CAMPAIGNS: LOBBYING; Lobbying for home comfort

Client: Shelter PR Agency: In-house Campaign: Removal of homelessness legislation from 1996 Housing Bill Timescale: September 1995 - April 1996 Cost: pounds 20,000

Client: Shelter

PR Agency: In-house

Campaign: Removal of homelessness legislation from 1996 Housing Bill

Timescale: September 1995 - April 1996

Cost: pounds 20,000

The Government’s ‘Our Future Homes’ housing Bill currently going through

Parliament, aims to curb the right of homeless families to auto-matic

permanent housing from local authorities.

The Government argues that putting homeless families into the private

rented sector, will free up more council houses for other groups on

local authority waiting lists.

In response, housing charities including Shelter say that the

legislation will force the most vulnerable into insecure and possibly

low quality housing, and the real reason non- urgent categories spend so

long on housing waiting lists is the lack of affordable housing for

rent. Housing experts say 100,000 affordable houses for rent need to be

built every year, but in reality only 30,000 are being built.


Firstly to organise a mass rally of Parliament, with over a thousand

people demonstrating their objection to the homelessness legislation

contained in the ‘Our Future Homes Bill’. Also constituency MPs were to

be made aware of how high a priority housing issues took on their

voters’ agenda

Ultimately Shelter wants the homelessness legislation to be dropped



Shelter’s campaigns department mobilised a national army of novice

lobbyists, by plugging into networks of sympathetic groups such as the

Women’s Institute. The charity used a direct mail database and employed

a telemarketing agency to rally support. People who signed up to the

lobby were matched with their MPs via the postcode and lobby packs were

mailed a month before the event with details of how to contact MPs,

possible questions to ask at face-to-face meetings and how to follow up

the contact.

Shelter’s organisation went beyond the lobbying pack to the day of the

rally itself on 24 October 1995. Over 1,000 people attended a rally at

Westminster Central Hall addressed by Shelter’s director Chris Holmes

and the Archbishop of Wales, before being moved in groups with military

precision to meet their MPs at Parliament.


The rally gained extensive print and broadcast coverage, including a

picture story in the Independent. Regional coverage was particularly

good, probably because as Shelter’s press officer Katy Snape points out:

‘homelessness is an issue that really translates to the local level.

People can see how it affects their community.’ The charity’s long-

standing reputation for skilful parliamentary affairs secured good

specialist political coverage by BBC Westminster and Channel 4’s House

to House.

Two amendments to the Bill at committee stage have gained homeless

families two years of local authority responsibility rather than one,

and have defined the categories of the homeless which councils have a

legal duty to help.


The Bill will go to the vote on 29 April with much of the homeless

legislation still in place, so Shelter did not entirely meet its

campaign aims. However the campaign did ignite Shelter’s support base

and enhance the charity’s reputation in the serious media as the experts

on housing issues. They are seen as being considerably more in touch

than the government.

As the Bill was a Green Paper in 1994, Shelter had to overcome the

problem of keeping up momentum in a long-term campaign. It did this by

offering ordinary supporters the experience of hands on Westminster

lobbying. As well as offering supporters the chance to air their views

on homelessness in the corridors of power, Shelter’s well designed

lobbying pack was a blueprint on how to effectively lobby on any issue,

national or local.

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