Julie James MS, Minister for Housing and Local Government
In July 2019 I established an expert Homelessness Action Group to examine a number of key questions, including the framework of measures and policies needed to end homelessness in Wales. The group, chaired by Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, has undertaken detailed work and engagement over this time and I am pleased to today publish their third and final report. I want to take the opportunity to thank each and every member of the group for their involvement in this valuable work. They have given their time and enormous expertise to assist us in our shared goal of ending homelessness in Wales. I also want to thank the many stakeholders and service users who the group engaged with throughout their work; your input has ensured the recommendations are grounded in lived experience.
The second and most comprehensive report of the group, examining the framework of policies and measures needed to end homelessness, was published earlier this year just as our focus was shifting to the Covid-19 pandemic response. The third and final report, which is published today, examines rapid re-housing and local partnerships. All three reports contain recommendations for Welsh Government, which I am pleased to accept in principle, and we will continue the work already underway across Government to determine how best they can be implemented in practice. Whilst the group has now completed its work, my officials will continue to draw on the expertise of individual group members as we move forward with the report recommendations. I will provide further details on the specific actions underway or proposed in regard to the various recommendations in due course.
It is also important to note that the first and second reports of the Homelessness Action Group have of course already been used to inform our homelessness response to the Covid-19 pandemic; in particular they have informed our Phase 2 guidance and the transformational approach it sets out. I announced in July an additional £50m this year to support this approach, both to ensure those brought into temporary accommodation could be supported into permanent homes, but also to begin the transformation of services. I recognise this is simply the start, and as is clearly set out in the work of the Homelessness Action Group, further investment will be needed to continue this transformation next year and beyond if we are to achieve our goal of ending homelessness.
I also want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the housing teams and support workers in local authorities and the third sector who have been working tirelessly to support some of our most vulnerable people during this pandemic. The latest published data brings the number of people supported into temporary accommodation since March to over 3,200. Lives have undoubtedly been saved, and it is thanks to the efforts of staff whose hard work and dedication all too often goes unnoticed - thank you.
Collectively, we have demonstrated what can be achieved when we work together and I am determined that there will be no going back. We need to build on the progress made this year, with the next steps being underpinned by the work of the Homelessness Action Group. Also informing our next steps will be the recently published report, which I commissioned last year, on the implications of making changes to Priority Need. It is vital that the policy and legislative framework supports our transformational agenda and we will be examining the potential need for legislative reform as part of the next steps.
We have unfortunately seen a recent increase in the numbers of people sleeping rough, demonstrating once again the need for continued assertive outreach and a continuing intensive effort not only to support people off the streets but to ensure the appropriate wrap around support is in place to help them succeed and thrive
Whilst some of the previous lockdown measures may have eased, the importance of a home in order to be able to adhere to public health advice and stay safe remains unchanged. We continue to advise that no-one, including those who have No Recourse to Public Funds, should be left without appropriate emergency accommodation or support during the pandemic. Local authorities remain able to access additional funding to support this inclusive approach and on average £1.6m additional funding is being claimed per month – so around £20m additional funding for this emergency response for 2020/21.
Whilst our response to the pandemic has necessarily focused on the acute end of homelessness, we also continue to work across Government to take forward earlier intervention and preventative activity, so that people do not become homeless in the first place. As I set out in our Strategy for Ending Homelessness, and is reiterated in the Homelessness Action Group Report, this is a public service issue and therefore requires a whole system response.
Our goal remains to make homelessness rare, brief and un-repeated. Collectively we have made considerable strides forward this year and begun the transformation required to end homelessness in Wales. We remain rightly ambitious and optimistic that together we can achieve this goal.