Youth Homelessness

Housing has always been a big issue for national Citizens Advice. Whether through collaboration in the National Homelessness Advice Service, or through championing a better deal for renters with the Settled and Safe campaign, housing and homelessness have always been high on our agenda. Here at Citizens Advice Hart, we’re very aware of how big an issue housing can be: it was the fifth largest problem which people came to see us about during the year 2015-2016.

We’ve recently undertaken a new youth housing and homelessness project, with support from Hart Rotary club. We wanted to look into the information that was available, specifically for young people, about housing and homelessness services in our local area.

According to national youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, around 150,000 young people a year approach their local authorities as a result of being homeless or at risk of becoming so. Whilst youth homelessness is a relatively minor issue for Hart District, it is certainly not a non-existent one. In one year from 2015-2016, 18 people between the ages of 16 and 24 contacted Hart District Council for help with housing/homelessness. 9 were given official ‘statutory homeless’ status.

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The aim of our youth homelessness project was to look into this to ensure that young people at risk in our area are aware of the help that is available. We also did some research to gain an understanding of the nature of youth homelessness nationally. Having found a wealth of information, we took the key information and placed it in one leaflet, in order to make it more accessible.

The information leaflet has been designed to support young people in a variety of circumstances. For young people experiencing homelessness, we have provided information about local services such as the Hart Housing Options team, which can be contacted in an emergency.

For young people who are considering leaving home and living independently, we have listed finding a job, finding suitable accommodation, and money management as the most important considerations. Alongside this, we have signposted them to available support, such as the Citizens Advice budgeting tool, and the National Careers Service.

Finally, we have provided information for young people who are struggling at home. Centrepoint estimate that six in ten of the young people whom they support experience homelessness as a result of relationship breakdown. Bearing this in mind, we have made young people aware of the family mediation services available at Step by Step in Aldershot. We have also noted the helpline numbers of organisations such as Childline, to ensure that young people in an emergency can access the help that they need.

Alongside the information provided we have sought to dispel some of the misconceptions which exist about homelessness, such as the idea that to be classed as homeless, a person must be sleeping rough.

The youth homelessness leaflet will be distributed to local sixth forms, and publicised on social media. Through explaining the services that are available in an accessible format, we hope to provide vital support to vulnerable young people throughout Hart District.

To request a copy/ies please contact admin@yateleycab.cabnet.org.uk

Click here to see our leaflet

Data compiled by youth homelessness charity Centrepoint in the Youth Homelessness Databank.

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Change a life: One step at a time

A major volunteer recruitment campaign has been launched by Citizens Advice Hart, using postcards, posters and social media banners which not only feature locations throughout this corner of North East Hampshire – but which make use of miniature figures in a series of ‘real-life’ scenes which are better known as ‘Slinkachu‘ street-art photography.

The twelve scenes illustrate the kinds of ‘life transitions’ with which the service can help local people with free, independent, confidential and impartial help and advice.  Locations have been chosen through the Hart area – Blackbushe Airport, Eversley, Ewshot, Fleet, Frogmore, Hartley Wintney, Odiham, North Warnborough, Rotherwick, and Yateley – each making use of a ‘step’ or ‘staircase’, or someone taking a step, to fit in with the creative concept of helping change people’s lives ‘One Step At A Time‘.

The first six images below will be available as postcards, while all twelve will be showcased on posters, and on social media.  We are going to share the full set with you here, while in future posts, there will be more information about some of the individual locations, and issues they address.

The central message though is that we are looking for new volunteers.  You can volunteer your time in a traditional adviser role, or in another specialist capacity, like communications or law, finance or fundraising.  If you would like to find out more, please call us on 01252 878410.

The six postcard images are as follows:-

Location: On the steps of the slide, Ewsot Recreation Ground

Location: On the steps of the slide, Ewsot Recreation Ground

Above: Dealing with life’s big changes like having a baby.

As the reverse of the postcards appear.

As the reverse of the postcards appear.

The fronts of the other five postcards are:-

Location: illustrating outside Fleet Community Hospital

Location: illustrating outside Fleet Community Hospital

Above: Dealing with life’s big changes like the implications of long term sickness.

