As Wales’ largest homelessness and rough sleeping charity, we’re working flat out to protect isolated and at-risk members of society through the COVID-19 crisis. But we can’t do it alone, we believe Welsh Government and UK Government could do more to help everyone stay safe.
Since the UK Government declared ‘lockdown’ on 23 March, The Wallich has continued to operate 24 of our most critical services across Wales, ensuring that our service users are able to safely self-isolate as required.
Whilst we have seen countless examples of kindness and solidarity from government bodies, third sector partners and the public, we have identified the below five things that we need in order to continue our vital support work.
Just as health and social care workers are working with vulnerable members of society, our outreach and residential staff are providing critical support services for individuals with extremely complex needs, and it is vital that they know if there is any risk of infection.
Simply put, we would not be able to deliver these essential services without a healthy workforce, and testing is the only way we can be certain that staff are fit to work.
Due to global shortages in personal protective equipment, we are unable to fully provide our staff with everything they need to stay safe and reduce the risk of infection.
Just as with tests for the coronavirus, our frontline staff must be considered a priority by government in order to continue delivering critical services, otherwise more individuals could find themselves living on the streets.
Whilst we understand and accept that the police and local authorities are being granted additional powers for the duration of the crisis in order to protect the health of the public, we are adamant that those experiencing homelessness, particularly those sleeping rough, must not be disproportionately affected by these emergency powers.
It is not acceptable that individuals sleeping rough could be moved on by police if their personal circumstances mean that they have nowhere safe to go.
We welcome the commitment and the funding from Welsh Government and local authorities to provide emergency accommodation for people who are sleeping rough, and will work with all partners in order to ensure every individual who needs it is able to take advantage of this provision.
We also ask that we take this opportunity to engage with individuals to assess their support needs, with a view to finding long-term sustainable accommodation.We must not see people pushed back onto the streets once this crisis comes to an end and the emergency provision is no longer available.
As we consider the early release of low risk offenders from prisons in Wales, now more than ever, we must be certain that people are not being released into a state of homelessness.
HM Prisons & Probation Services must ensure each individual they release has a stable home they can return to, and, if not, make a referral to the local authority and homelessness services to find emergency accommodation.
Ask them to support our requests and help keep everyone safe.
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If you have any questions or comments about the services we provide across Wales, you can contact our Policy & Public Affairs team via email@example.com