‘Families will lose their homes after Shelter cash axe’

Reporter:

Rebecca Cole

A CHARITY boss says she believes people will lose their homes as a result of a council’s decision to axe funding.

Wrexham County Borough Council’s executive committee announced last week that it was going to scrap its entire £45,000 contribution to Shelter Cymru.

Denise Hathway, regional services manager for Shelter, now fears  – that vulnerable families could lose their homes in situations where Shelter, with full funding at its disposal, would have been able to help.

She said: “I’m devastated for the organisation and the clients we hope to help.

“These cuts are a false economy because in the current climate there is an increase in the number of people who need our help.

“Anyone at risk of having their home repossessed or those who are struggling to pay rent will be impacted massively.

“And, with cuts in housing benefit over the next few years, the amount of families needing our help is going to increase drastically.

“We’re already seeing a rise in Wrexham.

“Last year we helped roughly 1,000 families and 500 of these were new cases.”

The council has decided to use an in-house service – two homeless prevention officers to combat the problem instead of relying on Shelter, but Denise believes the cut is narrow minded and claims that council staff do not have the level of legal expertise Shelter provides.

Plaid Cymru councillor Arfon Jones, who sits on the council’s executive board, has slammed the decision.

He fiercely opposed the cuts and claims he tried to persuade fellow councillors to vote for a compromise deal which would have given the charity a reduced budget of £18,000 from the council. He said: “The decision to cut the funding from Shelter makes no sense at a time when the council admits the demands on its own homeless services has risen 17 per cent in the past year.

“My argument is that Shelter is doing a job that the council cannot provide in many cases as it could lead to a conflict of interests.

“I honestly believe that if we cease to fund Shelter Cymru completely the numbers of homeless applications will increase, possibly quite significantly.

“There is no advice provider in this county borough that can provide the level of expertise in housing issues that Shelter can.”

Council funding to Shelter will cease at the end of this year.

Ms Hathway added: “We will try to avoid redundancies but there could well be a loss of hours in order to cope with this cut in funding and that’s going to be difficult because most of our staff are already part time.

“But I do want to reassure those who rely on us that we’re still here and we will do our best to help wherever we can.”

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