Scrutiny Committee pleased with accelerated plans to tackle homelessness during the pandemic

The Scrutiny Programme Committee met with the Cabinet Member for Homes, Energy & Service Transformation and discussed progress with the implementation of the Homelessness Strategy 2018-22, since adoption by Cabinet in November 2019.

The Committee wanted to explore how the new Strategy has delivered improvement to services, advice and support, both in preventing homelessness and in dealing with it where it exists; and what impact the pandemic has had.

The Committee heard that due to the pandemic there has been a suspension of the ‘Priority Need’ test to ensure that local authorities were able to tackle homelessness with a level of urgency. There has been a dramatic fall in the number of rough sleepers since the start of the pandemic however, this resulted in an increase in the number of people placed in temporary accommodation. The Committee heard that additional costs have been covered by Welsh Government’s Emergency COVID Fund.

The Committee noted that it is possible that the Welsh Government will enact legislation to abolish the ‘Priority Need’ test, and should this happen, there will be an impact on current policy around housing allocations and points system, and put pressure on resources.

There has been a sharp decrease in the number of rough sleepers from 15-20 during 2019 to 2-3 currently however, the Committee expressed concern that the numbers may rise as we come out of the pandemic.

The Committee heard that the Council has successfully bid for £5.4million from the Welsh Government’s Phase 2 Homelessness capital funding to increase the amount of one bed accommodation. This funding will also help to provide additional support, with a particular focus on rapid rehousing, mental health and substance misuse.

The Committee also discussed issues including:

  • Ongoing negotiations with the Home Office in relation to staggered refugee move on from Home Office accommodation in order to reduce strain on temporary accommodation.
  • The Council embedding a ‘PIE’ approach (Psychologically Informed Environment) within the Homelessness Service
  • The development of a Youth Homelessness Charter to provide support for care leavers and focus on not placing families in Bed & Breakfast accommodation and looking at housing provision beyond one-bed units and efforts to avoid moving children around schools unnecessarily

Overall the Committee was very impressed with the work that has gone to deliver homelessness services and support, in face of difficult challenges. The committee praised the hard work of all staff during the pandemic; working together to deal with homelessness under increased pressures and changes in service delivery.

To view this recorded meeting and find out more details about what was discussed at this meeting please click here.

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