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Time to reflect – ‘Cathy Come Home’

Cathy Come HomeNovember 1966. 50 years on is a time to reflect on one of the most iconic moments in social history with the launch of what became known as the docudrama, the depiction of real life events through the medium of TV drama. That monochrome film was Cathy Come Home in 1966 that reached an estimated audience of 1 in 5 of the UK population. The programme directed by Ken Loach, is perhaps without parallel in reaching deep into our collective human consciousness, shining a torch onto a dark episode in the history of housing and social care and rightly acknowledged as a brilliant piece of social reforming drama.

The programme showed, in stark reality, how real lives are shaped by the consequences of personal crisis, and how things can quickly spiral to impact not only on the ordinary lives of individuals and their children, but on the institutions and processes that form the scaffold around our idealised lives.

There are many thousands of organisations that owe their inspiration to that film, their vision, their determination to resolve the problems it raised. For some, it was immediate, like the homeless charity Shelter and Crisis. For others their organisations took many years to evolve, but nevertheless, their epicentre was Cathy Come Home.

While the film exposed the consequences of a falling out of the mundane regularity of life of a working class subject, for many, it also exposed different but related subjects.  Its appeal was that as well as the common theme of homelessness, each viewer had different nerves pinched, each saw and interpreted a different cause. Social care, fostering, conditions of rented homes, housing law, injustice, homelessness, housing supply, assistance and more. Like Ray Bradbury’s[1] story about time travel ‘A sound of thunder’, this seemingly small cause had a far reaching ripple effect on subsequent historic events including changes in law and practice.

I, like many others, have lost count of how many housing associations Cathy come home helped inspire or at least re-focus, rejuvenate, or the vast number of voluntary organisations it galvanised to rattle tins, raise funds and provide support to the vulnerable. Indeed the tenants’ movement in Wales was formed from the legacy of Cathy.

Today, as stories go, it’s difficult to compete against the constant exposure of news and events that shape our lives, like ribbons around a maple, they constantly spin into view momentarily, some more colourful than others.  Today, it’s more difficult to achieve the same impact. But there are parallels with Loach’s most recent film ‘I Daniel Blake’, which exposes the harsh reality of again, personal crisis. This time however, the crisis highlighted is exacerbated by decisions not with the absence of assistance, but the unreasonably conditionality that restrict it at a time when there is so much excess by the few. So we continue to be indebted to Ken Loach, to his producers, researchers and writers who feel inspired to work with him and seek to draw attention to the injustices we experience.

50 years on, one thing is certain through these messages that provoke our thinking, is that we cannot resolve personal crisis, whatever form it takes, without first securing the home. To do so multiplies the costs of intervention tenfold, producing long-term irrevocable damage to those who suffer the impact.  Homelessness is a form of punishment as a consequence of personal crisis, it provides no solution! but an enhanced societal problem for which we all pay.

It’s time we finally viewed housing as an indispensable part of ensuring human dignity. Not to ensure that nobody need be homeless 50 years on is either barbaric, incompetent or both. If we are to aspire to be portrayed as a modern caring society and overcome the prejudice of inequality, we must make the shift and recognise homelessness as something we need to eradicate in society.

Adequate housing is recognised as part of the right to an adequate standard of living in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, is in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of which the UK are signatories. The first step must be to end Section 21 no fault eviction and demand equality under the law and security of tenure for all with no eviction without proven fault in a court of law. The ultimate legacy of Cathy come home should be to shift our thinking once and for all and end this punitive practice.

There are many organisations seeking to achieve this and find solutions other than eviction when people face a crisis that puts at threat their home and shelter. We are one, join us, support us to strengthen the voice of renters in Wales regardless of who your landlord is.

Contact: Welsh Tenants

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[1] The butterfly effect is the concept that small causes can have large effects. The idea that one butterfly could eventually have a far-reaching ripple effect on subsequent historic events appeared in “A Sound of Thunder”, a 1952 short story by Ray Bradbury about time travel.

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The bedroom tax and two important rulings by the Supreme Court

The bedroom tax

In 2012 the Government through the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) introduced changes to Housing benefit though the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 (SI2006/2013) (Reg B13) “Removal of the spare room subsidy”. The legislation applied to people in social housing who were deemed to have a larger number of bedrooms than they needed and sought to make a deduction in their housing benefit entitlement of 14% for one bedroom and 25% for two bedrooms.

The principle they argued, already applied to private rented sector tenants, so it was one of “fairness”. The counter argument, was the new HB restrictions were not applied retrospectively, as the social housing tenant’s deductions would be – effectively coming into force in a big bang approach in April 2013. The further issue for social tenants was that the granting of social housing was not often a choice, as with private sector, with applicants ending up with a home that had more bedrooms than they may have required, (because of the shortage of single and two bedroom properties) with an applicant’s refusal to accept potentially impacting on any duty to provide further assistance.

Discretionary assistance

When transitioning the legislation, the government knew there would be issues of contention providing wrap around protection for the elderly by means of an exemption for persons over pension credit age. The government also, anticipating some legal challenges, providing additional momentary resources to local authorities through topping up existing Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) made possible under the Discretionary Financial Assistance Regulations (SI 2001/1167) which extends financial housing assistance in deserving cases.

The key word though is “discretionary”, with Local authorities being able to determine which criteria was to be satisfied for a successful claim. Further there is no automatic right to appeal if turned down, however, because the decision was administered by an “authority” DHP refusals were subject to judicial review. This judicial review process means a lengthy trawl through the 1st tier tribunal all the way up to the supreme court, the highest legal authority in the UK.

DHP therefore provided DWP backed discretionary assistance for such criteria as: fostering, armed forces personnel (where the family home remained the principle home), the need for overnight carers etc.

Since 2013 cases were also being brought by claimants arguing; the definition of a ‘bedroom’, reasonable size, duel parental access following divorce, and other circumstances. By far, the most contentious was the impact on people with life threatening or terminal illness and people with disabilities who were unable to share a bedroom because of their partner or sibling’s disability.

Legal challenges

Many advocates argued that such cases were either known about or ignored by government and not adequately accommodated through an exemption or relief via the DHP funds. They also argued, had they done so, the case for introduction of the spare room subsidy would have been less attractive to parliament.

