Local authorities making good progress on implementing new homelessness duties
However, there is a need to focus more on tackling the underlying causes of homelessness
The latest report from the Auditor General for Wales has looked at how Local Authorities are implementing their new duties and managing the demand of homelessness working and collaborating with partners.
To address the growing numbers of homeless people, the Welsh Government introduced the Housing Act (2014) which requires local authorities and their partners to focus specifically on prevention. Our report has found that despite the new legislation and Welsh Government providing funding to deliver their new responsibilities, preventing homelessness remains challenging for many authorities.
Much of what causes homelessness is outside of the control of the Welsh Government and local authorities and is influenced by decisions made by the UK Government, especially in respect of welfare benefits. As a result, public bodies in Wales struggle to prevent homelessness. The number of people that local authorities and their partners successfully prevent from becoming homeless is beginning to fall and the number of people in temporary accommodation is rising.
To prevent homelessness from occurring local authorities and their partners need to work differently. We found however, that the changes needed to reduce much of the demand for services and prevent homelessness are not always happening. Authorities need to equip their staff with new skills and different ways of working but not all local authorities have responded effectively. Despite the additional funding, some authorities have not reviewed their services to prevent homelessness and people in Wales get very different help, depending on where they live.
More needs to be done to reduce the overall demand for services by tailoring services to deal with people much earlier especially in education, social care and other services.
Auditor General, Huw Vaughan-Thomas said today: “My report today highlights that despite the positive intentions of the Welsh Government to prevent homelessness, Local Authorities continue to focus on managing people in crisis rather than stopping them getting into crisis in the first place. To truly prevent homelessness public bodies need to take a long-term view and work with other organisations to really tackle the issues that cause homelessness. This requires a focus on, for example, better educational attainment, access to employment, well planned transition when leaving care and access to welfare benefits”