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Progress despite the pandemic

Catherine May gives an update on progress on private renting and mental health almost two years after Tyfu Tai Cymru made recommendations.

In February 2019 Tyfu Tai Cymru published a report which identified a series of actions to improve the provision of mental health support for tenants and landlords in the private rented sector. The report was produced in partnership with Tai Pawb and based on surveys of landlords, agents and support agencies for tenants.

The housing minister welcomed the findings of the report and Tyfu Tai Cymru and Tai Pawb have been working alongside the Welsh Government to deliver on the recommendations.

While we are really pleased with the progress that has been made like so much else this work has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.

The delivery plan aligns the actions with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. Supporting tenants with mental health problems to access or remain in the private rented sector contributes to the achievement of the well-being goals of a healthier Wales  by ensuring eople’s well-being is maximised and a more equal Wales by enabling people to fulfil their potential no matter what their background or circumstances.

One of the key findings of the Tyfu Tai Cymru report was that nearly half of all landlords felt that there is never enough support and information for them to support tenants with mental health problems. In response to our online survey, landlords highlighted their preference for an online survey to improve the provision of information which relates to local support services.

In response to this, Welsh Government agreed that Rent Smart Wales will produce a directory of local and national support services which they will populate, host and regularly update on the Rent Smart Wales website. This was to be launched this year but is on hold.

The second recommendation was that re-licencing through Rent Smart Wales should require all private sector landlords to complete a module on mental health to improve their knowledge of how to access support for tenants with mental health problems. Rent Smart Wales has subsequently developed an online equalities training package for landlords and managing agents which contains a module on mental health awareness. It also undertook a consultation to seek views from landlords and agents about their training needs and this information was used to support the development of further bespoke mental health training.

Information received from the consultation has been used to develop mental health training for landlords and agents which will be delivered via e- learning and will contribute to CPD (points for this will be counted towards the training requirement for relicensing).

Our next recommendation was that all local authorities should develop crisis/emergency housing-related support services for people with mental health problems in the private rented sector in order to support tenants to stay in their own homes. Welsh Government included the following actions in the Together for Mental Health delivery plan for the period 2019-2022:

Firstly, to work with local authorities and local health boards to develop best practice guidance on joint commissioning of tenure neutral support services to provide emergency support to allow people to stay in their own homes and avoid evictions.

Secondly, that through learning from evaluation and best practice, work with local authorities and local health boards to develop joint working protocols, including the development of assertive outreach approaches, multi-agency case conferences and urgent/crisis referral routes. This has been updated to review new measures implemented as a result of the response to Covid-19 and to support the trial of new approaches to working in partnership to support rough sleepers and people who are homeless or who are at risk of homelessness.

A further recommendation set out that the Welsh Government must explore and address instances of discrimination against people with mental health problems trying to access and sustain private rented sector housing following the finding of a high occurrence of letting agents/landlords putting the phone down on potential tenants when a mental health condition and/or presence of a support worker is mentioned. Welsh Government was undertaking a communications campaign to normalise behaviour to reduce stigma. This has been delayed and funding diverted to deal with the s pandemic.

We are really pleased that progress has been made against our recommendations despite the many challenges of 2020. Nearly two years on, we can see the issues have been taken seriously and some advances have been made.

We will continue to urge Welsh Government to develop activities that will overcome the challenges faced by landlords and tenants with mental health problems.

Tyfu Tai Cymru is a five-year housing policy project managed by the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru (CIH) which is focussed on providing analysis and filling evidence gaps to support housing policy progression in Wales.

Catherine May is Tyfu Tai Cymru manager. The report is available at  www.cih.org/publications/private-renting-and-mental-health-a-way-forward


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