Posted: Thu 24th Oct 2019

Policies to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in Wales are falling short of what is required

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Oct 24th, 2019

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has called on the Welsh Government to do more to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in Wales.

Speaking in the Welsh Conservative Debate on Homelessness, Mr Isherwood supported a motion stating that “current policies to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping are falling short of what is required”.

He also criticised the Welsh Government for failing to act on warnings of a housing crisis in Wales and emphasised the need for early intervention to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping.

Speaking in the Chamber, he said: “Homelessness figures doubled during the First Assembly Term 1999-2003.

The then Welsh Assembly Government introduced non-statutory homelessness prevention measures during the Second Assembly Term to tackle this. Homelessness figures fell, but the sector reported that hidden homelessness doubled. 

“As I stated here in 2007 during the Debate on the Social Justice Committee’s report on Youth Homelessness in Wales: “Voluntary organisations state that hidden homelessness could double the Assembly Government’s homelessness figures. When we met a group of homeless young people in Old Colwyn, they told us that there was a massive shortage of affordable accommodation, and asked, ‘Where are we to go?’.

“As the young people in North Wales told us then, mediation and early intervention are needed at an earlier stage; we need to go into schools and work with families before people become homeless.

“My conclusion to that speech included “The Assembly Government must review its policy for care leavers; address the problems of homelessness in rural areas; and work with the Department for Work and Pensions to address the anomalies in the benefits system that penalise homeless people”.

“Although bricks and mortar will not alone solve the problem, it will not be solved without an ambitious house building programme.”

Mr Isherwood highlighted that when Labour first came to power in 1999 there was no housing supply crisis in Wales, but that they slashed the Social Housing Grant and cut the supply of new affordable housing by 71 per cent during their first three terms, and during the second Assembly, the housing sector came together to warn the Welsh Government there would be a housing crisis, but they didn’t listen. 

He added: “Jump forward, the latest available figures for Wales show falls in new dwellings started, private sector completions , Local Authority completions and new affordable housing units. 

“Although the latest published quarterly NHBC figures show the highest number of new UK homes registered for 12 years, up 12% on the same period last year and 14% in England, they were only up 3% in Wales. Only 3% of new homes registered were in Wales, despite having 5% of the UK population and the scale of Labour’s home-grown housing crisis here.

“Evidence on rough sleeping to the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee last week from Dr Helen Taylor, Cardiff Metropolitan University, quoted evidence from respondents ‘that just making someone a priority would not address the issues they are experiencing’. One stated ‘it won’t solve the problems by giving them somewhere to live, by giving them help, they have to want to do it’.  

“Respondents highlighted the relationship between homelessness legislation and the provision of other services, such as substance misuse services – yet successive Welsh Governments have ignored the need for residential detoxification and rehabilitation services in Wales identified in successive independent reports.” 

Mr Isherwood also referred to projects which are helping prepare young people for independent living, including the ‘Youth Shedz’ project created by young people in North Wales with Grŵp Cynefin Housing Association.

 

[Image credit – The Barnet Group]

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