Chair's update from the second Homelessness Action Group Wales meeting

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive

When the Welsh Homelessness Action Group met for the first time about three weeks ago we agreed that one of the crucial things about the group would be our pace of work. Last Friday (19 July) we met again to catch up on progress.

One of the most urgent priorities for the group is to make sure we have a plan to listen to the views of people with experience of homelessness. Shelter Cymru is leading this work, along with The Wallich, Cymorth and Llamau, to recruit peer researchers who will carry out a number of individual and group conversations about the action group questions. The work the peer researchers present back to the group soon will be very valuable as we look at the four questions the Minister has asked us to answer. Before the next meeting we will also finalise our plan to hear from frontline professionals.

There was general agreement among the action group that we should try, whenever possible, to use existing opportunities to listen to people with experience of homelessness and those of people who work to help those affected. While we will almost certainly arrange a small number of standalone events or meetings there will be plenty of opportunities for the group to talk to people at conferences, service centres or outreach bases. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to give their views in a place that is familiar to them.

Officials from Welsh Government presented to the group on the existing work in Wales to tackle and end homelessness. It was good to hear about the full range of things that are happening and how we might maximise use of devolved powers to end homelessness. But there’s also a sense that some individual pieces of great work and practice on the ground need to be scaled up and that we combine them into a programme that will end homelessness.

That’s why the question 1 (What framework of policies, approaches and plans is needed to end homelessness in Wales?) is important as it provides the framework for how that programme comes together. I presented a ‘starter for ten’ at the meeting (with the draft presentation slides available here), looking at the different types of prevention work that Dr Peter Mackie presented to the group last month and Crisis’ work on a plan to end homelessness.

As you would expect, it was a very wide ranging discussion. With different perspectives around the table we recognised the need to have a better common understanding of prevention across different services and that Welsh Government has a big role in leading this change. There is also a lot of political will in Wales to go further ‘upstream’ to prevent homelessness at an earlier stage. Just a few days before the meeting Public Health Wales’ new report drew attention to the link between adverse childhood experiences and homelessness, and what a public health approach to homelessness prevention could be. The Action Group is planning to adopt the learning from this report.

In the more immediate term, the Action Group looked at question 2, on how to address rough sleeping now and in the run-up to this winter and then how we can end it altogether. Lindsay Cordery-Bruce from The Wallich reported back to the group on her ‘starter for ten’. She had a very well informed and creative long list of ideas drawn from research evidence and experience that the group can refine, particularly as we hear from people with experience of homelessness. We'll make the results of that discussion available as soon as we can. We also had some very necessary discussions on what has not worked so well in recent years.

We also welcomed a new member of the group, Gaynor Toft, who is Corporate Manager for Housing at Ceredigion Council. Gaynor has already started to make a very valuable contribution, drawing from her knowledge of public health and housing, and she will also ensure the group has a perspective from west Wales. While the group is now 13 people from a range of professional backgrounds and places across Wales, I’m very keen that anyone who wants to contribute to the work of the group can do so:

  • On Twitter you can use #homelessnessactiongroup to join the conversation.
  • For those attending the Homelessness World Cup in Cardiff on July 28 I will be discussing ‘Small nation, big ambition to end homelessness’, about the action group work and ending homelessness, in the Bevan Tent debate space. I'll be with Michael Sheen and Katie Dalton of Cymorth Cymru, who is also a member of this group.

For people who have experience of homelessness or working in frontline services I would really like to hear from you:

  1. As the group gets to work recruiting the peer researchers, if you have any opportunities for the researchers to meet people with experience of homelessness (e.g. conferences, meetings, engagement events etc.), particularly in August, September and October, please email me.
  2. Likewise, if you have any scheduled moments during August, September and October, where frontline professionals who work with people experiencing homelessness might be willing to discuss their experiences and ideas please email me (e.g. conferences, staff meetings or engagement events etc.)

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