Perhaps the most prominent of these case, was Gorry v Wiltshire County Council; where it was successfully argued, that it was unreasonable for two children of the same sex who suffered severe disabilities to share a bedroom. Or Burnip v Birmingham City Council (2012) EWCA Civ 629, [2012] LGR 954. Where the presence of a carer was required throughout the night. Both cases required the government to include a legislative amendment to B13.

The Supreme Court decisions

The recent November 9th 2016 decision of the Supreme Court considered that the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 (SI2006/2013) (Reg B13) “Removal of the spare room subsidy, as it applied to 7 claimants who said the bedroom tax violated their rights, discriminating against the claimants’ right to family life, and or that the regulations were in breach of the public sector equality duty (PSED). In detail they;

  • contend that there was a breach of the Secretary of State, Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) under the Equality Act 2010, which obliges public authorities to have regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity for those who share protected characteristics and those who do not.
  • have a right to non-discrimination under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), in conjunction with a right to family life under Article 8 and or property under Article 1 of the First Protocol (Housing Benefit falls within the Scope of these latter articles).

The supreme court considered the cases with each having different circumstances but covering the above alleged breaches. 6 claimants either had a disability or lived with a family member who had a disability, arguing they required an extra bedroom to enable them to cope with the medical consequences of the disability, and that the bedroom tax unfairly discriminated against them.

The 7th claimant (A) is a survivor of rape and assault being allocated a home with a secure “safe room”. She claimed the bedroom tax financially penalised the safe room and discriminated against women who live in a “sanctuary scheme”.

Conclusion of the cases

In considering the cases the supreme court dismissed 5 cases. While the judges accepted the bedroom tax had had a discriminatory impact on 5 of the claimants, there was no direct connection between disability and the need for an extra room, ruling theirs was a “social need”, rather than a medical one. Their “needs” could be met by applying for financial support (DHP). In A’s case, (included in the 5) the judges found in favour of the government by majority of 5-2 and that while she should continue to have “sanctuary”, the bedroom tax was not discriminatory against women.

The judges did however agree there were unreasonable differences in the way housing benefit regulations treated adults and children and found this “manifestly without reasonable foundation”.

The Carmichaels case, represented by Leigh Day solicitors, hinged on Jaqueline Carmichael who is disabled and cannot share a room with her husband, Jayson. The case is similar to that of Paul and Susan Rutherford who care for their severely disabled grandson, Warren (now 17), in a specially adapted three-bedroom bungalow in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Both require a separate bedroom to accommodate a disability.

The judges ruled that it was unfair that Jaqueline Carmichael, whose medical condition required her to sleep in a different bed to her husband, was hit by the bedroom tax, while households where children sharing with a severe disability needed separate rooms (Gorry).

Likewise, while adults who needed an extra room for overnight carer were exempt from the bedroom tax, children such as Paul and Susan Rutherford’s grandson Warren (now 17), who has a rare genetic disorder being unable to walk, talk or feed himself – were not. These differences were “manifestly without reasonable foundation” and ruled in favour of the two cases.


As a result of the claims brought by Carmichael and Rutherford households in similar circumstances will now be exempt from the bedroom tax with the DWP having to take steps to amend guidance to ensure it complies with the ruling.

The failure of A’s case means that there will be no exemption and no specific requirement for local authorities to utilise DHP to offset the bedroom tax in sanctuary schemes. However, A’s case is to be challenged in the European Court of Human Rights by her solicitors.

While many will take heart in the ruling by the 7 judges, it does not fundamentally challenge the legality of the bedroom tax. For many, the cases expose the sheer bloody-mindedness of the government to defend its policy in these cases all the way to the supreme court, wasting considerable public money and resources in doing so, when there is clearly a will of the people to end this cruel imposition placed on our severely disabled and terminally ill people.

In Scotland, the bedroom tax has been largely mitigated by the Scottish government while in Wales the bedroom tax still applies despite calls from the Welsh Tenants and others to do the same. Surly its time we put clear water between the conservative view of how we support disabled, chronically ill and children in Wales by introducing a similar measure as Scotland.

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Priorities for housing policy in Wales – Supply, renting and affordability

Priorities for housing policy in Wales – supply, renting and affordability




Guest of Honour: Professor Judith Phillips, Deputy Principal, University of Stirling and Chair, Welsh Government Expert Group on Housing an Ageing Population

This seminar will bring together key policymakers with stakeholders including developers, housing associations, local authorities, mortgage lenders, surveyors and planning lawyers, charities and academics with an interest in this area to discuss key housing policy priorities for the new Welsh Government. Delegates will discuss the challenges for delivering key Welsh Government pledges including building an additional 20,000 affordable homes a year, ending ‘Right to Buy’ and introducing a new ‘Rent to Own’ model. They will also consider other steps that might be taken to improve supply including addressing concerns of so-called ‘landbanking’; extending the ‘Houses into Homes’ scheme for converting empty homes and the particular issue of supply of housing for older people. Professor Judith Phillips, Chair of the Welsh Government’s Expert Group on Housing an Ageing Population will be discussing the groups’ initial findings at the seminar. The conference also comes ahead of the implementation of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 which introduces new forms of tenancy and new requirements from landlords. Delegates will assess the challenges for putting the Act’s requirements into practice, for enforcing it, and wider challenges in the rental market. Access to finance will also be discussed including examining the impact of Help to Buy Wales so far and the likely effects of the UK-wide Help to Buy ISA scheme. We are delighted to be able to include in this seminar keynote addresses from John Griffiths AM, Chair, Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee and Professor Judith Phillips, Deputy Principal, Stirling University and Chair, Welsh Government Expert Group on Housing an Ageing Population.

Further confirmed speakers include: Steve Clarke, Managing Director, Welsh Tenants; Simon Coop, Planning Director, Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners; Douglas Haig, Vice-Chairman and Director for Wales, Residential Landlords Association; Steve Hicks, Managing Director, Gentoo Genie;Sharon Hughes, Head of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships, Hafan Cymru; Bethan Jones, Operational Manager, Rent Smart Wales; John Puzey, Director, Shelter Cymru; Robin Staines, Head of Housing and Public Protection, Carmarthenshire County Council and Chair, Welsh Government’s Housing Supply Task Force 2013-14 and Peter Quinn, Business Development Director, Lovells, alongside a senior speaker confirmed from Taylor Wimpey.

