£20 million Welsh homelessness fund announced: The Wallich response

29 May 2020

At The Wallich we were thrilled to hear Welsh Government Housing and Local Government Minister Julie James announce a new commitment of £20 million ‘to ensure no-one need return to streets’.

Lindsay Cordery-Bruce, CEO of The Wallich says;

“We have campaigned hard alongside other organisations and made clear asks of government to ensure that there is no cliff edge back into homelessness following the end of COVID-19 lockdown arrangements.

“The sector has spoken and we have been heard.

“The circumstances that brought us here are without doubt distressing, but this crisis has presented us with a unique opportunity to fix one of the greatest human emergencies of our time.

“We welcome this funding and this government commitment and hope it will be followed by decisive policy decisions and concrete actions.”

Government commitment

The Welsh Government has acknowledged today that whilst the work done during lockdown by all agencies in partnership has been extremely successful in bringing homeless people into emergency accommodation, we have not ended homelessness for those people.

We should be justly optimistic about what has been achieved, but not complacent. Homelessness has not gone away during this pandemic.

However, visibility is important in proposing solutions. It’s fair to say, for possibly the first time, we have the clearest picture of homelessness in Wales ever. Some local authorities who reported zero people sleeping rough in the two-week count last October have accommodated tens of street homeless people during lockdown.

We welcome the commitment by the Welsh Government to ensure that no-one returns to the streets. £20 million in funding, and this Phase 2 plan from Welsh Government is the first step towards achieving that. The recommendations of the Homelessness Action Group have been closely followed and we are very proud to have contributed to this important work.

We are delighted to see a full adoption of a psychologically-informed and trauma-informed approach to delivery and to commissioning. We relish the opportunity to work with local authorities where we operate across Wales on truly innovative, groundbreaking services to ensure that the work started during the pandemic is continued and the people who have been helped are not now left behind.

We’re also pleased to see an acknowledgement that local authorities and their support partners need to continue to operate with a spirit of trust and openness, offering flexibility to help each other achieve the shared vision of ending homelessness.

We now need a commitment to systemic change to remove the barriers that are leaving people unable to get out of the cycle of homelessness such as the abolition of priority need, intentionality, local connection and the use of the Vagrancy Act.

Removing barriers has seemingly been achieved during these unprecedented times, and it must continue, and continue at pace. In particular, local authorities remain concerned that immigration law could prevent them acting to provide further support to some people who have been brought inside for the first time during the pandemic. Although they were able to provide emergency accommodation in hotels on public health grounds, where individuals have been granted leave to remain in the UK with no recourse to public funds, authorities will be unable to provide support to get them into permanent homes. As this is not devolved to Wales, the UK Home Office needs to urgently review this legislation to prevent people returning to the streets.

Welsh Government has challenged local authorities and partners to think quickly and innovatively about accommodation options and the utilization of Modern Methods of Construction. The Government have been clear that ’floorspace’ is no longer acceptable, and that offering someone a sleeping bag when they are on the streets is not enough.

Social housing rent arrears are up £100m since the coronavirus outbreak  and more than 54% of landlords have experienced some form of income drop as a direct result of coronavirus. The people we support need long term sustainable homes and support to overcome the challenges they face.

So for now, we wait, with cautious optimism, for local authority plans to be developed and stand ready to play our part in ending homelessness in Wales, for good.

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