Social Justice

Make mail about 'people not letter boxes' to help rough sleepers

Citizens Advice warn seven million people have been unable to receive post over the last decade and a lack of access could deepen Covid-19 hardships

Postbox Pixabay

Seven million people have not been able to receive their own post in the last decade, meaning they miss opportunities for work and housing as well as health care and financial services, according to new research published by Citizens Advice.

The charity found the problem disproportionately affects people who are sleeping rough, living in temporary accommodation or have post intercepted by an abuser and the lack of a fixed address or a safe place to receive mail could deepen Covid-19 hardships.

Dame Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Though the government rightly aims for universal access to post, our current system is designed around letter boxes, not people.

“It’s vital the government acts now to ensure our postal system is truly universal.”

This has been a problem for “Nick”, a respondent in the survey who was sleeping rough. He was sent a letter from his local council offering him a flat but the letter went to his local homeless shelter. Missing the appointment meant Nick, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, spent the next three months on the street.

Nearly five million people over the period have missed out on key services because they missed an appointment like Nick. Three million have lost out financially and nearly two million have lost employment opportunities because they couldn’t receive their own post.

The survey conducted on behalf of the charity also found that just under one in eight people have been unable to apply for services like health appointments, welfare, banking, and even jobs, because they lack an address to put on applications.

This rises to one in four for people living with a disability and just over a quarter for Black, Asian and minority ethnic people.

Citizens Advice wants the government to commit to an ‘Address & Collect’ service, acting like a PO Box at post offices to help millions applying for jobs or benefits during the pandemic.

The Big Issue is committed to protecting jobs and preventing homelessness through our Ride Out Recession Alliance. Now the campaign is starting to make ministers in Westminister sit up and take notice. We need your ideas to let them know how to tackle the challenges of Covid-19. Tell us your experiences, ideas and plans at rora@bigissue.com.

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