John Griffiths AM, Chair, Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee and Siân Gwenllian AM, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Local Government, the Welsh Language, Equalities and Planning have both kindly agreed to chair sessions at this seminar.

 For further details, please contact

Anna Cole

Swyddog Ansawdd Data, Fforwm Polisïau Cymru / Data Quality Officer, Policy Forum for Wales

T: 01344 864796

F: 01344 420121

Dilynwch ni ar Twitter / Follow us on Twitter @PFWEvents



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Jonny’s blog on Not just bricks & mortar conference

Jonny from the PRS Block

PRS & Event Intro

I’ve decided to write this blog, which is about Welsh Tenants’ (WT) Not Just Bricks & Mortar conference, from a private rented sector (PRS) tenant’s perspective; allowing me to comment from a service user’s point of view and not as a staff member of WT/ Tenantiaid Cymru (TC), making this blog more open and relatable to others.

Green & Red leads to Yellow

I thought to myself “it’s not easy wearing green” as the first day started with me wearing a light-green coloured shirt (one of the colours of the logo). The colour, like the theme of fancy-dress later that day, hadn’t been seen since the ‘60s.

Unfortunately, I lost my original red shirt (the other tradition colour of the logo) to wear for the second day due to the constant move from tenancy to tenancy in the past two years…it’s a long story.

Somebody had asked me if I has misplaced it in a “moving box.”

I told them that they’ve watched too many Hollywood movies that fostered the silver-screen ideology of a family moving into a new property. Unlike them I did not have the privilege of having a “moving box” or extreme dental whiteners.

As a PRS tenant who works, pays the bills, has family members to support – the last thing I’d think of is “where’s that red shirt?”

In regards to the yellow – The National Tenant’s Council could be holding up a yellow-coloured flag in future that would represent those committed to the tenants’ movement.

Steve opened the conference, focusing on the progress WT/TC made in relation to last year’s Rent –Well live well campaign and the five asks that focused on security of tenure, affordability (and the need for a living rent), representation for renters, choice and flexibility (about supply) and standards. While much had been achieved since devolution there was still more to be done to deliver on the tenants asks of government and the sectors. What did come across was that tenants have played an important role in helping to shape some really important issues facing renters in Wales and that unity among renters and indeed the sector on key messages like the Homes for Wales campaign can achieve quite significant improvements for all -delivering on health, social well-being and equalities.

Leaseholders, London and Wales

Dona Awano from The Leasehold Advisory Service was a guest speaker launched the organisation’s major works project.

It was good to give a voice to these almost “unsung” tenants and their tenure type, since many aren’t aware of their rights and obligations as a leaseholder.

Cathy is 50th

Cathy Come Home was on everybody’s lips as Shelter Cymru’s John Puzey and WT’s Steve Clarke introduced the first plenary of the conference, which highlighted the docudrama’s 50th anniversary that gave rise to the creation of Shelter.

Shelter Cymru’s newest campaign Take Notice was promoted at the event.

In a way it rekindled the memory of Cathy. It reminded us that anyone can become homeless and more importantly that we should stop people’s perceptions and change their attitudes towards homelessness – you should never stereotype!

I hope that Shelter Cymru’s campaign will breathe life back into the support services and raise public awareness of homelessness, like Cathy did back in ’66. The question, what can Cathy expect top come home to in 2016’ was answered. In Wales at least there is a prevention strategy that does appear to be showing good early signs. However, welfare is a major issue. Cathy and Reg could well have their benefits sanctioned for the most ridiculous of reasons, and housing benefit cap may well mean that they may not to be able to afford a home of their reasonable preference, even social housing. There’s still much to be done to ensure we have a more equal society that can support people like Cathy, Reg and their children in times of crisis.

New Chat-in-the-Box

During the plenary sessions, WT/TC used a throwable-mic box. The box bounced with ease from table to table, from tenant to tenant – but there were no boxed-emotions here. The conference welcomed any voice from any sector to contribute any thought.

Chit Chat Corner

WT tested out their new idea called Chit Chat Corner.

Setting up a gazebo in the Metropole’s main exhibition area and assigning workshop sheets for delegates to sign up to would hopefully give delegates; whether exhibitor, sponsor or tenant a chance to voice their views on a particular subject.

I must admit that more planning was needed to coordinate and promote the “corner,” but it did receive attention (being a gazebo in a hotel) and further interest with its objective.

For example, Mr Sparks, a RSL tenant who had paid to come to the conference, volunteered to lead a discussion on disability access, which is a subject that isn’t only confined to housing.

In terms of the private rented sector and disability access (particularly physical/ wheelchair user); it appears to be next to impossible, as investment and support is almost non-existent. Also, because it’s a commercially-driven market, there are no breaking of laws because it’s all about who is “suitable” for the property, and is not hindered by any social values or a sense of social responsibility.

On the conference’s second day, Peter Griffiths from New Pathways (who also exhibited) had volunteered to lead a discussion concerning his project’s work on supporting victims of rape (and human trafficking), domestic violence, which I believe is an issue that isn’t stressed enough in the sector.

Rape itself would constitute as a life crisis because its violent nature has the ability to do long-lasting damage both physically and mentally; where a victim’s nature would change in the process.

There were some worrying comments from participants about the dangers of shared accommodation for young vulnerable people and for people with mental health conditions. Delegates were concerned at the extent of human trafficking and the appalling conditions some people have to endure in illegal HMOs and basement dwellings that are off the radar of the authorities. Overall, I thought Chit Chat Corner delivered well and could still (with more planning) be a great addition to future of WT/ TC conferences.

Tenants’ Chit Chat

WT/TC are also thankful to Jonathan Conway (Newport City Homes) for facilitating Tenants’ Chit Chat, more of an open house discussion  workshop that enabled tenants to vent their views on recent tenant matters in Wales. The workshop was well attended and contributed to lively discussions. We look forward to Jonathans feedback.

Exhibitors & Sponsors – support services are key

I’m glad to have seen StepChange (the debt support charity) again at the event, especially as this year’s conference marks the anniversary of Cathy Come Home, which involved financial exclusion and debt that affected the family’s well-being.

