Shelter Scotland’s digital housing and homelessness advice service goes live
People in Scotland facing bad housing and homelessness will now be able to access free, housing, money and debt advice via their computer, tablets and mobile phones – with one-to-one support and signposting provided digitally from housing advisors.
The new digital advice service has been launched by housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland via its online Get Advice pages to meet rising demand for online advice.
Last year 600,000 users visited Shelter Scotland’s Get Advice web pages, an increase of almost 22 per cent from the previous year (492,000).
Run by a dedicated team of staff and volunteers at the charity, families and individuals are now able to find advice through an online chat function allowing them to confidentially share their housing worries and get active information, explanation and signposting to relevant online advice directly from expertly trained advisors.
The new service is a first for the charity which has until now mainly offered advice through its free national helpline, as well as support services in locations across Scotland.
Shelter Scotland helps over half a million people each year facing money, debt and housing problems. Last year its helpline received almost 19,500 calls from households at risk of losing their homes – an average of 53 families and individuals a day.
Launching the new service, Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Thousands of families and individuals across Scotland face a daily struggle to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. For these people, and many more living on a knife edge, access to accurate and relevant advice is a lifeline.
“We hope that extending our advice offering to digital platforms will enable us to help even more households across Scotland.
“Our advisors and volunteers are on hand on the phone and now via our website to help anyone facing bad housing and homelessness. When things start collapsing around them, people can be tempted to put their heads in the sand. Our advisors are here to help. If people come to us sooner we can do more – there’s always hope.”
According to Shelter Scotland stretched household budgets, the impact of welfare reform and increases in the cost of living are putting more families and individuals at risk of losing their home.
Across Scotland in 2013-14, 36,457 households made homeless applications to their local council. A total of 10,218 homeless households were housed in temporary accommodation, with 4,333 dependent children living in these households.
There are 150,500 household on the waiting list for a home across Scotland.
The charity says it desperately needs support to fund more housing advisors and train more volunteers to offer year-round support to anyone in Scotland facing housing difficulties.
Currently the digital advice platform will be manned by part-time volunteers on Tuesday to Thursdays. Advice is available via www.shelterscotland.org.
Alison Watson added: “Our helpline and digital advice is entirely funded by public donations and we are relying now, more than ever, on the generosity and support of the public to help us to continue our vital work to ensure that no one fights bad housing and homelessness on their own.
“We are lucky to have 11 dedicated volunteers who now work across our digital advice platform. They work tirelessly to offer much-needed advice and support – but we need more volunteers to help us meet rising demand for our services.”
The launch of the digital service follows a successful pilot of the service over the last year.