Location: on the Jobs pages of the 'Fleet and Yateley News & Mail'

Location: on the Jobs pages of the ‘Fleet and Yateley News & Mail

Above: Dealing with life’s big changes, like starting or finding a job for the first time.

Location: On the footbridge over the Reading Road, near Frogmore Community College.

Location: On the footbridge over the Reading Road, near Frogmore Community College.

Above: Dealing with life’s big changes, like relationship breakdown, or divorce.

Location: On the spiral staircase, next to the Cooperative Stores, Plough Road, Yateley.

Location: On the spiral staircase, next to the Cooperative Stores, Plough Road, Yateley.

Above:  Dealing with life’s big changes, like going off to college or university for the first time.

Location: on blocks of cheese in the kitchen!

Location: on blocks of cheese in the kitchen!

Above:  Spelling out that this campaigning is ‘stepping-up’ (here on blocks of cheese) to become a volunteer, whatever your background.

There are also a further six postcard-style images which will be used on poster displays, and on social media.  These are:-

Location: on the steps of Odiham War Memorial.

Location: on the steps of Odiham War Memorial.

Above:  Dealing with life’s big changes, like bereavement of a loved one.

Location: On the steps of Rotherwick Village Hall

Location: On the steps of Rotherwick Village Hall

Above:  Dealing with life’s big changes, like moving into a new home, or buying or renting your first home.

Location: On the steps outside Hartley Wintney Memorial Church.

Location: On the steps outside Hartley Wintney Memorial Church.

Above:  Dealing with life’s big changes, like starting a new relationship, or getting married.

Location: On the ramp going into Aerobility flying charity at Blackbushe Airport.

Location: On the ramp going into Aerobility flying charity at Blackbushe Airport.

Above: Dealing with life’s big changes, like facing long-term illness or disability.

Location: Inside King John's Castle, near North Warnborough.

Location: Inside King John’s Castle, near North Warnborough.

Above: Dealing with life’s big changes, like retirement.

Location: Alongside the quarry, next to Castle Bottom Nature Reserve, Eversley.

Location: Alongside the quarry, next to Castle Bottom Nature Reserve, Eversley.

Above:  Dealing with life’s big changes, like getting into debt, or problems with finances.

A big ‘Thank you!’

A big ‘Thank You’ to eight year old Olivia Horwood, who played the role of creative consultant during the course of the two-day shoot for the postcards throughout the Hart District area.  Not only did Olivia help come up with with some of the executions, she helped set them up on the day.  Olivia is a pupil at New Scotland Hill Primary School, Sandhurst, but currently lives in the Citizens Advice Hart area.

If you look carefully, you can see Olivia in both of these wider shots taken of the ‘Ewshot’ location below, which had to win the award for the most picturesque of the twelve locations we used.  Below (top), while you can just about see the miniature figures ‘insitu’ on the slide step, if you look to the right in the distance, you may just make out Olivia in the window of the playhouse.  Below (bottom), is the view from the slide area across the sweeping vista of Ewshot Recreation Ground play-area – and Olivia can be seen ‘swinging’ on one of the pieces of play equipment.

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Olivia’s uncle is Paul Simpson, who has been volunteering for Citizens Advice Hart on communications, and was the photographer for this campaign.

Experiencing the service

We were recently joined by two work experience students for a week.  We gave over the blog to them to interview each other about their expectations and experiences of what we do.

Stupendous Social Service with Sophie by Mark

Sophie (15), from Hook, has been doing work experience with us at Citizens Advice for the week. She is a Year 10 student studying at Robert May’s School, just starting GCSE’s with particular interest in Art and Design, and Ethics.

Mark, 17 (left) and Sophie, 15 (right).

Mark, 17 (left) and Sophie, 15 (right).

She came to Citizens Advice on Wednesday 13th July with few expectations and “not much idea of what happens here” but she found out the service “help a wide variety of people giving useful advice of a great number of issues .“

A reason for wanting to experience working here was her keen interest in psychology and how the hardworking volunteers and employees deal with different cases. That can relate to how people think and operate in everyday life. “Psychology would be an area of interest for me in the future possibly for studies or as a career,” she explains.

Sophie and Mark set to interviewing each other about their work experience with Citizens Advice.

Sophie and Mark set to interviewing each other about their work experience with Citizens Advice.

