Families saved from being made homeless over last year total more than 200

A HOUSING agency says it has prevented hundreds of families in town from ending up homeless over the last 12 months.

The Hastings Housing Advice Centre, which is part of BHT Sussex, said it had helped more than 200 families escape the throes of homelessness, despite cuts to legal aid, which came into force in April last year.

Lucy Enever , spokeswoman for BHT (Brighton Housing Trust), said: “The BHT Sussex service that provides legal aid-funded housing advice for some of the most vulnerable people in the town has reported a tough but successful year and is pleased to have been able to prevent homelessness for such a large number of people.

“The team of housing advisers has prevented unlawful evictions from taking place, negotiated repayment plans for families struggling with rent arrears, and successfully defended tenants against unlawful landlords.”

Jo Wilson, Hastings Advice Centre manager, said: “It has been really difficult for legal aid advice centres across the country and our story is no different at the Hastings Advice Centre.

“The cuts to legal aid have meant that our funding has been limited to specific cases and our service hasn’t been able to reach as far.

“We are really proud to have managed to save more than 200 households from losing their homes and facing the very real possibility of becoming street homeless.”

Significant changes to legal aid in England and Wales came into effect on April 1, 2013 as part of a plan by the Government to reform the system and save £350 million a year.

The changes meant some types of case were no longer eligible for public funds including divorce, child contact, welfare benefits, employment, clinical negligence, and housing law except in very limited circumstances.

Since the 1960s BHT has developed a range of services, working in partnership with other organisations, to meet the needs of homeless, insecurely housed and vulnerable men and women.

It aims to tackle both the causes and effects of homelessness and poverty.

BHT works with more than 12,000 men and women across the county providing practical and preventative services, advice and legal representation, information and guidance in order to improve the quality of people’s lives.