Poverty and debt (including the methodologies that lead to the exploitation of those at risk in deprived areas) are still putting financial-strain on low-income families and individuals. And with cuts to welfare, it begs the question – is living affordable? Are we just existing and nothing more?

When I think back to Cathy and Reg and how they had back-payments that drowned the family in debt. I think to myself – has much changed?

Sadly supportive organisations such as Moneyline (part of the growing responsible lending network that’s evolving in Wales) weren’t available back in ’66, with only major corporate banks available that required credit checks – in the end denying them any choice.

Moneyline provides assistance by offering small secure loans that are affordable, flexible and encourages tenants to save. As a company it sits between the credit union movement and more corporate lenders, providing affordable credit, helping to steer people away from high interest borrowing.

As a private tenant, I believe that the organisation is beneficial because its flexibility and its affordability gives tenants an opportunity; unlike being labelled insecure by creditors, which is a negative attitude towards families trying to make a house their home or simply trying to get secure.

Another aspect of the docudrama that’s not well highlighted is mental health; Cathy develops paranoia brought on by anxiety that later becomes depression, which is more than likely the result from the many issues that she faced.

Therefore, the presence of Mid Powys Mind was a great choice by WT – housing and mental health go hand-in-hand. After all one of the key messages of the conference, was that while bricks and mortar are important – it’s also about people.

More support is needed, more now than ever before, since it’s estimated that 1 in every 4 people will have a form of mental health illness. Securing future funding to cope with mental health services as part of the health and well-being agenda is therefore critical for many. Are local authority services in Wales able to follow the new legislation regarding both the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act and Social Services & Well-being (Wales) Act with the current cuts to funding? We will have to see how they cope.

These issues are relevant to Powys Carers’ Service, whose organisation had exhibited. Its presence helped to emphasise not only the cross-sector challenges but more importantly the family struggle, especially with austerity cuts that create further hardship for those who support their loved ones that have particular needs.

This local support service is a lifeline to carers that may seem only to assist them in the simplest of ways, such as letting them have time to themselves, but unless you’re a carer you’re unable to fathom its significance.

Without question, one of the biggest life crisis is cancer. I’m glad to have seen The Bracken Trust feature at the event, because the reality is that everybody will know someone whose life has been affected by the life-threatening and life-altering disease.

Sponsors support the ideals of an event and it’s no surprise that Linc Cymru and Tai Ceredigion came out on top as key sponsors, along with representatives from the sector HouseMark Cymru, Electrical Safety First, Orbits IT and others.

Here’s some of the workshops

WT/ TC commits to providing an all-round tenure workshops; whether you’re a tenant from a HA, LA or PRS – there is always something for everyone.

Fuel poverty and energy sufficiency is always a hot topic in housing. Landlords should support their tenants in getting the cheapest deals that provides a quality service in regards to payments with bills. Perhaps tenants aren’t aware that they can “shop around” with energy or other suppliers.

Hence, William Jones from CAB Ceredigion ran a workshop on Energy Best Deals, which is ideal for a PRS tenant like me. The standards in heating efficiency isn’t regulated that can cause serious health problems, which I’ve personally experienced myself.

There needs to be more support for not only tenants but home-owners, specifically those with young children, older people or medical conditions; cold homes aren’t just a negative mark against suppliers and sometimes landlords, but they can lead to unthinkable consequences! Delegates also raised concern about the proposed reform of the NEST scheme for private households.

It was nice to see Elle McNeil from CAB Cymru return to another WT conference, after seeing her last year at Building Bridges – she being one of many speakers on the all-women panel.

She led a workshop on rights and obligations, which are fundamentally the relationship’s infrastructure agreed upon between landlords and tenants. It may seem as if it goes back to basics, but with new legislations (in Wales) over the last three to four years popping up left, right and centre in the sector – it’s important that everyone be kept up-to-date.

I got talking to Stephanie Davies and Rachel Rowberry-Jones from Money Matters at Cynon Taf Housing Group, and their workshop sounded almost like a homage to Cathy, as it was called dealing with a life crisis, which proved successful with the delegates.

Their services can support those going through a life crisis, tenants who accessed their support service have benefited to the sum of 450k to date.. But perhaps (I believe) their services are important for their ability to prevent a life crisis, which should be in all support services’ goals.

It’s always interesting to see Housing Associations’ influence on the running of the event, with workshops being crucial by creating “a moth to a flame” situation when attracting delegates.

For instance, Merthyr Valleys Homes’ staff and tenant board member Frances Bevan did a workshop on becoming a mutual organisation – insisting that together we’re stronger. Or Steve Clarkes mantra that landlords problems are tenant problems and tenant problems are the landlords, it’s in both our interests to work together to resolve them. Perhaps, like the recent success of the Wales Team in the Euro football, the decision (agreed by both landlord and tenants) is an example that could kick things into gear to create a fair and better relationship.

It was good to see regulation there too, with TAP members discussing the expected ruling that housing associations should be reclassified public bodies. The consequences of which would mean serious restrictions on the borrowing to build new homes that we so desperately need. The regulatory team also discussed how we better rate service delivery.

Future Gazing

You don’t need to be an astrologer to see how well this plenary would turn out.

Everyone present was engaged in learning more about the housing sector’s transformation through technological advances in terms of both data and enabling those receiving care and support to live more independently.

The panel consisted of Brett Sadler, a self-confessed IT geek from North Wales Housing; Rachel Honey-Jones, who is the Community Regeneration Manager at Newydd Housing (one of the first RSLs in Wales to incorporate biotechnology in one of its sheltered schemes); and Karen Foster from Deeplake, a mobile communications software that’s all about providing accessible rent account and making services more accessible from your mobile device but also using big data in social housing to improve investment decisions

It was a nice touch by WT/TC to use plasma globes at the debate, which was appropriate for the plenary’s technological theme. The debate concluded that while IT is producing widespread service delivery and life opportunities, we should also be well informed about the risks in relation to fraud, confidentiality, data protection and accessibility for all. Delegates needed to take responsibility for our digital futures too.

Future Gazing – Private Sector, not so Private

I’d like to add my concerns on a recent article, which acknowledges sites such as Tenant Assured that compiles “tenant’s personality report” from “open data” to vet certain tenants based on their personal social media accounts, but still insists that it uses traditional checks to carry out any final decision.