With their permission she has been sitting in on clients’ interviews and advice sessions and learning how the experienced volunteers deal with the important personal issues that need resolving. “One of the most useful tools for advisers here is the adviser net website.”  The website gives information to advisers and the public on a great range of issues.

I went into a gateway interview with an elderly man who was trying to determine if starting work full time would affect certain benefits that he was currently receiving.”  Citizen’s Advice was able to help, using their expertise and research over legislation to clearly give information assisting the client.

I feel that working with Citizen’s Advice has really helped to boost my confidence and ability to interact socially and help others.’”  This is a vital skill that helps working in any situation and is useful to develop.

Sophie has said that she would definitely consider volunteering with the service, and would encourage others to do so because of the vital and useful service it provides for a large majority of the Hart community.

Making his ‘Mark’ by Sophie

Mark is a 17 year old sixth form college student, currently studying at Yateley Sixth Form. Despite him previously having had no direct link to Citizens Advice, Mark has come to believe that “somewhere in everyone’s life there is a genuine need for help, guidance, advice and support.”  We make it our mission to deliver this to anyone, and everyone.

Mark, 17 (left) and Sophie, 15 (right)

Mark, 17 (left) and Sophie, 15 (right)

When asked about why he had wanted to experience Citizens Advice ‘behind the scenes’, Mark said that he had heard that “no day was exactly the same, there’s no routine; no ‘standard’ client or ‘standard’ issue”, he felt he’d  find it incredibly interesting, as well as extremely rewarding.

The element of problem solving and gathering of information that comes with the work done here, stood out to him also. After all, he’s a piano-playing physicist in the making, with a particular interest in finance and politics!

Mark had initially wanted to experience the working environment of an organisation constantly in the public eye, and the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere he walked into was unexpected. Everyone had a story, not only the clients, but also the volunteers and advisors too. There’s often a good, and perhaps unpredictable, reason that people find themselves with us.

Sophie and Mark learn about communications and campaigns, and interview each other for the blog.

Sophie and Mark learn about communications and campaigns, and interview each other for the blog.

An old case study that particularly stood out to him was the case study of an elderly woman, who, at the time, had found herself in significant financial distress. She had ended up spending somewhere in the region of 40% of her benefits on looking after the living costs of her pet. Initially after reading this, Mark told us that there was the obvious confusion and doubt about this seemingly bizarre decision of hers. However, after talking the case through with his supervisor, Mark found that the pet could have actually helped the woman with her struggling mental health.

This case enabled him to learn about the other, less factual side of the CA. We respect each and every one of our clients and do our best to help them move forward with their lives, in the right direction. We understand that there are reasons why our clients do the things they do and make the decisions they make.

Mark is now on his last day at the CA (Friday 15th July) and the one thing that he believes will stay with him the longest, is that just talking to someone can sometimes help more than the advice they are actually given.

Citizens Advice Hart wish Sophie and Mark every success for their future.   It was a pleasure to have them join us for the week.

Welcome to our blog:- new website coming soon

Citizens Advice Hart will be launching a new website in the coming weeks, with a new, easier to remember address at www.citizensadvicehart.org.uk.

In the meantime, the address will be pointing to this blog address, so if you haven’t visited us before, welcome.  Please bear with us while we are building our new website, but in the meantime, you will find the basic contact information you need on this site, as well as much other interesting material.

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A Little Advice

At our recent open day, we unveiled an exhibition inspired by the street art of Slinkachu.  Entitled ‘A Little Advice’, it aimed to use miniature figures more usually seen on train sets to articulate the kinds of social issues and situations which our advisers regularly assist with.

The scenes – exhibited live, and as photographs – created real talking points, and helped people gain a greater understanding of our work, which often can be difficult, when we offer confidentiality when people approach us for advice.

