The Home stretch: Last calls for the Senedd 2021 elections
When we launched our Home manifesto back in November, there were still doubts as to whether the Senedd 2021 elections would go ahead in May.
We have learnt throughout the pandemic that things can change very quickly. However, our manifesto has stood strong against the uncertain political landscape. As we now hurtle towards the confirmed 6 May voting date, we reflect on our calls to the next Welsh Government for creating a better Wales for all.
Invest for future generations
This election is about defining Wales’ path out of the challenges that the pandemic has posed to every one of us. Central to that will be investment.
Capital investment should be prioritised and measured according to the impact it can have on future generations to support a shift to an economy that is founded on wellbeing principles. A 5-year, £1.5bn investment programme of 20,000 new energy-efficient social homes by the next Welsh Government would support over 7,000 jobs and 3,000 training opportunities across Wales and produce almost £2bn of economic output.
In order to reach Welsh Government net-zero targets, a 10-year £4bn stimulus package, backed by a mix of public and private funding, will be needed. Housing associations are ambitious to retrofit their existing stock so that all of their tenants can benefit from low carbon, warm homes that are affordable to run.
It is also essential that spending is rebalanced away from crisis to long term prevention. Only 15-20% of a nation’s health and wellbeing is dependent on healthcare services and yet over 50% of the Welsh Government budget is allocated to health spending, with 74% of that spend focused on acute services.
Over the next Senedd term, in order to support a sustainable path towards prosperity for all in Wales, we are calling for the next Welsh Government to identify transition funds that are necessary to support the shift to a preventative approach. As an example, this should include a 3-year transition fund to transform the way we alleviate homelessness based on rapid rehousing and Housing First.
Shared action for shared challenges
The most devastating symptom of our combined public health and housing crisis is homelessness, which requires concerted and coordinated effort from across the public sector and their partners. Better join-up with community partners, such as housing associations, could provide support at a much earlier stage, preventing an escalation to crisis point, keeping people in their homes and communities for as long as possible.
As such, the next Welsh Government needs to prioritise action to bridge the implementation gap between high-level strategy and delivery so that partners and public services can better work together to deliver services and share information to improve the wider determinants of health.
Places people want to live
We need to recognise that the housing crisis has widespread implications for people and places. It can delay hospital discharge, it can stop people working or learning from home because of lack of internet connection or a lack of appropriate space, it can compound poverty via eye-watering energy bills.
All around our homes, we have seen the desertification of town centres accelerate due to the pandemic. We all deserve to live in a place that is visually welcoming and serves a purpose to enable a thriving community. The next Welsh Government should develop an overarching and enabling strategy for town centres that have homes at their heart, empowering local communities to make decisions about how to maximise this opportunity. This should include greater flexibility within the planning process to allow local places to be agile in their response to changing demand and consumer habits and encourage experimentation in the use of empty properties.
Having been inside our homes more than ever over the last year, a fast and reliable internet connection is non-negotiable. At a time when accessing health services, speaking to family and friends, working or accessing education mostly takes place online, the next Welsh Government should put in place measures to end digital exclusion, including upgrading requirements for all new homes to include digital connectivity as standard.
Finally, it is an ever-increasing challenge for the social care sector to deliver high quality, person-centred care to support people to remain independent in their own homes. The sector needs to be driven by value, rather than cost and it needs to be able to have the resources to deliver improved outcomes for citizen users, the workforce and social value to communities. This is why we would like to see the next Welsh Government increase social care funding for local authorities, including recognising the important work of care workers by paying at least the Real Living Wage.
With just under a month to go until polling day, the political parties are beginning to release their manifestos. Although we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, each party will want to demonstrate their longer-term thinking as well as their covid recovery plans. This election presents an opportunity to take a fresh look at old challenges, to raise ambitions and to come back stronger. We hope to see a real motivation for change.
CHC’s ‘Home’ manifesto was co-developed with almost 100 organisations, including housing associations and partners from the public, private and third sectors from across Wales.