Today the Welsh Government has announced the budget for the Housing Support Grant in 2020/21. Will Atkinson explains why this funding is vital.
Homelessness has reached crisis point across the United Kingdom. In Wales, the number of households recorded as being threatened with homelessness increased by a third between 2015-2018. Worse still, the number of people becoming homeless and requiring assistance has increased by nearly a half, despite the prevention rate increasing due to the hard work of councils, housing associations and support providers.
While the increase of rough sleepers on our streets has drawn attention from the public, there are many people who aren’t as visible; living in hostels or BnBs and sleeping on sofas. The problem is getting worse.
On Friday the Welsh Government released figures showing 2,307 households in Wales are in temporary accommodation (figures from 30th September). This is the highest figure since the introduction of the Housing (Wales) Act in 2015. What’s more, Shelter has estimated that 135,000 families with children will be living in temporary accommodation across Britain this Christmas, very much homeless and only inches away from roofless in some cases.
It is against this backdrop that Welsh Government has outlined a bold, cross public sector approach to ending homelessness. Assisted by the work of the Homeless Action Group, convened by the Minister for Housing and Local Government to recommend and take action to end homelessness, significant measures are being put in place to stem the increase in homelessness, and to reverse it. Housing associations have risen to this challenge.
Every housing association in Wales places tackling homelessness at their core. Significant investment and energy is driven into sustaining tenancies and providing housing to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. But we recognise that all partners must go further if we are to end homelessness in Wales. For housing associations, this means laying out bold ambitions:
- We will work together with partners including councils and the health service to ensure that no one becomes homeless as a result of leaving social housing
- Housing associations are implementing psychologically informed approaches to housing management, to support tenants and prevent the issues that can lead to eviction
- Our members are spearheading the rollout of Housing First in Wales, revolutionising the approach to supporting people who are homeless off the streets.
We have the political will to deliver on these ambitions, and housing associations have the drive and skill to implement them. The final piece in the puzzle are the resources needed for the more intensive housing related support necessary.
Unfortunately, this is where the tipping point is for many of these services which are a lifeline for thousands living in Wales. Funding for housing related support in Wales has decreased by £15 million since 2011, a decrease in real terms of £37 million after inflation. Housing associations and support providers have worked tirelessly to ensure efficiency and reconfigure services to keep providing support to those who most need it, but services are becoming less intensive, or worse, decommissioned.
We know that difficult decisions are made in every budget, with a range of public services in need of additional investment. The continued investment in the Housing Support Grant will enable housing associations and support providers to keep delivering vital services, but on an increasingly threadbare basis.
Investing in housing related support is proven to save money elsewhere across the budget. For every £1 invested, £2.30 is saved across the NHS and other public services. We will continue to work with Welsh Government to make the case for increased investment in the Housing Support Grant throughout the budget setting process, particularly if promised investments in England lead to increased resources for Wales.
Supported accommodation has a vital part to play in the future of public service delivery. Our population is ageing and current pressures are manifesting in increased homelessness, poor mental health and lack of resilience. Without quality, innovative support services, the load on the NHS and social care will only worsen. Our supported accommodation in Wales is healthy in comparison to other UK nations, we must keep it this way.