Dealing with Life’s Transitions – Bereavement. Death can often be a taboo subject, but it something we should talk about more before it happens, as well as having to deal with the after effects when it does. For more links about the subject, see the Citizens Advice website here https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/relationships/death-and-wills/what-to-do-after-a-death/ and Dying Matters here http://www.dyingmatters.org/

Dealing with Life’s Transitions – Bereavement.
Death can often be a taboo subject, but it something we should talk about more before it happens, as well as having to deal with the after effects when it does. For more links about the subject, see the Citizens Advice website here https://hartcitizensadvice.wordpress.com/2016/05/27/settled-and-safe-a-local-case-study/ and Dying Matters here http://www.dyingmatters.org/

We have included some of the scenes which generated the most interest on this blog post.  You can find the full set on our Pinterest site at https://uk.pinterest.com/hartCAB/a-little-advice/ together with the accompanying descriptions for each scene, and links to advice and information on the Citizens Advice website.  If you have an account, you will need to log-on to see them.  If you do not have an account, you will need to create an account, which is very simple.

If you would rather not create an account, you can see a ‘potted version’ of the set on Instagram, at our account https://www.instagram.com/citizensadvicehart/ All of the photos are there, but the descriptions are shorter, and do not include the links.

And we are planning to exhibit the photos around the local area when we get the opportunity.  We hope the scenes give you an insight into the kind of issues we deal with regularly #aLittleAdvice

Helping people across Hart. From our offices in Fleet and Yateley, we’re here to offer free, confidential, independent and impartial advice, whether you are in Blackwater, Hawley, Bramshill, Church Crookham, Crondall, Crookham Village, Dogmersfield, Elvetham Heath, Eversley, Ewshot, Greywell, Hartley Wintney, Heckfield, Hook, Long Sutton, Mattingley, Odiham, Rotherwick, South Warnborough or Winchfield

Helping people across Hart.
From our offices in Fleet and Yateley, we’re here to offer free, confidential, independent and impartial advice, whether you are in Blackwater, Hawley, Bramshill, Church Crookham, Crondall, Crookham Village, Dogmersfield, Elvetham Heath, Eversley, Ewshot, Greywell, Hartley Wintney, Heckfield, Hook, Long Sutton, Mattingley, Odiham, Rotherwick, South Warnborough or Winchfield

Domestic Abuse. Many people do not realise abuse can occur after a relationship has ended, and be financial or psychological as well as physical. Anyone can come in to seek help around domestic abuse from their local Citizens Advice. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/how-citizens-advice-works/media/press-releases/realities-of-domestic-abuse-not-widely-known-says-citizens-advice/

Domestic Abuse.
Many people do not realise abuse can occur after a relationship has ended, and be financial or psychological as well as physical. Anyone can come in to seek help around domestic abuse from their local Citizens Advice. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/how-citizens-advice-works/media/press-releases/realities-of-domestic-abuse-not-widely-known-says-citizens-advice/

Struggling to pay energy bills? One of the first effects of poverty is not being to afford energy bills. Many people come to us for advice on what to do if they cannot afford to pay their gas, electricity of water bills. More information at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/energy/energy-supply/get-help-paying-your-bills/struggling-to-pay-your-energy-bills/

Struggling to pay energy bills?
One of the first effects of poverty is not being to afford energy bills. Many people come to us for advice on what to do if they cannot afford to pay their gas, electricity of water bills. More information at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/energy/energy-supply/get-help-paying-your-bills/struggling-to-pay-your-energy-bills/

 

Consumer Advice – car faults. You might have just bought a car, if it develops a fault just weeks after you have bought it, or a failed MOT reveals a massive fault that you had not been expecting. For an example, see https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/how-citizens-advice-works/media/press-releases/dodgy-used-cars-display-faults-within-weeks-of-purchase/ And for more general consumer advice from Citizens Advice, see https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/

Consumer Advice – car faults.
You might have just bought a car, if it develops a fault just weeks after you have bought it, or a failed MOT reveals a massive fault that you had not been expecting. For an example, see https://hartcitizensadvice.wordpress.com/2016/05/27/settled-and-safe-a-local-case-study/ And for more general consumer advice from Citizens Advice, see https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/

Universal Credit has started to replace 6 benefits (Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income related Employment & Support Allowance, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit & Housing Benefit) with a single monthly payment when out of work or on low income. It is being phased in, currently just to new claimants who are single. Get in touch if you need our help. For more details: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/universal-credit/

Universal Credit has started to replace 6 benefits (Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income related Employment & Support Allowance, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit & Housing Benefit) with a single monthly payment when out of work or on low income. It is being phased in, currently just to new claimants who are single. Get in touch if you need our help. For more details: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/universal-credit/