What this is, in a nut-shell, is backdoor profiling. This negative use of data could be used in a prejudicial way including the possible inciting of homophobia, racism, xenophobia and others forms of –isms.

What’s next the Tenant Factor? Four buzzers and you’re out on the streets?

As a private tenant who works for an organisation that represents the national voice of tenants, would a landlord be willing (if given the data by this company) to let me rent?

What to expect from a new Welsh Government?

The last plenary of the event featured Tamsin Stirling, an independent consultant; Sonia Benbow-Jones, WT Chair; Susan Hill, a town councillor and a local authority tenant; and Paul Clasby, a member of Tai Ceredigion’s Monitoring Group and CAVO’s disability forum.

It was quite unfortunate that no PRS tenant was available to become a panel member for this plenary. This only emphasises the difficulty in engaging with tenants of this tenure. It’s a hard-to-reach group!

The delegates were encouraged to work together and write down what they thought the future of the Welsh Government would look like including services to housing and in the community…and I believe I heard Brexit.

This co-productive activity reminded me of the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword,” which I’m sure Tamsin would agree with me, being a self-confessed “policy nerd.”

Although, we need to remember that not every policy or legislation can be followed, if the demand goes beyond funding capacity.

I’m glad to have witnessed a conference that has tenants’ at its heart, and promotes  true representation with the presence of service providers and more importantly service users (tenants), who are the key to the existence of providers – not the other way around.

Service providers (landlords) should be evaluated on their performance, otherwise like any kind of service, how do we know that it has improved in quality and in other areas, which is why Welsh Tenants / Tenantiaid Cymru needs to carry on –  an independent beacon that keeps on shining to safeguard tenant representation, making sure is alive and well. 

PRS Participation

There are few apparent steps towards private tenant participation, unlike its big brother, social housing. This is something that needs to be addressed if we are to ensure that all renters can benefit from the collective involvement, locally, regionally and nationally.

In my opinion, Local Authorities and Welsh Government understand the dilemmas facing private tenants but struggle with the resourcing necessary to truly empower them. The priority it seems is to educate the landlords rather than empower the tenants.

While every event such as this needs to choose what it has on the programme, it would have been great to have the ability to get the private renters voice at the event and to examine how for example landlord registration is progressing in Wales through Rent Smart Wales.

Don’t get me wrong, there are good private landlords, but we need membership bodies such as the RLA and NLA to get on board with supporting the enforcement of standards in the sector and sponsoring tenants to attend, just like the RSL sector does, perhaps next year we can look at this.


Not Just Bricks & Mortar was not only a name of this year’s WT’s conference, it’s a current message that we need to encourage in the sector. Not just for Wales but for everyone, everywhere. It’s about putting people first.

We don’t produce housing, we provide homes!

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Response to Welsh Government Programme for Government – Taking Wales Forward

Today, we were pleased to see the commitment to deliver 20,000 homes in the Programme for Government – Taking Wales forward (2016-2021). This consists of the construction of 6,000 homes through the Help to Buy Scheme.

Steve Clarke, said “While we welcome the confirmation of 20,000 homes, with at least 14,000 being affordable, we do need to reconsider what is affordable for those on low incomes and in receipt of housing benefit/credit. To be truly affordable we will need a bigger social housing grant pot with specific rental target in mind with the majority falling within the scope of the social rent policy, although realistically, the majority of affordable homes will most likely be at 80% of market rent”.

“We understand that Right to Buy and Right to Acquire will be abolished, despite Anglesey, Flintshire, Swansea, Carmarthen all having utilised the 5 year suspension, although perhaps interestingly the paragraph refers to “safeguarding social housing in rural areas by ending right to buy”, are we to assume that urban areas will follow?

While RTB/RTA was of symbolic and now financially important given the direction of travel in England, it is understandable there is little incentive for social landlords to invest to build only for us to exercise the right to buy after five years has gone – at a discount. Much better to see the genuinely affordable homes pool grow to meet current and future needs.

The full document ‘Welsh Government Taking Wales Forward’ can be viewed here:



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The power of community led-housing 14th September 2016

Is lack of affordable housing an issue where you live? Join us to find out how your neighbourhood could use community-led housing to create good quality affordable homes for local people.  We’d like to invite you to see some of the UK’s best community-led housing for yourself. With Locality and DTA Scotland, we’re running events around the UK to showcase trailblazing community housing projects – the next one is in Wales on 14th September.

Find out more and book here:

Join us 14 September in Newport and Torfaen, Wales.

This See for Yourself Visit is entitled “Creatively tackling urban and rural housing shortages in Wales”

It will provide an insight into the Welsh Government’s work on developing co-operative housing contrasted with One Planet Living to give a flavour of what is taking place in urban and rural areas in Wales.

It consists of two site visits to Tŷ Cyfle in Torfaen (a housing co-op providing starter homes for young people aged 16 – 18) and to Loftus Village in Newport (which offers 20 cooperative homes with a shared space and garden, as part of a larger development) contrasted with a video case study from Lammas, a One Planet Development of 9 self build dwellings positioned around a community hub building, in rural Pembrokeshire.

Coach transport between the visits will be provided.

Can’t make Wales? Don’t worry

If you can’t make it to the Welsh event don’t worry – we’re hosting ‘See for Yourself’ events at locations around the UK.

Liverpool, 5 Oct The importance of asset transfers to community-led housing projects.  Leicester, 2 Nov Fighting homelessness; offering hope.

Hastings, 8 Feb 2017 How communities can create housing on improbable sites.  Totnes, 15 March 2017 High ambition new-build CLH projects.

This series of ‘See for yourself’ events has been organised by Locality and the Building and Social Housing Foundation to showcase some of the UK’s most interesting, exciting and innovative community-led housing schemes.  To book onto other events visit


Helo A yw diffyg tai fforddiadwy yn fater o bwys lle’r ydych chi’n byw? Ymunwch â ni i ddarganfod sut gallai eich cymdogaeth ddefnyddio tai dan arweiniad y gymuned i greu cartrefi fforddiadwy o ansawdd da ar gyfer pobl leol.  Hoffem eich gwahodd i weld rhai o’r tai dan arweiniad y gymuned gorau yn y Deyrnas Unedig drosoch eich hun. Gyda Locality a DTA yn yr Alban, rydym yn cynnal digwyddiadau o gwmpas y Deyrnas Unedig i arddangos prosiectau tai cymunedol arloesol – ac mae’r un nesaf yng Nghymru ar 14 Medi.

