Project Overview



Grant Amount


Award Date

December 2019


Homelessness, Food Security & Housing

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Litigation team hiredLandmark DSS case won 8,685
households helped

Shelter, founded in 1966, is a leading housing and homelessness charity. Shelter helps millions of people every year via advice and support services and campaigning.

Services Shelter provide include:

  • Face-to-face advice and support services across the UK, giving people one-to-one, personalised help with all of their housing issues.
  • A national free emergency helpline which is open 365 days a year and is often the first port of call for people facing a housing crisis.
  • Online, expert advice about everything from reclaiming a deposit to applying as homeless.
  • Legal support from solicitors who provide free legal advice and attend court to help people who’ve lost their homes or are facing eviction. Recent work has included Shelter’s solicitors leading the legal challenge of issues around discrimination of people on housing benefits by landlords. This led to a judge ruling that these bans are unlawful and discriminatory. 

The Isla Foundation’s grant provided funds towards setting up a strategic litigation team in London, targeting key social injustices which are crucial to rising homelessness. The focus has been on “DSS Discrimination” which is the practice of letting agents and landlords refusing to consider letting to tenants in receipt of state benefits. This affects hundreds of thousands of people and contributes to rising homelessness as people are left without housing options. Blanket bans particularly discriminate against women and disabled people, who are more likely to be on benefits.

As a result of the work carried out by the litigation team, Shelter won a landmark decision in July 2020 ruling that housing benefit discrimination is unlawful and in breach of the Equality Act. By taking this case to court and bringing a compelling story into the public eye, they have made this discriminatory practice unlawful.

The Isla foundation has also supported Shelter’s Hackney hub. London is at the epicentre of a deepening housing emergency. 163,000 Londoners were homeless at the start of 2019 and only 534 social rent homes were delivered in London in 2018. Hackney remains one of London’s most deprived areas, with huge challenges around housing, poverty and inequality.

The Hackney hub offers free, specialist housing, legal, debt and welfare advice to anyone in London struggling with bad housing or homelessness. The demand for Shelter’s advice is both growing and becoming more complex. Cuts to statutory services mean they are helping people whose housing difficulties are underpinned by other complex problems, like mental and physical health issues, increasing the need for extended support.

In the year that the Isla Foundation supported, the London team helped 8,685 households. Of those:

  • 83% attributed their positive outcomes to the help they received from Shelter. 
  • 72% were able to keep their homes, found somewhere new or benefitted from improved living environments.
  • 78% of cases saw an improvement in family life and relationships. 
  • In cases involving families with children, 69% reported an improvement in school attendance.