or layoff, illegal evictions, and questions about decay and access. of the owners.
Most questions that come to our hotline can be resolved more quickly by visiting our comprehensive online advice pages.
Shelter’s online advice team works hard to ensure that we have the most user-friendly, useful and up-to-date content available for people they can access whenever they need it.
Andy Parnell has worked at Shelter for over seven years, first as a helpline and online chat advisor and now as a content designer for our online advice pages.
“We have developed a variety of forms, including videos, tools, guides, sample letters and other resources for people to help themselves. “
All developed content is informed by the latest information on housing issues.
“We research user needs to identify themes, looking at the types of requests received by our hotline, live chat and social media.
“We start by identifying pain points that people may need help with.
“For example, many people come to us with questions about how best to contact their board to access the support they are entitled to.
“We have therefore developed a letter model which can be downloaded and sent to local council for help with harassment and unlawful eviction.
Over the past year and a half, it has been essential to stay abreast of the latest legislative changes and the Covid-19 landscape in order to regularly review, update and create new content for our online advice pages and social media.
“We had to be responsive to make sure our advice was as up to date as possible.
“The pandemic has affected just about every area of housing law, from eviction notice periods changing to things like managing rent arrears, domestic violence, owner harassment and if the owners can have access to properties to deal with decay.
“We have created a dedicated site Covid-19 Advice Page which covers the most common types of inquiries and links to other parts of our online advice for people who need more information.
In the last fiscal year, we recorded over 6.5 million visits to our Shelter England online advice pages.
“After the increase in universal credit and the leave scheme ends, we expect a further increase in the number of people who need information and advice on financial support and evictions.
“So many people are going to find themselves without a safety net when the leave system and the universal credit hike come to an end.
“However, if someone is having financial difficulties, for example due to rent or mortgage arrears, we have content on our website that can help you, such as how to access Discretionary housing payments Where how to challenge benefit decisions and advice on how to maximize income. “
It is essential that people with housing issues access Shelter’s online advice early to prevent relatively minor issues from escalating into crisis.
“We recommend that people seek advice as early as possible.
“For example, if someone thinks he might barely paying his rent, it is important that they speak to their owner.
“Most landlords will be understanding and willing to make a deal as long as the tenant stays in touch.
“All of the information on our advice pages is convenient and comprehensive, available in accessible and easy-to-use formats,” says Andy.
We often receive positive feedback from people who have used our advice online, thanking us for helpful content that solved their housing issue or answered their questions.
“We updated the illegal eviction pages in March, and after a few weeks we received a comment from someone seeking advice on behalf of a family member.
“This family member was being harassed by his owner who was trying to push him off the property.
“After using the template letter to contact the owner and assert their rights, the owner stopped harassing their relative.
“It’s really heartwarming to see the content we’re working on helping those in need.”
While the past year has been a bit difficult, Andy believes it also showed how housing and other professionals came together to support people in times of need.
“On a personal level, so many people have worked very hard since the start of the pandemic.
“It was amazing being in solidarity with other dedicated and caring professionals who, despite difficult circumstances, go above and beyond to help people. “
As winter approaches, we anticipate a further increase in demand for Shelter’s services due to the financial strains of the holiday season and housing issues, such as worsening humidity and weather conditions. mold.
“If you are a professional working with clients who need Shelter’s help, encourage them to check out our advice pages and online resources, as they are designed to be as helpful as possible with the advice they provide. need, in the format they need. in.”