Fighting Precarious Housing: Housing Rights for People with Complex Needs
What we did
At the end of 2019 Law for Life ran the first in a series of public legal education courses on housing rights, as part of a project funded by Trust for London on Fighting Precarious Housing. The course consisted of six sessions detailing various elements of housing law and were delivered with an accessible and person-centred approach, combining a mix of practical and legal skills and strategies. The topics covered included: tenancies and contracts, dealing with benefits, especially PIP and ESA, dealing with disrepairs, section 21 evictions, dealing with local authorities in the context of homelessness, and temporary accommodation.
The course was designed for community groups and frontline workers who deal with or support people in precarious housing situations but do not have formal legal or technical training. The first course focused particularly on the challenges faced by people with complex needs in securing and maintaining tenancies. We had attendees from over 17 different community, activist, and frontline worker groups attending the course over a five week period.
As a result of the course, 100% of the attendees felt more confident with housing law than when they started, with improvement in knowledge between the beginning and the end of the course in 84.8% of areas. Particular areas where confidence was improved were in assisting people with benefit applications, challenging eviction notices, and helping people deal with local authorities in regards to homelessness applications. What participants told us:
As a result of this course "I know what resources to turn to when clients have housing issues. i know how to approach local authorities in regards to housing complaints." - Migrant women support worker "I feel much more knowledgeable and have a good idea of how to find further resources. I will transfer this knowledge to peers in my community groups and use in direct support of my peers. I will continue what I am doing but with better skills." – peer advocate
In 2020 we will be running the course two more times, once for women-led community groups and once for migrant-led community groups. To express interest in finding out more about these courses please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Why we are running this project
In a recent study, which explored people’s understanding of the rental sector, (The Legal problems of renters, The Legal Education Foundation) 47% of respondents described their housing problems as “bad luck”, only 11% understood that their problem had a legal dimension and 60% of people did not know that solicitors can help with eviction. Limited legal knowledge was particularly associated with those without educational qualifications, young people, people in ‘routine manual’ professions and migrants.
This knowledge gap is particularly worrying as legal aid and advice services continue to be subject to significant cuts, leaving people to fend for themselves in seeking access to justice. As a result, 73% of people with rented housing problems choose to handle them alone, without any form of legal advice or support. Research shows that only 11% of people can identify a legal problem and most people either handle their legal problems alone or seek help from family and friends. Just 6% of people use a lawyer, a further 4% use advice agencies.
Kindly funded by Trust for London