DHA provide Specialist Quality Marked legal advice services in Housing, Repossession and Eviction, as well as Housing issues that are related to Debt. The service is delivered from our main office in Derby City Centre, outreach locations throughout Derbyshire and from our Training & Community Centre in Ilkeston, Derbyshire. Our advice team is made up of over 15 Solicitors and Caseworkers, each of whom is committed to achieving the best possible outcome for each case.
The type of work we complete includes:
Over the last year DHA has experienced an alarming increase in the number of people approaching our legal advice services receiving more generalist advice enquiries about our services from people facing housing or financial difficulty. There are a number of local issues that are contributing towards this increased demand.
Usually an area with high levels of unemployment, Derbyshire’s working population has decreased significantly over the past year as a result of the economic downturn. Between August 2015 and 2016 the county saw a increase in unemployment. Behind the unemployment statistics is a mass of people struggling to pay their mortgages, a high proportion of whom fall just short of the eligibility criteria for legal aid and will therefore find it difficult to access the necessary advice and guidance to resolve their issues.
An increase in the amount of money being borrowed is apparent across the county as well as on a regional and national level. Derbyshire County Council’s cabinet member for public protection and transport, commented that, “While it is hard to know the exact level in Derbyshire recent studies have revealed that the average household with debt problems owes £25,000 to a number of different lenders.”
Derby Telegraph posted; Latest figures suggest that there were 769 individuals or families made homeless, or about to be in Derby City, more than three times the figure from 2012-13. This is due in part to benefit changes, like the so-called bedroom tax, and the economic downturn are also to blame.
DHA own Service User statistics show that last year the Charity handled 5,168 cases with priority debt 1,455, possession 1,225 and homelessness/re-housing 828 issues. Evidence of the deepening financial hardship felt by families in Derby is also illustrated by the growth in food banks in the city alone which now stands at 22.
Many of the new clients approaching the service as a result of the recession are not eligible for legal aid, including people from small businesses, self-employed people or people who are still in employment but are concerned about redundancy or reduced hours. Many of these people are homeowners at the time of seeking advice and so would greatly benefit from timely advice to prevent their issues from reaching crisis point and losing their home. However, as ineligible clients, they will find it increasingly difficult to access advice as there are a limited number of services that provide advice to this group..
Beyond the obvious problems surrounding debt that relates to homelessness, these issues can have an adverse effect on all areas of a person’s life. Evidence shows that debt causes and exacerbates stress and mental health problems, can result in poor health and can lead to people taking time off work and ultimately losing their job. Feedback from our own advice service shows that the majority of our clients cannot cope with the financial pressures of debt to the extent that it is having a major impact on their family, work and personal relationships.
People that are homeless or at risk of homelessness suffer high levels of stress and anxiety because of the lack of control they have on their housing situation. This can be combined with deprivation, poor living conditions and feeling cut off from the wider community. Sleeping rough or living in insecure or temporary accommodation leads to adverse effects on physical and mental health, emotional wellbeing and overall life chances. The facts are disturbing - mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are three times as common among children who have lived in temporary accommodation for a year; the life expectancy for people sleeping rough is 42 years, compared with the national average of 76.5; 71% of childless people in temporary accommodation say they are depressed. These represent just some examples of the kind of impact homelessness can have and emphasise the importance of effective solutions.
£203,600,000 daily increase in Government national debt (PSDN)