Julie James MS, Minister for Climate Change
I am proud of the approach we took in Wales during the pandemic to support people experiencing homelessness. Local authority homeless and housing support teams, together with their third and public sector partners worked tirelessly and delivered safe accommodation to minimize the harm presented by Covid 19. The ‘no one left out’ approach saved lives and accelerated our work to transform homelessness services as part of our long-term ambition to end homelessness in Wales.
I have since been clear that there can be, and will be, no going back.
Whilst this approach is the right one, I do recognise the considerable pressures in the housing system and the need therefore to develop and build on this approach as part of our wider transformation of homelessness services.
The pressures on housing services have been exacerbated by not only the pandemic, but the humanitarian crisis arising from the war in Ukraine, the cost-of-living crisis and wider inflationary pressures impacting all services. This has meant the number of people presenting to homeless services in need of support continues to be considerable. As a result, local authorities across Wales remain dependent on temporary accommodation solutions to ensure people are accommodated and are not forced to sleep rough. These temporary solutions can vary considerably, from hotel or bed and breakfast accommodation to a social or private home provided on a temporary basis.
We remain committed to moving away from the use of temporary accommodation in the longer term, but given the ongoing pressures, I recognise there is a continuing need for temporary solutions in the short term, whilst maintaining our focus on preventing homelessness in the first place, together with increasing housing supply to enable move-on from temporary accommodation.
This is why we provided an additional £6m for discretionary homelessness prevention funding to local authorities last year and have continued the funding into this year as part of the over £210m we are investing in homelessness prevention and housing support services. It is also why last summer in response to these pressures, we established the Transitional Accommodation Capital Programme (TACP) to bring forward more good quality accommodation at pace to help move people from temporary accommodation into longer term homes where they can settle. In its first year, TACP supported local authorities and Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) with £76.4million to bring forward 936 more homes, working flexibly and responsively to deliver better quality, longer-term accommodation. I am proud of the innovative and responsive approach this Programme has enabled in providing more good quality homes at pace to respond to housing pressures, including the Ukraine crisis.
I am pleased to confirm today, that working in partnership with local authorities and RSLs, we will be building on this important work this year, bringing forward more homes through further investment in TACP to reduce the numbers of people living in temporary accommodation and ensuring people in Wales have a place they can call their home.
Our immediate focus will be supporting local authorities to increase move-on from hotel or bed and breakfast accommodation and reducing the use of this particular form of temporary accommodation. We will be expanding the temporary accommodation data publication, to include a breakdown of the types of temporary accommodation being used across Wales, to support this work. Our understanding of the extent to which such settings are used across Wales, will inform and drive solutions to reduce reliance on them – and align our capital investments to support this.
Given this focus and continued investment in more homes, together with consideration of our overall ambition to end homelessness and move to rapid rehousing, I do not feel that an amendment to the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (Wales) Order 2015 would be an appropriate step or justifiable in consideration of the impact it has on the lives of people placed in Bed & Breakfasts and Hotels. As such, further to the consultation undertaken last year, the legislation will remain as it currently stands, with two- and six-week time limits in place.
We will continue to work collaboratively with our partners in local authorities, RSLs and the third sector, to be flexible, innovative and responsive, in order to collectively overcome the challenges we face and ensure people across Wales have a place to call home.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.