Together we can achieve breakthrough progress in Wales
Ending homelessness in Wales is more possible than ever. Throughout the pandemic, frontline services have worked flat-out to get record numbers of people off the streets and into emergency accommodation. The Welsh Government has delivered a bold plan for ending homelessness during the public health emergency to ensure that progress is built on, not lost. Barriers to support have been torn down in Wales, with services being able to help end the homelessness of many people who have been stuck on the streets, friends’ sofas or in inappropriate temporary accommodation for years. Wales has also rightly welcomed people fleeing conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine.
But we cannot be complacent. There are urgent challenges we need to address together, including the rising cost of living, the increased use of temporary accommodation, and the shortage of truly affordable homes. At Crisis’ services in Wales, and across the rest of Britain, we are seeing more tenancies under threat and more people having to make impossible choices in their household budgets to keep their heads above water.
In my role as chair of the advisory board I want to be held accountable for how inclusively the board works. I want people from across all parts of Wales and all communities to influence the board, and the work to end homelessness in Wales.
That is why I recently applied to chair the Welsh Government’s Ending Homelessness National Advisory Board: to harness the expertise of everyone working to tackle homelessness in Wales and provide healthy challenge to the Welsh Government, so it can deliver its ambitious plan to prevent and end homelessness.
I am very pleased to have been given this responsibility. The test of our work on the board will be whether homelessness in Wales is ended more quickly, more efficiently and more equally. With the need for homelessness prevention support from councils rising even before the pandemic, the board’s work must match that urgency. I am optimistic that the steps we take in the coming months and years will prove to be vital as we support the Welsh Government in their aims.
Despite the scale of the challenge, I am convinced that the Welsh Government’s Ending Homelessness Action Plan for 2021-26 is the right blueprint for how to respond. It is based on evidence from people facing homelessness, people working in support roles, and from the international research on what works to end homelessness. The action plan gives a clear steer to dismantle the systems that are perpetuating homelessness, sustaining poverty and social injustice. In practice this means changing the law so that no one is left out of support, replacing outdated practices with evidence-based approaches, and instilling new cultures and support for our workforces. I am really pleased to see that the action plan has all of these elements, and more. The Welsh Government also has a hugely important Race Equality Action Plan due to be published imminently and the Ending Homelessness National Advisory Board must play a part in ensuring Wales becomes a truly anti-racist nation.
While it is a plan for longer-term change we will also need to be flexible and pragmatic. Some of the fixes that will keep people in stable accommodation in the coming months are not the same solutions that we want to see in the longer term and on their own will not lead to more people having settled homes. The advisory board will need to work at pace and I am keen for the board to meet as soon as possible, and set out a plan for the year including reporting to the Minister, Julie James MS. We will continue the work that has happened already to develop an outcomes framework for ending homelessness, new ways to support workforces, and transition to rapid rehousing approaches.
In my role as chair of the advisory board I want to be held accountable for how inclusively the board works. I want people from across all parts of Wales and all communities to influence the board, and the work to end homelessness in Wales. I want to be able to say what we did differently as a result of working in an inclusive way and how the views of people facing homelessness changed the work the board does. It will be critical in ensuring the advisory board and action plan deliver the change we need to end homelessness for good.
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