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White Paper sets out plans to end homelessness in Wales

Climate change minister Julie James chose World Homelessness Day to introduce a White Paper that sets out how the Welsh Government plans to end homelessness in Wales.

The proposals focus on improving prevention and early intervention, through the introduction of a package of reforms to create significant change to the existing Welsh homelessness and housing system.

Through legislative reform, the Welsh Government says:

  • The risk of homelessness will be prevented at the earliest possible stage and responsibility for identification and prevention will be shared across Welsh public services
  • Local Housing Authorities will offer a person-centred, trauma-informed service that is led by the needs of those facing homelessness
  • Those most likely to be impacted by homelessness will benefit from bespoke proposals to mitigate their risk.

The White Paper is heavily based on the findings of an Independent Expert Review Panel who were asked to review existing legislation and make recommendations to the Welsh Government.

Julie James said: ‘This White Paper delivers our long-held view that homelessness is not just a housing issue. It sets out a radical and ambitious plan to ensure all services work together to spot the risk of homelessness early and take action to stop it from happening.  For those who remain at risk, services will be co-ordinated in their response; to ensure the right help is in place, delivered by the right people, at the right time.

Designated Member Sian Gwenllian added: ‘This White Paper sets out new proposals to end homelessness so that everyone has a home they can all their own and never finds themselves homeless.

‘We are committed to new legal reforms and ways of working that will make a real difference to people’s lives and improve how we support some of the most vulnerable in our society.’

Homelessness charity Crisis and leading academic Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick from Heriot-Watt University  welcomed the White Paper as bringing forward a number of recommended bold and progressive changes to the law to help end homelessness in Wales.

Over the past year, Crisis was invited by the minister to co-ordinate the expert panel, chaired by Professor Fitzpatrick, to consider how legislative change could help end homelessness in Wales.

The panel’s work was informed by the views of more than 300 people with lived experience of homelessness and wide engagement with professionals across the sector and beyond.

Crisis said the White Paper takes on board a number of suggestions made by the panel, including recommendations to:

  • Provide support to prevent homelessness much earlier, so that people threatened with homelessness within six months can access support as opposed to the current 56 days.
  • Ensure the wider public sector, including health and social services, play a role in identifying and helping those in need of housing support.
  • Improve access to social homes for homeless households by looking at how allocation systems work.
  • Abolish an outdated law that limits support single people can access.
  • Offer people support to maintain a tenancy.

Crisis said the changes, among others, seek to learn from approaches in other nations and, combined, show a world-leading ambition for ending homelessness at a crucial time as rates of homelessness are increasing. The most recent statistics show that more than 12,500 people were supported by local authorities across Wales over the last year, a 7 per cent increase on last year.

Panel members hope that as the Welsh Government consults on and shapes the proposed changes, the wider recommendations and detail within the panel’s report will continue to play a central role in the Welsh Government’s deliberations and in supporting Wales’s journey to ending homelessness.

Matt Downie, Crisis chief executive and panel member, said: ‘Everyone needs a safe place to call home and yet every day we see people who are facing impossible situations – sofa surfing, staying for months on end in places that were only ever meant to provide emergency shelter, and some who have been sleeping on the street.

‘As the numbers of people experiencing homelessness in Wales continue to rise, bold action is needed.

‘We’re thrilled to see the Welsh Government showing real vision by taking such bold action this World Homeless Day, setting out its intention to move forward with a number of significant changes to the law.

‘We urge others to back this legislation and help make it a reality, because the results would be truly life-changing.

‘While there’s a long journey ahead to put the detail onto these proposals and see these changes on legislative books and put into practice, the ambition shown today is world-leading. We urge the Welsh Government to continue to consider the comprehensive package of reforms set out by the panel and to listen to those with lived experience of homelessness as it moves forward with outlining the detail of these changes. Together we can end homelessness in Wales.’

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, who chaired the panel, said: ‘It’s abundantly clear that these are challenging times for housing in Wales. Over the past year, the panel has heard powerful calls for change from people with lived experience of homelessness as well as those who work on the frontline.

‘We hope that the panel’s report, which includes detailed recommendations on changes to the law, will continue to form a key part of the Welsh Government’s considerations as it moves forward and establishes the detail behind the ambitions set out today.’

Katie Dalton, director of Cymorth Cymru and panel member, added: ‘As part of our role on the Expert Review Panel, it has been a privilege to engage with over 300 people who have experienced or been at risk of homelessness, listening to their views on how the law needs to change. We are incredibly grateful for their time and expertise, and I am delighted that their views were taken so seriously by the panel and had such a significant impact on the report and recommendations.

‘Experts by experience shared stories of trauma and frustration with the current system, but spoke with passion about their desire to influence and improve it for other people. They were clear that things need to change.’


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