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Cymorth Cymru featue

Getting our house in order

The Housing Act and Supporting People topped the agenda in a busy three months at Cymorth Cymru

AS THE NEW YEAR approaches, many in the housing sector are preparing for Wales’ first Housing Act, which comes into force in April 2015. The Act will dramatically change the housing policy landscape and, with its focus on prevention, will have a significant impact on the way we collectively tackle homelessness.

Cymorth Cymru has been working closely with members to help the sector get its house in order and ensure the new legislation delivers for vulnerable people.

Life Begins at Home 2014

On 10 October, World Homeless Day, Cymorth Cymru kicked off its annual Life Begins at Home campaign.

Cymorth members and partners play a crucial role in preventing homelessness. They are not always well known to the public, but the support they provide is hugely important and helps people to build the kinds of lives we all want for ourselves, our friends and families. Life Begins at Home was set up to raise awareness of these services and highlight why people may face difficulty in maintaining a stable home.

This year, we decided to capitalise on the power of social media by asking people to write down what home means to them, take a photograph and share on social media using #lifebeginsathome.

The concept of home is universal and the use of social media enabled us to get lots of people engaged with the campaign – both from within the sector and from further afield. We had a great response, reaching 300,000 Twitter accounts with over 200 contributors, including people who are currently accessing support services.

What became clear is that, while ‘home’ symbolises different things to different people, having somewhere to call home was important to everyone taking part. Having a secure home is a crucial foundation for building happy, successful, independent lives.

Homelessness Symposium 2014

In October, Cymorth hosted an event to help organisations prepare for the Housing (Wales) Act by bringing together speakers and delegates from across the UK to discuss policy, practice and innovation in homelessness provision and prevention.

In a video address, Lesley Griffiths, the new minister for communities and tackling poverty, hailed the Act as ‘the most important reform for housing legislation in 40 years’ and acknowledged the role the sector has to play in effectively implementing the legislation. The minister also emphasised that reducing homelessness is a key priority for both her and the Welsh Government and signalled her commitment to building closer links between homelessness services and the Supporting People programme.

Cymorth Cymru director Auriol Miller hailed the symposium as a ‘great opportunity to compare how policy is developing differently across the nations, share good practice and explore new ways of working.’ Auriol emphasised that Cymorth welcomes the new legislation, in particular ‘the emphasis on preventative work and the extra £4.9 million going into Homelessness to prepare for the new prevention duty.’ However, she also voiced concerns about the proposed additional cuts to Supporting People services and the potential impact this could have on the lives of already vulnerable people.

Supporting People campaign

Following the announcement of the Welsh Government’s draft budget for 2015/16, Cymorth Cymru expressed its disappointment at the news that the Supporting People programme was to face a cut of nearly £10 million. This cut was almost double what had been signalled by the Welsh Government in its indicative budget.

Whilst everyone acknowledges that the Welsh Government has had some very difficult decisions to make on budgets, the sector was extremely disappointed to learn of such a marked difference between last December’s indicative figures and those published in the draft budget.

A cut of nearly £10 million will impact on some of the most disadvantaged people in Wales who often fall through the cracks of statutory services. Cymorth put this to AMs in our ‘3 Reasons to Protect SP’ campaign which highlighted the cost avoidance to other areas of public spending achieved by the SP programme. We relayed the same message to the Finance Committee when we gave evidence on the draft budget, emphasising that cutting the budget

for a programme which is focused on homelessness prevention is counterintuitive when prevention is the linchpin of the forthcoming homelessness legislation.

We are pleased that the committee’s report recommends that the budget for the Supporting People Programme is reconsidered. These services play a crucial role in providing disadvantaged and at risk people with practical support to live independent, fulfilled lives – a key aim of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. 

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