Welsh Homelessness Action Group: statement and final meeting blog
The Welsh Government established the Homelessness Action Group to advise and recommend how we ensure everyone across Wales is housed and supported and that homelessness is only ever rare, brief and non-repeated. We are pleased that the Minister accepted in principle all our recommendations on how to end homelessness and has agreed in due course to come up with a plan for to achieve this.
The coronavirus outbreak has affected everyone but people facing homelessness are among the most exposed in our society. The Action Group welcomes the swift and decisive action by the Welsh Government, councils and public service partners to re-accommodate and help more than 800 people. We now need to urgently start the next phase of helping people into safe and secure homes, so that we don’t see people forced back onto the street or into unsafe temporary accommodation. The announcement of a ‘phase two’ to do this is welcome. We must also step up efforts to prevent homelessness in the first place, and this should be a priority for any plan to end homelessness.
Amid the public health emergency, we also have a chance to make changes now and in the near future that will make sure everyone in Wales has a home. The Homelessness Action Group’s work is coming to an end, but all 13 members are committed personally and professionally to play our part in ending homelessness. We also want to make sure that as we progress the Welsh Government still has a way to access advice about its approach, drawing from the best available research and people with lived experience, and that all partners hold each other accountable for progress towards our common goal.
All members of the Action Group co-authored this final meeting blog, which looks back briefly at the work we have done and forward to the next steps. The Action Group will shortly complete its final report and we are pleased that the Minister has committed to a Welsh Government plan to end homelessness and has accepted in principle all the recommendations of our main report on ending homelessness.
While we are working to limit the impact of the outbreak, we must ensure those who are homeless and among our society’s most exposed citizens to the virus are protected and supported. The framework for ending homelessness that we proposed is still a useful guide both for the immediate outbreak response and for longer term action. It showed how we can make homelessness rare, brief and non-repeated by offering everyone housing and support but also highlighted that we must change the way we work in order to achieve this.
The focus of the ending homelessness framework was on achieving:
- Maximum homelessness prevention at all stages, including crisis response services but also through more targeted, earlier prevention for people across public services and at risk of youth homelessness, and a universal approach across society to tackle the root causes of homelessness in poverty and trauma.
- Rapid rehousing as the default approach to quickly help people experiencing homelessness to be rehoused with all the support they need.
- Investing in people to help end homelessness by funding and supporting workforces, involving people with lived experience of homelessness, and mobilising charities and volunteers to play a part.
Against this framework the Welsh Government, local councils, and public services have matched the scale of the challenge posed by the outbreak with swift and decisive action. The Welsh Government provided funding, clarity on outcomes to achieve, and useful guidance that supported an extraordinary effort to re-accommodate more than 800 people across Wales through local councils and their partners. We also helped to re-accommodate, for the first time in Wales, people with ‘no recourse to public funds’ status.
We are encouraged as an Action Group by these achievements and the way that people worked together. We also have to recognise, however, that we have not yet ended homelessness for people. As attention turns to how and when the lockdown in Wales will ease, we now have to make sure all people who were re-accommodated are helped into safe and secure homes.
We also need to make sure that we rewire our support systems so that they can focus on ending homelessness. The final Action Group report, which we are currently writing, looks at the framework for ending homelessness through this lens, particularly focusing on achieving rapid rehousing outcomes and strengthening local partnerships. In particular, we look forward to the next 6-12 months and beyond. This period covers the next financial year and the next Senedd term, when we need progress towards ending homelessness to continue.
The outbreak has focused minds on why rapid rehousing as an outcome is so important in the coming months and years. A rapid rehousing approach will mean keeping time spent in temporary accommodation to a minimum. We sometimes think of temporary accommodation as a building type rather than a tenure but we need to make sure that we acquire or build new homes that are of good quality that can be occupied on a permanent basis.
Our final, forthcoming report will also recommend a process for making sure the Welsh Government has access to the latest evidence and advice, including from people with lived experience of homelessness, as it delivers the plan to end homelessness. We need to all hold each other mutually accountable for progress.
As an Action Group we would like to thank and acknowledge all the input and help we’ve had to complete our work. This includes from the 13 members of the group and their colleagues who helped host meetings across Wales; people with lived experience of homelessness and members of housing and homelessness workforces who contributed to our surveys and engagement events that helped us understand the challenges and solutions; and to the Minister and her officials for their openness to hearing the Action Group’s recommendations and advice. As a Group we are especially grateful to Nick Morris, Policy and Communications Manager at Crisis for his support and advice through every stage of our work.
The coronavirus outbreak has changed many things and it’s unclear as yet how and when Wales will return to a sense of normality. We are clear as an Action Group that we don’t want to return to the situation we were in during early 2020, but to put in place the policies and approaches that will deliver a future with everyone housed and homelessness ended. That goal is as clear now as it was before the outbreak. It’s the responsibility of each and every one of us to do our bit, with the Welsh Government leading from the front.
- Jon Sparkes (chair), Chief Executive, Crisis
- Bonnie Navarra, Director, Housing Justice Cymru
- Clare Budden, CEO, Clwyd Alyn Housing Association
- Clarissa Corbisiero, Director of Policy and External Affairs & Deputy Chief Executive, Community Housing Cymru
- Frances Beecher, Chief Executive, Llamau, and chair of End Youth Homelessness Cymru
- Gaynor Toft, Corporate Manager (Housing), Ceredigion County Council
- Glynne Roberts, Programme Manager, Well North Wales, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board
- John Puzey, Chief Executive, Shelter Cymru
- Katie Dalton, Director, Cymorth Cymru
- Lindsay Cordery-Bruce, Chief Executive, The Wallich
- Naomi Alleyne, Director of Social Services and Housing, Welsh Local Government Association
- Dr Peter Mackie, Reader, Cardiff University
- Tamsin Stirling, Freelance homelessness and housing expert
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