Lack of Repairs by Landlords. We deal with a full range of issues associated with private rented accommodation, both in terms of advice and as part of our ‘Settled and Safe’ campaign. For more details of a recent case study together with links to further information, see https://hartcitizensadvice.wordpress.com/2016/05/27/settled-and-safe-a-local-case-study/

Lack of Repairs by Landlords.
We deal with a full range of issues associated with private rented accommodation, both in terms of advice and as part of our ‘Settled and Safe’ campaign. For more details of a recent case study together with links to further information, see https://hartcitizensadvice.wordpress.com/2016/05/27/settled-and-safe-a-local-case-study/

Anti-Social Behaviour by Neighbours. More information on neighbour disputes, include those caused by disputes over too much noise. More information at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/problems-where-you-live/neighbour-disputes/

Anti-Social Behaviour by Neighbours.
More information on neighbour disputes, include those caused by disputes over too much noise.
More information at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/problems-where-you-live/neighbour-disputes/

Settled and Safe: a local case study

Angela and Howard are a married couple, with a young daughter at primary school.  For the purposes of this case study, we have changed their names, but the rest of the facts remain true.  We have published the details with their full permission.

Angela is originally from Yateley, and has lived in the area for many years.

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In their current property, where they have been for two years, they have had a lot of problems with their letting agent, let’s call them ‘Agent X’.  Despite being subjected to a property inspection every six months, nothing which is highlighted as being wrong with the property is put right – even though it should have been done before they actually moved in.

They had no problem with their landlord, but since he lived abroad, that made things a little difficult.

After two years of no repairs, some of which had financial implications on themselves, Angela and Howard decided to moved.  The property agents, ‘Agent X’ were all too quick to want to get into the property, “to see what needed to be done before re-letting the property”.  Obviously, Angela and Howard’s response was, “And what about our repairs during the last two years?”

They decided to draw a line under the experience, and looked at properties in Frogmore, Blackwater, Hartley Wintney and Sandhurst.  They found a property they liked, and were asked to put down a deposit, to take the property off the market, and stop other viewings.  However, this letting agent, ‘Agent Y’, were “as useful as a chocolate teapot” according to the couple.

SafeAndSettled_Board

“When we wanted to liaise, no one would ever get back to us.  We had given notice on our original property, but they wouldn’t now give us a moving-in date, even though we had put down a deposit, and the agent had said it was available,” explains Angela.

“We would call with queries about what furniture was going to be included in the price, for example, and no one would get back to us,” she continues.

“Imagine our surprise when we then discovered the property we were currently living in, back on the market at a figure around £250 LESS per month!” 

 “It felt like a right kick in the teeth.  When we chatted to our landlord, he explained that he had never wanted us to go, and it seemed like a breakdown in communication on the part of the letting agent!  We had a good conversation, and decided to stay put, now with a reduced monthly rent.”

However, it is not a totally good news story for Angela and Howard.  ‘Agent Y’ was refusing to repay any of the deposit they had asked the couple to pay to take the property off the market – or the costs of the credit checks on the couple, even though the deal had not proceeded – and the cost of the rent on the new property they were going to move to was LESS than the property they were in (so it wasn’t clear why a credit check was needed anyway).

“Nowhere on their website did it say that the deposit was non-refundable.  When we had challenged them, they said it was normally paid into the deposit protection scheme, but since no contract had been signed, this was not the case here,” explains Angela.

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Angela sought advice from Citizens Advice Hart, and the couple stood their ground, since nowhere in the terms had it said that the deposit would be non-refundable.  Eventually, they got half of the deposit repaid, and are happy with the result, especially as they are now paying less rent in their original property, and don’t have the costs of moving to contend with too.  And their daughter can remain at the same school.

“Stick to you guns, read the small print, and if you feel uncertain, give Citizens Advice Hart a call,” said Angela. “They gave us greater confidence in dealing with the situation, and signposted lots more additional resources on their website.”

You can find more details on the full range of housing advice on the Citizens Advice website, click here.

You can find more details on our ‘Settled and Safe’ campaign for improving renter’s rights in the private rented sector, click here.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, and think Citizens Advice Hart can help, give us a call.