Photograph of Pippa Grace

Pippa Grace – HOMELINK’s Service Manager

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been felt greatly by both HOMELINK staff and clients. Since the first lockdown in March we haven’t been able to interview any clients face-to-face so we are now laboriously processing all new applications by phone and email. Without any volunteer support I have found this quite a task! I’m pleased to report we have still processed 163 assessments since the start of lockdown and conducted 200 interviews so far this year. By 1st October we had processed more loan applications than in the whole of 2019, and (thanks to Trustee, Joanna Slaughter) an astonishing 46 grants. The demand for our services from the most vulnerable in the community has certainly increased significantly.

Until the eventual lifting of the Eviction Ban in late September, referrals reflected family relationships that became dangerously over-strained and broken during lockdown.  Permission for exceptional support concerning those whose physical and mental health were at severe risk was frequently sought, and we saw record referrals in June, July and October.  The first legal evictions now relate to arrears accrued before March; we are glad to see that new regulations offer welcome protection to both tenants and landlords. Discrimination to those on benefits could be lessening as earned salaries become less secure than solid DWP income.

Despite the first lockdown period in the spring, we were on track to meet our annual tenancy target of around 100 loans for the year … until the second lockdown ended property viewings once again in November. Hopefully many of those now waiting for the opportunity to move can do so in early 2021.

Our client testimonials show that HOMELINK’s services—giving essential emotional as well as financial help—have perhaps never been more necessary or appreciated. We’ve included just some of that positive feedback in this newsletter to share our clients’ stories with you. We are so proud of what we have achieved in 2020; we are fully committed both to our clients and to adaptability, whatever the outside challenges!