Rhagor o wybodaeth a chyfle i archebu lle yma:

Ymunwch â ni ar 14 Medi yn Nhorfaen a Chasnewydd.

Teitl yr ymweliad ‘Gweld drosoch eich hun’ hwn yw Mynd i’r afael â phrinder tai trefol a gwledig yng Nghymru mewn ffordd greadigol”

Bydd yn rhoi cipolwg ar waith Llywodraeth Cymru yn datblygu tai cydweithredol, wedi ei gyferbynnu ag Un Blaned Fyw, i roi blas ar yr hyn sy’n digwydd mewn ardaloedd trefol a gwledig yng Nghymru.

Mae’n cynnwys dau ymweliad safle â Thŷ Cyfle yn Nhorfaen (cydweithfa tai sy’n darparu cartrefi cyntaf i bobl ifanc 16 – 18 oed) ac i Bentref Loftus yng Nghasnewydd (sy’n cynnig 20 o gartrefi cydweithredol gyda lle a gardd a rennir, fel rhan o ddatblygiad mwy o faint) wedi eu cyferbynnu ag astudiaeth achos drwy fideo gan Lammas, datblygiad Un Blaned o 9 o anheddau hunan-adeiladu o amgylch adeilad canolfan gymunedol yng nghefn gwlad Sir Benfro. Darperir cludiant ar fws rhwng yr ymweliadau.

Methu mynd i’r digwyddiad yng Nghymru? Peidiwch â phoeni

Os na allwch chi fynd i’r digwyddiad yng Nghymru, peidiwch â phoeni – rydyn ni’n cynnal digwyddiadau ‘gweld drosoch eich hun’ mewn lleoliadau eraill o amgylch y Deyrnas Unedig.

Lerpwl, 5 Hydref Pwysigrwydd trosglwyddo asedau i brosiectau tai dan arweiniad y gymuned.

Caerlŷr, 2 Tachwedd Brwydro yn erbyn digartrefedd; cynnig gobaith.

Hastings, 8 Chwefror 2017 Sut gall cymunedau greu tai ar safleoedd annhebygol.  Totnes, 15 Mawrth 2017 Prosiectau tai dan arweiniad y gymuned wedi eu hadeiladu o’r newydd ag uchelgais uchel.

Mae’r gyfres hon o ddigwyddiadau ‘gweld drosoch eich hun’ wedi cael ei threfnu gan Locality a’r Sefydliad Adeiladu a Thai Cymdeithasol i arddangos rhai o gynlluniau tai mwyaf diddorol, cyffrous ac arloesol dan arweiniad y gymuned y Deyrnas Unedig.  I drefnu lle mewn digwyddiadau eraill, ewch i


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Pro’s and Con’s of Future Gazing on Data Use

Future gazing on data use, robotics and bio-technology in the housing sector – the pros and cons to be debated!

The speed and increasing accessibility of collective information technology developments can bring significant improvements to housing, but not without risks to privacy, data protection and human rights. These are to be debated at the Welsh Tenants conference in September.

Information technology (IT) has progressed significantly in recent years, so much so, there are now huge emerging opportunities for social landlords to provide beneficial value for money services that enhance the rental experience for their tenants/leaseholders.

For landlords it brings interesting opportunities to understand better the services we want (and perhaps don’t want), and provide opportunities to enhance the housing and support services received by renters.

‘Big data’ for example is about making use of warehoused data that sit on servers. The use of big data extends an opportunity to assess and analyse the performance of capital investments such as heating systems, helping the sector employ better value for money investments through comparative analysis of breakdowns of different systems. This can accrue significant savings avoiding costly mistakes in procurement. While on the extremes, algorithms can be employed to analyse trends such as when a system is more likely to breakdown and what part.

Our homes are also getting smarter. With the decreasing cost of sensory products that mimic the human senses being able to see, hear, smell and even touch our home environment. Having the ability to record that data and turn it into intelligent information about our life patterns could be useful for a whole range of support services interventions.

There are also opportunities through ‘digital inclusion’ projects to better enable to support and obtain access to better deals for non-housing related expenditure helping to cut the cost of utilities, car insurance and other purchases.

The more people that can obtain affordable internet access, the more we can prevent the disadvantage of captured consumers unable to access discounted online markets.

More disposable income suggests we are better able to afford to pay rents charged. Indeed, it can potentially determine how much rent a landlord could charge and what contribution we can pay to providing the next generation of homes. So there’s a huge advantage to landlords being able to turn data into beneficial knowledge.

Of course, access to the world wide web can also enable people to be better informed, (the foundation stone for initiating involvement), landlords are then able to be more transparent and accountable for their performance and the accessibility of certain services.

More than 86% of us now have access to 3G mobile phone technology and the applications being developed on android and i phones can put the process of ordering and arranging appointments for repairs in the hands of the renter, freeing up staff resources that currently process repair request chains – and direct them to other critical work.

Of course, being perceived to ‘know the tenant well’, can, enable the landlord to provide a number of public policy interventions, such as health, child protection, public safety, lifestyle choices and financial stability.

There is even a compelling argument for the relevance of casual surveillance to ensure the landlord can comply with their ‘duty of care’ or adhere to their obligation to provide peace and quiet and enjoyment of the home. And finally, but by no means lastly, the advent of robot and bio-technology can through 3 & 4D printing be able to print food! providing specific dietary requirements in extra care schemes or prescribe medicines depending on the individuals constantly monitored bio-data.

The alarming thing, is that all this has developed in a remarkably short period of time compared to for example, the industrial revolution.

There are no doubt some positive public policy interventions to be accrued, but each leap in innovation can expose concerns. Who is keeping a check on how far we go with the collective developments in IT, and is everyone sufficiently up to speed with balancing the rights of citizens with the opportunities that are presenting themselves.

What are the concerns of renters about the use of enhanced data gathering by contractors and monitoring the third party risk in relation to cyber-crime as we open up our lives to the cloud. What are the consequences for not ensuring compliance to data protection, information commissioner guidance, privacy laws, cyber-crime, security of tenure, consumer rights, other tenancy obligations, existing human rights or any Uk proposed bill of rights?

