Two thirds of households saved from homelessness in Wales thanks to change in legislation
However, more must be done to end rough sleeping, according to new report
Successful action from the Welsh Government has helped to reduce different types of homelessness, according to new research released today. However, problems remain around rough sleeping, which has risen between 16 and 30% across Wales in the past year.
The findings are from state-of-the nation report The Homelessness Monitor: Wales – an independent study carried out by Heriot-Watt University and funded by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). Drawing on a national survey of councils (19 of 22 in Wales), statistical analysis and in-depth interviews, the report analyses the impact of economic and policy developments on homelessness including the recent introduction of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 since it came into effect in 2015.
The report reveals an encouraging picture on tackling homelessness prevention: almost two thirds of households who were at risk of homelessness in 2016/17 were saved from losing their homes thanks to council interventions. And, crucially, it finds positive cultural changes within local authorities where staff are now providing a better service and more supportive environment for applicants, especially single people.
But findings show there is still more work to be done: in the past year the number of rough sleepers rose by between 16 and 30%; the number of households placed in temporary accommodation increased by 7%; and most local authorities across the country reported a rise in demand for their services.
And while new legislation has made significant strides in addressing homelessness in Wales, the monitor also highlights a substantial number of people who are still falling through the cracks, with almost a fifth (19%) of homeless households still not getting the help they need at the end of the process. 2
According to the report, the impacts of welfare reforms since 2010 have placed more people at risk of homelessness in Wales. Almost all Welsh local authorities highlighted this, with the extension of the Shared Accommodation Rate of Local Housing Allowance for young people3 as ‘especially damaging’.
Crisis and JRF are calling for the UK and Welsh government to make a new and concerted effort to tackle rough sleeping.
There is growing recognition in Wales and across the sector that rough sleepers have benefited least from the legislative change and that a strategy to address rough sleeping should incorporate the Housing First model.4
Housing First provides some of the most vulnerable homeless people with their own home to give them with a stable base and strong support from specially trained staff – a method proven to help people leave homelessness behind for good.
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “This is undoubtedly the most positive of the homelessness monitors we have published to date. The new legislation is clearly improving the support for homeless people in Wales.
“It’s great that the Welsh Government has pledged to build more affordable homes, tackle youth homelessness, and improve homelessness prevention. But there are still far too many people slipping through the net and losing their homes or sleeping rough on the streets – and that just isn’t right.
“That’s why we’re calling on the Welsh Government to adopt proven approaches such as Housing First so together we can make homelessness in Wales a thing of the past.”
Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of JRF, said:
“This report shows how effective policy can work to solve homelessness. The increase in the number of people who are able to get the help they need to avoid eviction and stay in their homes shows what Government action can achieve. But much more still needs to be done, particularly on rough sleeping.
“Almost all the councils who responded to the Monitor survey told us welfare reforms are making it harder for people to stay in their homes, or secure a home in the first place. We are particularly concerned about young people, who will receive a lower rate of housing benefit in future. Ending the benefit freeze would help to ease the pressure on people who are struggling to make ends meet.”
Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, lead author, said:
“The evidence from Wales shows how effective the new legislation is in taking early action and preventing homelessness. The findings chime with the recent interim evaluation published by the Welsh Government but there are clear signs that some groups are slipping through the safety net and more needs to be done to address rough sleeping.”
- The new statutory homelessness framework ushered in by the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 has had overwhelmingly positive impacts, including a more preventative, person-centred and outcome-focussed approach from local authorities, and a much better service for single homeless people in particular
- In 2016/17, almost two thirds of households on the brink of homelessness had their homelessness successfully prevented
- More than 41% of homeless households had a successful resolution of their crisis
- Thanks to preventative action, the number of priority need households helped under the 'last resort' ‘duty to secure accommodation’, is much lower than statutory homeless ‘acceptance’ levels under the pre-2015 system
- However, the gradual downward trend in temporary accommodation placements seen in the period 2012-2015 has been recently reversed with placements rising by 7% in the past year
- The rise in rough sleeping in Wales falls in the range of a 16% to 30% uplift as compared with 2015
- Even under this new, much more inclusive, Welsh statutory model, there is a substantial cohort of homeless applicants for whom local authority offers of assistance fail to yield a resolution to their housing crisis (though some may manage to find their own resolution). The key group here involves households judged legally homeless but whose problems are ‘unsuccessfully relieved’ and who are then deemed ‘non-priority’ cases ineligible for ‘full rehousing duty’ under Section 75. In 2016/17 this group numbered 1,233.
- There is particular concern for cases which fall out of the system specifically due to ‘non-cooperation’ with local authorities' efforts to assist them. In 2016/17 486 of 9,210 Section 66 ‘eligible and threatened with homelessness’ cases (5%) and 615 of 10,884 Section 73 ‘eligible and homeless’ cases (6%) had duty discharged a result of ‘non-cooperation’.
- Almost all Welsh local authorities responding to the local authority survey believed that homelessness in their area had been exacerbated by post-2010 welfare reform, with the extension of the Shared Accommodation Rate of Local Housing Allowance to 25-34 year olds most commonly identified as especially damaging.
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NOTES TO EDITORS
- There has been an undisputed rise in rough sleeping in Wales and while the precise scale of this increase is unclear, it seems likely to fall in the range of a 16% to 30% uplift as compared with 2015
- In 2016/17 402 households (19%) who were homeless, and in priority need were not successfully housed due to either assistance being refused, non-co-operation and ‘other’ reasons. See figure 4.2 in the main report.
- The Shared Accommodation Rate of Local Housing Allowance to 25-34 year olds was extended post-2010
- Housing First provides some of the most vulnerable people – who are either sleeping rough or have experienced years of living in hostel accommodation – with their own home. With a stable base and strong support from specially trained staff, evidence from other studies finds Housing First is proven to help people leave homelessness behind for good
Crisis is the national charity for homeless people. We are committed to ending homelessness.
Every day we see the devastating impact homelessness has on people’s lives. Every year we work side by side with thousands of homeless people, to help them rebuild their lives and leave homelessness behind for good.
Through our pioneering research into the causes and consequences of homelessness and the solutions to it, we know what it will take to end it.
Together with others who share our resolve, we bring our knowledge, experience and determination to campaign for the changes that will solve the homelessness crisis once and for all.
We bring together a unique volunteer effort each Christmas, to bring warmth, companionship and vital services to people at one of the hardest times of the year, and offer a starting point out of homelessness.
We know that homelessness is not inevitable. We know that together we can end it.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is an independent organisation working to inspire social change through research, policy and practice. You can find out more about JRF’s work at www.jrf.org.uk.