The current commissioning process encourages a race to the bottom on price.
It means that providers like The Wallich, which endeavour to deliver high-quality, professional support services, can struggle to attract and retain project staff whilst running at a low enough cost to win tenders.
Delivering quality support for our clients is undoubtedly a demanding job, as staff are required to have advanced knowledge and skills not only in housing, but also in trauma-informed care and even how to respond to health crises.
Whilst alternately feeling like a social worker, a therapist or even a paramedic, staff pay rarely reflects such responsibilities, leaving support staff feeling demoralised and undervalued.
Whilst the current Welsh Government guidance for commissioning services through the Housing Support Grant (HSG) is strong in its evidence-based specifications of the sorts of services that make a real difference in tackling homelessness, we would like to see it go further.
We are calling for the professional status of support staff to be recognised, perhaps through accredited training and qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).
A level playing field could also be maintained through clarifying reasonable staff-to-client ratios for distinct types of support work, ensuring funding increases in line with higher numbers of referrals, retaining fair terms of employment, and enabling all service providers to pay the real living wage to all staff.
We would like to see national recognition of homelessness and housing support as a true vocation, as deserving of equal respect and remuneration as other frontline health and care workers who have also given so much to keep people safe during the coronavirus pandemic.