Examining what could be possible with drones, social media profiling and other technologies does bring huge moral and ethical concerns that need to be weighed against perceived advantages, but more importantly to whom those advantages weigh most and for what social gain.

Does the sector have a strategy for the use and control of information technology, and whose monitoring policy developments, how can information technology be best employed to improve services without compromising privacy, human rights and consumer protection?

We have seen how the non-recorded ‘off the record’ information gathering can be used to disenfranchise tenants from obtaining accommodation in the private rented sector – what’s preventing this from happening in the social sector and the undermining tenants security of tenure?

We have also seen how sheltered schemes are being converted to independent living schemes however, with the same tenancy agreements in place as if they were receiving care and support! and the introduction of keyless entry systems. While the seemingly proliferation of contractors being instructed to gather intelligence on the occupants when undertaking repair work adding to the profiling information.

It’s time we had a discussion about the perceived benefits, and the risks for renters, to ensure that the strategy (if one exists) and the tactics employed, are both transparent fair, morally acceptable and properly monitored and regulated.

Want to debate this subject more widely, or do you have something interesting to contribute? Then join us on Friday morning at the Welsh Tenants conference on the 23rd September 2016 or email

Future gazing plenary

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Calling Letting fees to be abolished in Wales

Much is made of self-regulation but a recent report on the private letting agencies in Wales highlights concern at the ability of the letting agency industry to regulate itself and comply with the law.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom that consolidates existing consumer protection law and provides for a number of new consumer rights and remedies. The Act became law on 1st October 2015, replacing three major pieces of consumer legislation – the Sale of Goods Act, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations and the Supply of Goods and Services Act.

Under the new law, as with the Sale of Goods Act, under the Consumer Rights Act, all products must be of ‘satisfactory quality’, ‘fit for purpose’ and ‘as described’ including digital content. The latter means that goods and services must match any description ‘as described’ that is given to you or displayed online or in their offices.

The Shelter survey  which involved some 85 letting agencies in Wales discovered inconsistencies in the amounts private sector tenants are charged and widespread disregard of the new laws under the consumer rights Act 2015.  One of the key issues identified relates to displaying on websites and office premises details of fees and charges that are applicable to their service. Over half that were surveyed provided different details over the telephone than those provided on their website or displayed in offices according to the Shelter Cymru report.

There research also found widespread variations in the fees charged, ranging from £39.99 to £480. These of course being charged in addition to a month’s rent up front, and a sum equal to or exceeding that as a deposit. The high percentage (over 50%) of those that were flouting the law confirms our concerns that the sector is poorly regulated.

Welsh Tenants have therefore supported the call to abolish letting fees and replacing them with a fairer more robust system. The report is accompanied by an online petition calling on the Welsh Assembly to outlaw the charges as they have done so in Scotland, and agree a better, clearer, fairer way of covering costs of providing the service.

Letting agents should provide prospective tenants with clear information about how much they will charge you before you agree to take up a tenancy. By law, agencies have to display charges on their website and in their offices. Local councils via Trading Standards have the power to fine agencies that don’t do this. As with other laws, such as the Equality Act 2010 letting agencies appear to disregard this critical legislation.

Letting Agency’s are allowed to charge administration fees to cover legitimate costs for preparing or renewing a tenancy agreement, checking references, undertaking credit or guarantor checks and drawing up guarantor agreements. But they are required to do so fairly and in a non-discriminatory manor.

They are also able to take a non-returnable holding deposit after you’ve agreed to rent the property but before you’ve signed the tenancy agreement. Depending on your agency’s terms and conditions, you might be able to get this back if, for example, the agency increases the rent or rejects your references without giving a reason.

Many will also ask for a returnable security deposit to protect them or their landlord clients against damage to the property or get rent arrears. This should be deposited with in a an approved Deposit Protection Scheme. However they cannot charge you for registering with them or for providing you with a list of properties.

We support the call to ban letting fees. If you believe in fairness and a more equitable balance of rights and obligations, then please sign the ShelterCymru petition here:

A full copy of the report and further details about the #Lettingo campaign can be found here:

If you are interesting in volunteering to ensure private tenants have a voice please contact  Sharon at or ring 01685 723922



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Jonny’s blog on Cross-Sector Challenges after Brexit

Throwing a Pebble in a Pond: 

If you throw a pebble in a pond consequently it will cause ripples on the surface – even to the very end. You may not be able to see them because they’re so minuscule, but they’re there. This ripple effect could be said for cross-sector partnerships that aren’t often seen by most but do exist. The cuts from local government and uncertainty from Brexit has caused all of the ripples in the political pond to be seen by everyone. My fear is – will those ripples cause a splash? And if they do – who’s willing to get wet?

The EU Referendum: 

It’s been a month since the referendum came to an end with David Dimbleby announcing “we’re out,” and as we look back on the 23rd June I don’t think we wholeheartedly anticipated that a simple Thursday in June would turn out to be an historic day, which would result in one of the most important democratic, economic decisions in 40 years. Worst of all, our governments weren’t expecting such a divide between nations and communities, not only with those still apart of the EU but here in the “United” Kingdom.

New Conservative Leadership – and Wales: 

And with a new Prime Minister, a reshuffled Conservative cabinet and a dedicated Brexit department (with David Jones, MP for West Clwyd at its helm) all at Downing Street – Wales will need to get in on the action as soon as possible before the fountain of EU funds run dry.

The Welsh Assembly & Brexit: 

There’s no doubt that it’s been difficult for our assembly members down in the Senedd, where only a month before Brexit, a brand new cabinet came into being. Now, with 52% of the population voting to leave the EU, our Assembly members whose leading Party had campaigned for Remain, are required to respect the democratic system and prepare for Wales to call and cancel its membership. Though it’s more problematic than cancelling a gym membership it begs the question whether Wales will be economically fit enough in the near future?

 “Cross-sector” challenges (Housing Camp Cymru): 

Briefly and not wanting to sound too sentimental but going to Housing Camp Cymru gave me an opportunity to chat to some of the best people in the sector.

During the event I was able to speak to Owain Jones, Managing Director of Build Beacon, who would go on to pitch a session regarding “Brexit, Development and Sustainable Communities” and although sadly I wasn’t able to attend his session (as I went to Alice’s “Supported Housing Session”), I was still able to quickly discuss with him the indirect impact on the housing sector in Wales from cross-sector challenges exacerbated by Brexit.

