"WE CAN'T give you a house, but we show you the way to get there."

That is the message direct from the team with the know-how of the legalities, benefits, and rights and responsibilities within the beleaguered rental sector.

People caught up in the current rental crisis on the Isle of Wight can find accurate and independent help and advice available through the local Citizens Advice team.

With a huge lack of private rentals, and investment landlords selling up especially post-Covid pandemic, the situation on the Island has been well documented.

The impartial team at Citizens Advice have raised their hand to help — and want people to know what services they can offer.

They can raise issues on the behalf of tenants, help sort disrepair problems, and signpost people in the right direction — whether they face eviction, are saddled with debt, or need urgent work done by a landlord.

They can help the tenants go about things the right way — which helps them get started when tackling a problem that at first seems insurmountable.

Essentially they don't want people to become homeless and the key is to resolve any issues as early in the process as possible. Anyone in a vulnerable position can be supported through the Isle of Wight Council funded service.

There's a waiting list for the Community Support team but people may get an allocated caseworker to help them.

A Housing Court Desk service gives free advice in court and helps those at risk of losing their home to fill out court forms and represents people in court.

There's a specialist Tax team to help people with anything from benefits to HMRC queries, and a Money Advice team who can help with repayment plans for debts.

There's a range of help available for Benefits – advisers can check people are receiving all the benefits they are entitled to, and help them apply if not.

This includes the Help to Claim (Universal Credit) team; help with PIP, ESA and DLA forms and advice and help on everything from maternity to bereavement benefits.

There's a Help Through Crisis team for those who have absolutely nothing.

Gretel Ingham, who works for Citizens Advice, said the Housing Team has around a 95 per cent success rate in being able to help people out of difficulty.

She said: "There's huge recognition that mental health issues exacerbate debt and problems and vice versa. Rather than prescribing drugs, we prescribe advice and support and have a holistic approach.

"Come to us as early as possible with your problems, big or small, and we can help.

"We can't give you a house. People do have high expectations and we have to manage those, but we are committed to getting the right outcomes.

"We empower people to know their options. There is so much info out there on social media for example, but not all of it is good advice. Start with us."

There are ongoing challenges around funding and resourcing the charity's teams, but there are paid staff and dozens of volunteers ready to help. There has been increased capacity on the Homelessness Prevention team who have good working relationships with other service providers such as WightDASH and the Law Centre.

Sandy Belfitt, service delivery manager, said: "Another problem is the sheer number of people needing help, with 180 people making contact in just one week in July, and that wasn't out of the ordinary.

"We rely on our fabulous army of fully trained volunteer advisers to help us deliver our services and are about to start recruiting again to train the next batch of volunteers, so whether you’re retired and looking for something to stretch your brain, looking for a supportive environment to get trained and back to work or a younger person looking to explore a different career path, we’d welcome your application."

The freephone number is 0800 144 8848 and this is answered by assessors who ensure a call back is provided by the best adviser.

Islanders can also look at finding help themselves on www.islehelp.me or fill in the enquiry form islehelp.me/contact/ which will be passed to an adviser to get back to you.