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Action Group update: what ending homelessness looks like in Wales

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive

October’s Homelessness Action Group meeting was in Carmarthen, as part of the group’s commitment to meet across Wales and in the areas represented by Action Group members. We're at a crucial moment in our early work. Our first report, on tackling rough sleeping in the very short-term and ending it in the long-term, is with the Minister for Housing and Local Government. The Minister intends to publish the report and her response to it imminently. This meeting was a chance to take stock of the work so far and discuss how we will answer our next questions on tackling and ending all forms of homelessness.

The Minister's statement to the National Assembly, the day before our meeting, was very encouraging and set out some key points that homelessness can be ended with a broad response across public services. Crucially for the Action Group’s work, the Minister and spokespeople in political parties across the Assembly acknowledged that rough sleeping is just one form of homelessness.

I'm really looking forward to seeing the Minister's response and I know the rough sleeping report has made a strong, evidenced case for some changes both in the approach this winter and in preventing rough sleeping more generally. I'd like to thank the Action Group members and their colleagues for all their hard work. Their commitment to evidence, listening to the experiences of people with experience of homelessness, and working quickly have served the group very well and produced a very strong set of proposals to prevent rough sleeping.

While the Action Group will now move on to the next phase of our work, we will also be working hard to ensure the recommendations in our first report are implemented and plans made to embed them in future policy and practice. We’ll also be taking every opportunity we can to communicate what we have recommended, and why, at a number of events over the next month or so.

As we were finalising our report we had a sobering reminder from the recent statistics on deaths among homeless people in England and Wales. With winter on the way, dealing with rough sleeping right now can be literally a matter of life and death. It's important to remember, however, that rough sleeping will only be ended if we address other forms of homelessness as well.

Our imminently published report looked at the crisis point of rough sleeping but we’ll now go back to our first question: What framework of policies, approaches and plans is needed to end homelessness in Wales? (What does ending homelessness actually look like?)

Drawing on the evidence and building on our rough sleeping report, we’ve decided to divide the next work into broad areas:

  • Universal (or primary) prevention that will look at how this work can connect with the work to reduce child poverty and Adverse Childhood Experiences which can be clearly linked to future homelessness. This will also look at the framework and principles as well as clear policies that need to be addressed, e.g. the role of a right to housing, housing supply and allocation, and the use of the social security system.
  • Targeted and crisis interventions that aim to address homelessness “when we know it is coming” and how it can be averted through effective multi agency approaches to preventing homelessness, including how to ensure people can sustain existing tenancies.
  • The work on change management and developing the culture to support ending homelessness, including support for staff and communications, e.g. with the public and professionals who do not work in housing roles. 

We also agreed next steps and some of the practical things we’ll need to do. The consultations with people who have experience of homelessness and people who work in housing and homelessness roles have been crucial so far to our work and we’ll be moving to a new phase of face-to-face workshops in both consultations. Action Group members also volunteered to lead on each of the broad areas, producing ‘starter for 10’ proposals for the group to look at next month.

This phase of our work is much larger in scope than the rough sleeping questions and does not divide as neatly into short and long term measures. However, the broad areas we’ve agreed allow us to balance practicality and pace of work with a fully-evidenced approach. We're aiming to come up with recommendations and a draft report by early in the new year and I’ll report back on this blog after our next meeting in November.

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