Also, during the Supported Housing Session, we did discuss that there needs to be better co-operation between healthcare services and service providers (housing). For example, a resident who may have a mental health illness and lives in supported housing will need the necessary support to help enable him or her to live independently or with more ease.

A lack of communication between both sectors (in this case healthcare and housing) could have a negative or even damaging impact on the resident’s wellbeing.

Cross-Sector Challenges (Education & Housing): 

There’s been a drop in University applications from EU students, which has been linked to uncertainty, a feeling of being unwanted and regrettably a rise in xenophobia and racism.

Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education in Wales has recently spoken out by saying that “we will not tolerate any form of racial abuse whether on our campuses or within the wider communities in which we are rooted,” demonstrating that our Assembly Members are ready to address these challenges for the next two years…well until Article 50 is set in motion.

The education sector is key to unlocking the minds of prominent international figures leading in their field and as a nation it’s crucial that we’re able to exchange ideas and adopt other methodologies, such as flood defences and energy sufficient features that are instrumental in sustaining ecological resources when building homes for future generations.

Cross-Sector Challenges (Healthcare & Housing): 

As the NHS celebrated its sixty-eighth birthday earlier this month, everybody couldn’t blow out enough candles in wishing that it stays with us for as long as it’s able to!

It’s understandable that people are protective of the NHS. I’m proud that the notion had sprouted up from one of the greatest political minds of the 20th Century and a working-class Welshman, Aneurin Bevan. So proud am I that I believe every NHS advertisement should have the slogan – made in Wales.

Remember that EU nationals help to support Bevan’s legacy, from Doctors in A&E to Specialist Support Workers in Nursing Homes. The reports of xenophobia and racism against EU nationals working in the NHS has made them wanting to quit the sector and some even doubting their residency in the UK, as hostility grows from the belly of Brexit.

Doesn’t Brexit mean that we’ve successfully closed off invitations to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals from the European continent making it harder, just like past non-EU members, to set up camp and potentially save lives?

In regards to housing and healthcare in Wales, we need to look how best to protect our most vulnerable and do the best we can to cope with the cuts from local government.

It’s important that we assist in any way possible those who either work as a carer or who are family members. Above all else – protect the rights and uphold the dignity of the people receiving care.

We need to support those wanting to live independently, deter social exclusion and promote awareness.

The Welsh Housing Sector is tackling Xenophobia & Racism after Brexit: 

Since the vote to leave the EU there has been an increase in reports of xenophobia and racism.

I commend the people working in the housing sector in Wales for their prompt actions in tackling these issues including Cynon Taf Community Housing Group who are working with the police on supporting those affected by hate crime and identifying the individual or groups associated with these actions – demonstrating the necessary cooperation between the Public and Housing Sectors that exists to safeguard service users and welcome diverse communities.

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Jonny’s blog on Cathy Come Home

When we think back to 1966, the first thing that pops into our heads is the infamous football match between England and Germany – everything seems irrelevant, which shouldn’t be the case.

Ken Loach who directed Cathy Come Home had transformed the television play into a Panorama-like documentary that highlighted the need for change.

I always compare the housing sector to Shakespeare’s plays since something always happens; whether good, bad or absurd. Cathy Come Home exemplifies this with Jeremy Sandford’s writing being almost a homage to the bard himself, as the screenplay is filled with tragedy, after tragedy, after tragedy – a reflection of life’s frailty.

A reference from the production mentions that support with housing is only available to the “Cinderella of the Cinderellas,” – this is further from the truth.

Just like the story of the glass slipper, Loach’s legacy shows how fragile life can be and what we take from the ending is that all the superglue in the world couldn’t put her life back together again- not in 1966, as the word “support” and its actions were truly non-existent.

Although things have improved immensely with new policies and laws in place to protect and support those most vulnerable, there’s no denying that individuals and families are still faced with experiences similar to Cathy, which impact on their lives and future wellbeing.

Words such as Housing Crisis, Affordable Housing, Poverty and Homelessness are echoes of Post-World War II’s economic impact when resurrecting the UK from the ashes, which begs the question, if we will ever be able to lose the chains of debt that are engraved “Our Country’s Deficit” and more importantly – will those who are dependent on the support from welfare be restricted even further? Will we have a generation of Cathys?

Housing Crisis

The Housing Crisis has meant that there’s a lack of housing, which has caused many to struggle and left feeling frustrated in a housed-in-limbo state with generations of the same family living under one roof; creating a toxic atmosphere and eventual family rifts.

Affordable Housing

Unaffordable Housing has resulted in those renting or trying to get onto the property ladder unable to access the housing market successfully; the prices are out of reach, financial instability can’t guarantee security of a mortgage and the fees set by letting agents are extortionate and unfair. Plus the living wage is far from liveable, which leaves people unable to save their money.


There are many kinds of Poverty affecting families in the UK, for instance, having a house has many responsibilities including paying the bills for the essentials including heating, water and electricity; the pinch to welfare reform cuts off the oxygen to only the bare necessities, leaving families balancing their options, to either keeping the family warm or letting them have a shower. The most devastating effect from the last Government has been the dramatic increase in foodbanks and it has been revealed that food poverty is worse in the UK than any other European country.


Homelessness was a reality in 1966 and it’s still a reality today. It can hit anyone, at any time!

There are many reasons why families are made homeless and it’s normally through no fault of their own, such as financial instability because of zero-hour contracts, escaping domestic abuse, mental health illnesses preventing employment or even being kicked out of the family home simply because that person happens to be gay.

There needs to be more support in preventing homelessness – not after it’s already happened.

I don’t believe that there’s enough work being done in “pre-homelessness” which is when people facing homelessness feel at their most vulnerable.

Immediate support for Cathy would have ceased everything else that followed. Although, no government measures in prevention were made, which was why Loach’s work was so important in revolutionising how we view the welfare state.

Thank you Cathy

Cathy Come Home was the stepping stone for change and assisted in establishing Shelter (now Shelter England) and the following year CRISIS was formed. Both organisations were revolutionary at the time in regards to supporting individuals and families facing homelessness or going through a life crisis – just like Cathy did.

In Memory of Carol White



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