FAMILIES at risk of homelessness will be hit by plans to cut a vital support service, a charity has warned.

In 1987 Wrexham became one of the first local authorities to provide funding for Shelter Cymru’s housing advice service.

The council is now planning to end the arrangement with Shelter and to use the £45,000-a-year running cost to finance an in-house service.

Members of the council’s executive board will be asked to approve the move at their meeting next Tuesday.

The authority’s homelessness prevention officer and the private sector liaison officer would, between them, provide the replacement service.

Mike Jenkins, the council’s principal housing standards and strategy officer, said:
“We are proposing the service provided by Shelter should cease from December and the £45,000 a year that it has been costing is used to support our own officers.”

Council leader, Cllr Aled Roberts, described ending the service provided by Shelter as a difficult decision and one which had been under consideration for some time.

He added: “We believe the council is best served by ensuring the two officers giving advice to tenants are funded properly.”

However, Janet Loudon, Shelter Cymru’s national operations manager, said: “This has come as a devastating blow to our local service in Wrexham, which has been busier than ever in recent months.

“In the last year alone we have helped more than 1,000 people in the area, and in nearly 90 per cent of cases where people were threatened with homelessness we were able to prevent it.

“This means that many individuals who approach Shelter Cymru for advice and assistance do not then have to approach their council for help.”

She added: “Any immediate savings made by cutting our funding will be far outweighed by the additional demands made on the council and other services by people in crisis situations with complex housing and debt problems.

“The current economic climate is likely to mean an increase in redundancies, repossessions and housing problems.

“Together with the cuts to housing benefit, wider welfare reforms and a drop in public spending, ensuring that people in difficulties have access to free independent housing advice services is more important than ever.”