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The Big Issue has teamed up with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism to release data on eviction cases described as “gold dust” by the magazine’s founder Lord John Bird.

Investigative journalists who spent months covering possession hearings to show the scale of evictions during the pandemic have released their findings to the public.

The Big Issue partnered with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism for a launch event for the release of their Closed Doors investigation which saw journalists attend 700 possession hearings at 30 courts across England and Wales.

The Bureau also tracked court listings in 10 of the country’s biggest courts for six months and found half of the 3,781 court listings were from private landlords. Mortgage lenders were behind 14 per cent of cases, local authorities made up 12 per cent of cases while social housing associations brought 23 per cent of cases to court. 

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“This is one of the best pieces of journalism I have come across in a long, long time,” said Lord John Bird, speaking at the event on Thursday.

“This kind of information you have come up with is gold dust. What I need more than anything is more gold dust to be able to throw that gold dust in the eyes of the government because the government is living in an absolutely weird place: they are denying that this is a problem.”

The Bureau began investigating possession hearings after the eviction ban that protected renters in the early part of the pandemic lapsed and the ban on bailiff-enforced evictions was lifted on May 31 in England and a month later in Wales.

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Initial enquiries found little official data on the outcomes of possession hearings so The Bureau assembled a team of reporters to attend them.

Reporters have released several sets of findings from the dataset this year, including findings around private rental cases back in September.

Bureau reporters found many cases that decided whether some would lose their home were often decided in a matter of minutes while many hearings took place without legal representation to defend the tenant.

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Following more findings on how possessions affected mortgage holders, The Bureau has now released the data publicly for data journalists and amateur sleuths to dive into alongside a tool breaking down the data across regions in England and Wales. 

Maeve McClenaghan, a reporter at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, said: “It’s fantastic to work alongside campaigning organisations like The Big Issue.

“Hopefully all this data and evidence can support their campaigning to keep reminding government this is happening and our hope is it continues to be useful going forward.”

The Bureau’s findings came to the attention of The Big Issue after the launch of the Stop Mass Homelessness campaign in the summer.

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The Big Issue has warned that thousands of people stand to lose their homes following the disruption of the Covid-19 after support such as the £20 universal credit increase, the furlough scheme and more was wound down at a time when living costs have risen.

The campaign calls on the Westminster government to pay off rent arrears, suspend no-fault evictions and invest in jobs and training in sustainable industries. Find out how you can get involved with the campaign here.

Access The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s Closed Doors data here.

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