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Watchdog urges action on homelessness prevention

More work is needed to prevent homelessness despite good progress so far, says the Wales Audit Office (WAO).

A report by the financial watchdog says that much of what causes homelessness is outside the control of councils and Welsh Government and is influenced by decisions at Westminster.

However, it says local authorities can do more to improve their services and found considerable variation in how councils are responding to their new prevention duties in the Housing (Wales) Act:

‘Better performing authorities recognise that how services are structured and delivered can encourage and create unnecessary demand, which requires new and very different ways of working to successfully prevent homelessness. ‘However, many authorities are yet
to strategically review their services to improve their effectiveness in preventing homelessness or changing citizens’ behaviour.’

The WAO also found that while Welsh Government grant funding had supported local authorities to implement their new duties overall funding on homelessness and housing advice services has fallen in real terms.

It went on:

‘This is concerning as citizens we surveyed have low levels of satisfaction with homeless services, rating them as the poorest quality service that local authorities provide.’

The impact of new duties on social services and housing associations to collaborate with local authorities on prevention ‘has been negligible in many areas and partners are not always contributing to the prevention of homelessness’.

And while national data shows successes in preventing homelessness, the WAO says ‘the levels of successful prevention work is beginning to decline and the numbers threatened with homelessness and requiring temporary accommodation are growing’.

In a series of recommendations, the WAO urges local authorities to ensure new skills for staff, reconfigure services to engage more effectively with homelessness and review funding as well as improving the design and monitoring of services.

Auditor General, Huw Vaughan-Thomas said:

‘My report today highlights that despite the positive intentions of the Welsh Government to prevent homelessness, local authorities continue to focus on managing people in crisis rather than stopping them getting into crisis in the first place.

‘To truly prevent homelessness public bodies need to take a long-term view and work with other organisations to really tackle the issues that cause homelessness. This requires a focus on, for example, better educational attainment, access to employment, well planned transition when leaving care and access to welfare benefits.’


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