Over the past year, I-SPHERE’s Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, has chaired an expert panel organised by Crisis on behalf of Welsh Minister Julie James on 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.
The white paper, published by the Welsh Government this World Homelessness Day, takes on board a number of recommendations made by the panel, including:
- Enabling people to access 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.
- Ensuring that the wider public sector, including health, social services and other key public sector organisations also play a role in identifying and helping those in need of housing support.
- Improving access to social homes for homeless households by looking at how allocation systems work.
- Calling for an outdated law that limits support single people can access to be abolished.
- Offering people support to maintain a tenancy.
- Looking how the suitability of accommodation can be improved and matched to a person’s needs.
- Considering the needs of specific groups who are at increased risk of homelessness. For example, the need for early planning ahead of prisoner release.
The changes above 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% increase on last year.
Panel members hope that as the Welsh Government continues to consult on the proposed changes, the wider recommendations within the panel’s report will continue to play a central role in the Welsh Government’s deliberations and in supporting Wales’ journey to ending homelessness.
Matt Downie, CEO of Crisis 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 Homelessness 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 detailed package of reforms set out by the panel and to listen to those with lived experience of homelessness as it moves forward with 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.
“It is reassuring to see that the Welsh Government is responding to these calls with proposals for significant legal change.
“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.”
Minister for Climate Change, Julie James, said:
“I welcome the considered and comprehensive report from the Expert Review Panel, which has provided the basis of our White Paper on ending homelessness in Wales.
“I commend the panel for the collaborative, innovative and positive approach they have taken in making their recommendations and I look forward to continued partnership as we develop legislation that ensures homelessness in Wales is rare, brief and unrepeated.”
The panel report covers 171 recommendations spanning a range of issues and can be accessed here.