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Statement Calling for an immediate Stay on Housing Possession Proceedings

by LSWU Housing Group
January 7, 2021

Courts are not Covid secure and any tenant losing their home will face an even greater range of difficulties under current conditions. There should be a stay in housing possession proceedings. 665 words / 3 min read

Legal Sector Workers United are calling for an immediate stay on possession proceedings during the second wave of Covid-19.

The government has announced a nationwide lockdown due to the rapid increase of Covid-19 across the UK. Still, courts remain open and contrary to the comments of the Secretary of State for Justice on Twitter, they are not Covid-secure.

Despite the efforts of dedicated frontline court staff, the official health and safety guidance for attendees is woefully inadequate and does not go far enough to make courts safe. Our members are concerned for the safety of legal sector workers and our clients should possession proceedings continue.

There is increasing evidence that Covid-19 is being spread in unventilated indoor spaces such as conference rooms, judges’ chambers and court rooms. And the problem lies not only within court buildings. Lawyers, court staff and parties have to travel across cities on public transport to get to hearings, increasing the threat to themselves and the general public. This is made worse still by the volume of court closures seen in recent years, which has resulted in many hearings being listed miles away. If defendants decide not to risk their health to attend, then they may lose the opportunity to save their home.

Tenants are also having to face the stress of eviction at a time where society is shutting down around them. Many will find it more difficult not only to access support with housing, but also with the other related issues they face such as debt, employment, welfare benefits and health care.

As we hit the second wave of Covid-19, Legal Sector Workers United are calling for an immediate stay on possession proceedings. Not for a move to remote hearings which are fundamentally inappropriate in cases where a person’s home is at risk, but for an immediate stay parallel to that of March-September 2020. It has been done before and as the risk of the virus increases it must be done again.

LSWU are calling for an immediate stay on possession proceedings. Not for a move to remote hearings which are inappropriate in cases where a person’s home is at risk, but for an immediate stay parallel to that of March-September 2020.

The stay on possession proceedings must be accompanied by an extension to the moratorium on evictions beyond 11 January 2021 for at least a further 3 months.

Legal Sector Workers United also stands against the abhorrent government decision to not reintroduce the ‘Everyone In’ policy, established during the first wave to ensure nobody is left sleeping on the streets.

Despite assertions by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government that they will “continue to work closely with councils and health services” to provide support to homeless people during the second wave, those working in the sector know that this is simply not enough. Local authorities, hit by a decade of austerity, do not have the resources they need to keep homeless people safe, and the responsibility cannot fall on underfunded charities.

With temperatures dropping below freezing and infection rates rising, a failure to reinstate Everyone In means people will die. It is that simple. We do not believe the lives of rough sleepers are worth any less than the rest of the population; the government’s refusal to bring everybody inside suggests that they think otherwise.

Failure to reinstate Everyone In means people will die. We do not believe the lives of rough sleepers are worth any less than the rest of the population; the government’s refusal to bring everybody inside suggests that they think otherwise.

We also need action by the Home Office to ensure that everybody is provided with safe accommodation no matter their immigration status. Without this people will be left without a home in the middle of a pandemic.

The public health consequences of the second wave of Covid-19 are on course to be catastrophic. It is essential that action is taken now to protect the lives of our members and our clients.


Author:

LSWU Housing Group (@LSWUnited)

Legal Sector Workers United is a union for all workers in the legal sector, whether solicitors, cleaners, paralegals or admin assistants. It exists to ensure that all workers are well paid and secure in their jobs, and to ensure justice is accessible to all. You can join LSWU here.