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Action Group: developing the report on how to end homelessness in Wales

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive

The Homelessness Action Group’s first meeting of the new year, in Bangor, was a chance for the group to discuss in person the recommendations we’ve been developing since the end of November. We didn’t meet in December, largely due to the month being a particularly busy time for many of the members involved in working directly with people experiencing homelessness. At this meeting we further developed our initial list of recommendations to answer Question 1 - What framework of policies, approaches and plans is needed to end homelessness in Wales? (What does ending homelessness actually look like?) 

Before doing this, we shared updates on the winter actions to tackle rough sleeping, which the Welsh Government, local authorities and partners took forward in response to the Action Group’s first report. It’s important to remember the winter actions were short-term changes that were never going to end homelessness on their own. However, it was encouraging to hear that many of the actions have been taken forward in Cardiff, Newport, Swansea and Wrexham; and that our first report had stimulated a positive approach to multi-agency working.

It was good to hear from so many of the Action Group members who support people who are rough sleeping that there is a particularly strong sense of shared responsibility for tackling and preventing rough sleeping together and a strong desire to see progress. These things will be vital to making the longer-term changes that need to happen to end rough sleeping and all forms of homelessness. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of winter actions when all partners get together to review what went well and what we can learn from the short-term work, particularly in relation to assertive outreach, personalised budgets, and frequent case-conferences to agree plans to help people off the street as quickly as possible.

The Action Group’s answer to Question 1 will look at the longer-term goal of ending homelessness altogether. To do that we need to ensure maximum prevention of homelessness happens and that there is a rapid response that is ready to help people who experience homelessness to be rehoused without delay. In response to the emerging recommendations of the group, the key policy points on prevention we discussed at the meeting were:

  • How to build on what is working already in both universal prevention for everyone and targeted prevention for people more at risk, and how our recommendations will need to be very specific about the changes we all need to make to end homelessness.
  • What homelessness as a whole public service challenge means in practice and how we can promote national, regional and local approaches to this.
  • What we need to do in Wales to respond to broader challenges of poverty as they relate to housing as a basic human need.

We also took some time in the meeting to discuss how to support the workforce and how to bring about the culture across public services needed to end homelessness. A number of the Action Group members were directly involved in implementing the Housing Act and their insights into these questions was particularly valuable. Together with the evidence from our consultation surveys with people working in housing and homelessness, and the experiences of the Action Group members, we’re building a clearer picture of our recommendations.

Our discussion covered ways to communicate more effectively with broader public services and the public, finding ways to recognise the expertise of staff, and the process of agreeing the housing outcomes we all want to see and then making sure funding, commissioning and monitoring lead to these outcomes happening.

Over the next few weeks we will be taking the work we have done to date and putting it together in our second report for Julie James AM, Minister for Housing and Local Government. We will be looking to the Welsh Government to respond to our recommendations with a short and long-term action plan, and ensuring the means are put in place to fund the plan and monitor the impact of the plan. We’ll review the final draft of this report at our next meeting towards the end of January and also sense-check our thinking with others beyond the Action Group, for example, people with lived experience of homelessness and the local authority homelessness network. I also have the opportunity to brief Julie James, the Minister, and give her an early insight into the recommendations the Action Group’s developing.

At the end of January, the Action Group will also decide how to approach the two remaining questions, which relate to the rapid rehousing approach and to local partnerships. But they’re linked very closely to our broader question of what ending homelessness looks like.  

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