Welsh Action Group update: policies, approaches and plans to end homelessness

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive

Since last month’s meeting the Action Group has turned fully to question 1 that the Minister asked us: what framework of policies, approaches and plans are needed to end homelessness in Wales? That’s clearly a big question and builds directly on the recommendations in our rough sleeping report about how to prevent rough sleeping overall. There are themes in those recommendations that we will definitely revisit, such as the importance of making sure people who have started to experience homelessness are helped quickly into suitable and safe housing.

November’s also busy for the Action Group’s face-to-face discussions with people who have experience of homelessness and with people working in housing and homelessness roles. It’s been encouraging for the Action Group’s work to see that many of the common themes are shared between these consultations and the kinds of solutions the Action Group is discussing. One of the findings of the survey with people who’ve experienced homelessness really shows why preventing homelessness in the first place is so preferable: 9 out of 10 people who responded to the survey, including people who are now housed, still have worries about their housing situation because of their previous experiences.

Our consultations have now moved to a face-to-face stage. In both consultations we’re presenting the early findings and getting more feedback. Where we can we’ve tried to go to existing events and meetings to make it as easy as possible for people to be involved. During November the Action Group is working at events and meetings organised by the Welsh Local Government Association, Community Housing Cymru, Public Health Wales, and Cymorth.

One of the big, recurring themes in our consultations is the importance of services beyond housing and homelessness, so the Action Group is making extra efforts to talk to people work who in these areas. For example, the Action Group will be running sessions at the 2025 Movement conference in north Wales on preventing homelessness through better mental health support.

Our meeting this week was in Wrexham and was a chance for two of the subgroups within the Action Group to run workshops on their ‘starters for 10’ about homelessness prevention. They’ll be taking the feedback from this first discussion and developing their proposals further for our next meetings in January. One group looked at universal and primary interventions, that is those that could happen most widely in society. While this work is still at an early stage some themes emerged:

  • The role of accountability and leadership in making sure changes happen across public services and what principles might guide these efforts, e.g. is there a role for access to good quality housing and support as a human right?
  • Putting forward practical recommendations to address the drivers of homelessness, particularly: poverty; the lack of affordable accommodation and mismatch between incomes and costs of living; and the social and individual impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences, and what we can do about them.
  • Learning from other policy areas that have done well to introduce this kind of earlier and wider approach, for example support for women who’ve experienced violence and domestic abuse.

The second group looked at both targeted and crisis prevention. This covers quite a range of situations, including supporting people discharged from state institutions, and more immediate help for people experiencing sudden interruptions to income or relationship breakdown. We started the process of mapping groups of people at greater risk and considering what’s already working well, what is currently isolated good practice that needs to happen more widely, and what needs improvement. We didn’t just confine ourselves to looking at the single point in time of homelessness crisis and recognised there are times before, during and after the key moments in people’s lives that they might need some kind of support.

One other area we’re going to look at early in new year alongside the work we covered this week is the need to manage change well and to support and develop the workforce. Members of the Action Group have a lot to offer from their own experiences of the Housing Act 2014 and their role in helping to implement it. We’re also having conversations outside the Action Group meetings about this and looking closely at the relevant feedback to our consultation surveys and events.

Many members of the Action Group are involved in delivering services or supporting colleagues who do this and December can be a very busy time. Because of this we won’t be meeting as a group before the end of 2019 but the subgroups will continue to develop the work I’ve mentioned. We will reconvene in person very early in January to hear about progress and develop this work further into a set of recommendations to answer the Welsh Government’s question on how to end homelessness.

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