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Housing Networks: Working together, solving together

Simon Rose and Nigel Stannard outline changes to the WLGA Housing Networks and what they mean for work on homelessness and Supporting People.

Transforming services and meeting the challenges faced by residents within our communities are stretching all public services across Wales.

Local authorities have collectively addressed numerous key issues and improved performance through innovation, collaboration and sheer determination to make a difference. This is clearly evident around the provision of homelessness and Supporting People services where local authorities have collectively made significant changes to services provided, diverting available resources to frontline service provision across key areas to address local, regional and national needs.

In any partnership, there needs to be something to ‘glue’ things together and Welsh Government and the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), through the National Housing Networks Project, have provided this ‘glue’ providing support and direction at this key time of change for local authorities and partner agencies across a range of sectors, enabling them to grow with revised legislation and changing policy directions.

The work of the project cannot be under-estimated in how services have been transformed over the years leading up to the legislative changes contained with the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 and since its implementation, playing pivotal roles in developing the legislation, delivering key training and messages as well as devising models of joint working and innovative services with a host of agencies. The work of Welsh Government, WLGA, local authorities and partners have clearly had an influence on others as central government has introduced the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, mirroring many of the elements of the legislation in Wales, introduced in 2015.

The ‘glue’ is well and truly embedded within the Supporting People and homelessness agendas, with local authorities having a clear link with Welsh Government through the Housing Networks Project. This link is to become greater as local authorities are collectively taking responsibility for overseeing the project, with Newport City Council taking the lead with an over-arching steering group directing the project plan alongside WelshGovernment officials.

The work remains the same – tackling and alleviating homelessness, ensuring that individuals are supported to sustain accommodation. It all sounds simple in its overall concept but in practice it requires significant planning, re-shaping and re-focusing services to address the changing needs and demands on them, with the annual work plan addressing the identified key issues as well as also providing direction on issues that may arise throughout the course of the year.

This year’s plan sees several key themes focusing on making the best use of resources, ensuring relevant and effective training is provided, to work acrossWalesto implement the outcomes from key reports and research as well as contributing to the flexible funding pilot projects where practicable. Critical to any evaluation around work undertaken is the quality of data and a key action is to seek to ensure that data collection across the 22 local authority areas is consistent and robust, which in turn will then aid the future monitoring of the local homelessness strategies, which must be completed by December 2018, informing the national policy direction.

Specific areas cannot be overlooked and themes around tackling rough sleeping, addressing youth homelessness, developing partnership working and developing approaches modelled on Housing First are key objectives across Wales, as is the outcome and implementation of the Supported Accommodation Review and development of the private rented sector and how local authorities can work more effectively in this area to meet growing demands and challenges.

There is clear ambition, drive and commitment from agencies to address the issues and rise to the challenges that are in front of us. Services across Wales work closer than ever before and deliver positive outcomes, making clear differences to people’s lives on a daily basis.

The critical roles are those of people working across all of the Housing and Supporting People sector who, on a daily basis,are making the real difference to people’s lives. Butwithout the ‘glue’ the difference would not be as noteworthy and it is hoped that the changes will further bind services and authorities more closely across Wales to address the challenges still to come.

Simon Rose is housing needs manager and Nigel Stannard is Supporting People lead officer at Newport City Council, which now hosts the WLGA Housing Networks

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