PUBLIC SECTOR: Shelter to promote Homelessness Act

Shelter will launch a wave of online PR initiatives in its bid to raise awareness of the recent shake-up in homelessness legislation.

Local authorities, the young and those homeless or with housing problems are targets for the charity as it promotes the Homelessness Act, which became law earlier this year.

Under the Act, councils are now required to develop local plans to tackle homelessness and provide assistance and advice to all members of the public with housing problems, rather than just priority groups such as families.

The internet is seen as the best way to target the public and councils, according to Shelter director of housing services Christine Parrish.

She said: 'This is about giving quick, convenient and confidential advice. Most people seek our help when they are in a housing crisis or are already homeless. Our message is for people to act sooner and find out their rights before problems escalate.'

The first phase is the launch of a website, www.shelternet. org.uk, next week to offer advice to the public.

This is to be publicised through a local and national media relations campaign featuring MORI research on how financial difficulties put families at risk.

Councils will then be targeted in the summer with their own website, provisionally called www.homelessnessact. org.uk.This new service, expected to launch in July, will offer council staff advice on their new duties and an opportunity to share good practice.

Shelter PRO Lorraine Sweeney said: 'It's crucial that local authorities are given as much assistance as possible in the implementation of the Act.'

Another website, specifically for children, is due to launch next month.

Called www.housemate.org.uk, it is hoped this will be used in schools to educate children of the potential threat of homelessness in later life.

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