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Hackney CAB Crowdmap launched

May 4, 2012

We have been working with Hackney Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) as part of our Digital Activism work for some time now.

When we started working with Catherine – a Social Policy Volunteer – at the CAB, she had set up a Crowdmap – a free web tool that allows you to crowdsource information and see it on a map and timeline – to start mapping the impact of the changes to housing benefit in Hackney.

But what are the changes and why map the impact?

From April 2011 onwards, a number of different changes to housing benefit have been coming into effect. These include: reducing the number of properties available to rent locally, removing the rate for self-contained accommodation, and capping the total amount available for a family.

Hackney CAB has seen an increasing number of people affected by these changes over recent months, with some residents facing housing benefit shortfalls, rent arrears, overcrowding, threatened eviction, and even homelessness.

The national newspapers have recently been reporting that a number of London boroughs are looking to re-locate many residents to other parts of the country where private rented accommodation is cheaper; whether it’s from Croydon to Hull or from Newham to Stoke, to name but two examples. But as yet, no one seems to have a completely clear picture of just how the changes are actually affecting claimants. And this is what Catherine and the team at Hackney CAB want to find out.

What does this mean for Hackney?

Initially, CAB Social Policy volunteers were capturing anonymised information from CAB advisers and inputting brief, unidentifiable data onto the Crowdmap to show cases. However, the team has been keen to ensure that as more and more Hackney residents are affected by the changes to housing benefit, they are able to quickly and easily share their own story and access support, while educating a wider audience on the issue.

And so, the Hackney CAB Crowdmap website was born and launched on Monday, sharing information on the changes and the impact on Hackney, and where people can access support. And, of course, allowing people to map the effect the changes are having on them.

What’s next?

It’s all very well having a website, but we need to ensure that people are willing and able to share their story. So we will be leafleting around Hackney to highlight the changes, direct residents to the website, and encourage people to help raise awareness by sharing information on how the changes are affecting them.

We will also be looking at text messaging and postal options to ensure those who aren’t online can still share their story, and will be assessing the availability of rented properties in Hackney to find out just how easy it is for people in receipt of housing benefit in Hackney to find a place to live.

We will keep you up to date with the work as it progresses.

In the meantime, you can of course keep an eye on the Hackney CAB Crowdmap website, ‘like’ the campaign on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

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