Homelessness is a real problem in Uckfield – to a much greater extent than many would believe.
It’s not just an inner city problem where the rough sleepers are visible at virtually every turn in much of London.
Here, the homelessness is ‘hidden’ but there have been cases of rough sleepers in Uckfield, writes Paul Watson.
In this third part of a special UckfieldNews.com series of articles focussing on the town’s Citizens Advice service, we give the worrying figures around homelessness . . . and show through a case study just how people are aided when they get stuck with no money because of failings in the benefits service.
Last year Uckfield Citizens Advice dealt with 58 people who were homeless.
In the same period, across the whole Wealden district, there were 300 issues concerning actual or threatened homelessness.
Some examples of the issues the service have handled include:
- young clients sleeping rough in the Ashdown Forest, this has included young people who have recently left the care system
- young families sofa surfing following a relationship breakdown, including cases of domestic abuse
- clients with mental health issues who have been unable to manage their financial affairs. More than half of those seen in serious financial difficulty have mental health issues.
Kay Birch, the chief executive of Wealden Citizens Advice, told this website: “We have a very positive relationship with the Wealden District Council housing teams, who have provided training on homelessness for our advisers.”
• Citizens Advice volunteer advisers make a significant commitment to ongoing training and development – this has recently included identifying and supporting those who have been victims of abuse and the organisation will be shortly offering further training on supporting those with mental health issues.
When benefits are delayed
After losing her job, a client made a claim for benefits to support herself and her children. After being given incorrect advice by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), the client had to make a revised claim, which the DWP agreed to backdate.
Six weeks after her claim was first submitted, the client was told that she needed to submit a new claim for universal credit.
The money runs out
The client was desperate as she was out of money to support her young children, could not pay her bills and did not have enough credit on her phone to follow up on her claim.
Citizens Advice stepped in and helpied her arrange an advance payment of her benefit to keep her going and also giving her food vouchers so she could get food parcels from the Food Bank while she waited for more than three months for her first payment to be made.
They also helped her explain her circumstances to her landlord and creditors for regular bills so that no action would be taken while she waited for her benefit to be paid.
In addition the client was given budgeting advice and helped to devise a plan for managing her finances on a reduced income going forward.
Her Job Centre Work Coach will support her in her search for a new job.
• The Food Bank has been a vital partner in helping clients manage the delays in receiving their first benefit payment or while awaiting an appeal – many clients would have gone hungry without them.
• Case studies show the sort of help Citizens Advice can provide – some personal client details have been changed to protect their anonymity.
Part four of this special report tomorrow.
Earlier in this series
Part Two: A last resort for those in crisis
Find local organisations in our Uckfield Directory