Carl Sargeant, Minister for Housing and Regeneration
I wish to draw Assembly Members’ attention to a consultation relating to the forthcoming Housing Bill which will be brought forward this autumn.
The Bill will include provision for new legislation to help people who are homeless or who are at risk of becoming homeless. It will place much greater emphasis on the prevention of homelessness and our proposals will ensure that targeted assistance is provided to everyone at risk of homelessness.
As part of our work to put in place as effective a legislative framework as possible on homelessness, I am examining all aspects of the way that homelessness is currently addressed and how it might be addressed in future. An element of this is the current priority accorded to prison leavers who are homeless since leaving custody irrespective of whether they are vulnerable or not.
Local authority data shows that 15 per cent of all households accepted as homeless are prison leavers. I am concerned at the burden on local authorities and communities that arises from this approach and have looked at whether this approach should continue in the context of our proposed legislative provisions on homelessness.
In light of this, I have decided to consult on a proposal to amend the automatic priority need for all homeless prison leavers, replacing it with an assessment of the vulnerability of the individual.
The change would mean that a former prisoner has a priority need for accommodation only if they are also considered to be 'vulnerable as a result of having been in custody or detention' and if they have a local connection with the area in which their homelessness application is made.
I launched a consultation on this issue which will run for a period of six weeks. Responses are requested by 28 October 2013. The consultation paper has been issued to relevant stakeholder organisations and is published online