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Digital exclusion can be a barrier to housing

Anyone who wants to apply for social housing must join the housing register. In Epsom and Ewell, as elsewhere, some people find the process difficult without help.

Like most local authorities, the council operates an online letting scheme to allocate properties. To be in with a chance applicants must check regularly for vacancies and make a bid.

The scheme works but accommodation is scarce so people without digital skills or internet access are at a disadvantage.

Fortunately our housing department has a helpline and email address. And Citizens Advice trained advisers are always here to lend a hand. Yet digital exclusion can still be a barrier to housing.

To illustrate: 2 recent case summaries.

Moving house

The first person was disabled. He was unhappy in his social housing for several reasons. Most difficult was persistently noisy neighbours. However in conversation it became clear his real wish (and need) was a move to sheltered accommodation.

He asked for advice about the noise but, more important, had no way of making a new online housing application. We could help and he now has reasonable prospects of soon finding the right accommodation.

Risk of homelessness

Our second case concerned a single middle-aged client who was looking after his sick father. He came to Citizens Advice when his father decided to sell up and move to a care home.

As a live-in carer he had grown anxious about losing his home. He was on the housing register and had enquired about emergency accommodation. Time had elapsed however and he received notice there was nothing more the council could do for someone in his position.

A big part of his worry was that he had no computer or internet experience when everything seemed to need both. In conversation with our adviser he identified several options. She also reassured him that he could get help to make an online housing application and to improve his digital skills.  

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