Having spent a lifetime living on waste land and in lay-bys, a newly established site in Woking aimed to provide several traveling families with a settled way of life. Consisting of fenced plots and with a shower and toilet block, the private site offered opportunities as well as challenges for the new arrivals.
Recognising that the families needed help to complete paperwork because of poor literacy but wary of any contact with the local authority, the site owner contacted Surrey Community Action’s Gypsy and Traveller Development Worker to ask for help.
Our Development Worker soon discovered that both the site owner and the families had little understanding of the procedures of claiming housing benefits and the importance of keeping paperwork. There were also issues arising between the local authority and the site owner, so our Development Worker set up a meeting at the site so that everyone had a clear understanding of what was expected from all sides.
The meeting made clear the planning permission restrictions, health and safety requirements and the need to number the plots clearly. Our Development Officer offered to help manage the tenancy agreements and in return the site owner agreed to install separate utility blocks for each plot.
Now, whenever there is a change of tenant on a plot, the site owner informs our Development Officer who in turn informs the local authority. This has helped to keep communication fluid and avoid any confusion or misunderstanding.
The support we have been able to provide to the families and the site owner has resulted in a well-run site and has minimized the possibility of future problems between the local authority, the Department of Work and Pensions, the site owner and the tenants.
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