Financing the plan to end homelessness

photo of terraced houses on a valleys street

Platfform is supporting Cymorth Cymru and Community Housing Cymru’s call for the Welsh Government to ensure their forthcoming budget truly helps to end homelessness in Wales. We support the Homeless Action Plan and welcome the extensive work and consultation that has gone into developing it. That’s why we also want to see a budget that helps implement the action plan.

Properly thought through and focused themes in a budget can make a real difference. The three calls that Cymorth and CHC are making are considered, focused, and aim to support a theme of creating a Wales that ends homelessness. That is a call we fully support and are hoping the sector can unite behind.

There are 3 things all of our organisations want to see in the Welsh Government’s final budget:

  1. Provision of a funding settlement for at least 3 years that protects the Housing Support Grant in real terms.
  2. Investment of at least £300 million for the Social Housing Grant in the next year, to a total of £1.5 billion over the next 5 years.
  3. Ensuring that Local Authorities continue to provide emergency accommodation and support to people experiencing homelessness.

These are important to us for many reasons, which we will go through below:

The Housing Support Grant

This grant funds local authorities to support people to remain in their own homes, living independently, or living in supported accommodation. It is primarily a preventative service, aimed at preventing people from becoming homeless. It is of course ethically the right thing to do to prevent homelessness, which is a traumatic experience causing lifelong health problems. However, in financial terms this is also the right thing to do. The financial modelling and evidence shows that it costs considerably less money to prevent someone from becoming homeless than it does to deal with the consequences of that homelessness.

Research from Cardiff Metropolitan University showed that for every £1 spent on the Housing Support Grant, a net saving of £1.40 was delivered to other public services in Wales (note this wouldn’t include non-devolved spending like policing and criminal justice). Protecting this grant in real terms should be a no brainer, and allowing a 3-year funding settlement will give organisations and projects the funding stability to ensure the service can deliver on quality, without the constant worry over contracts and job insecurity.

Platfform would also go further than the campaign calls for, and we would like even longer-term financial planning than just 3 years. There are many contracts local authorities have commissioned that last longer than 3 years, and we would like to see longer arrangements become the norm. We want to see an end to short termism and create more sustainable and positive change. Providers should be trusted and contracts co-produced with sustainable resourcing to really embed the ethos of preventing people from becoming homeless within the housing system. Too often we have found that contracts focus on administration and reporting of tasks rather than measuring and monitoring what matters.

The Social Housing Grant

The Social Housing Grant is the main capital grant used to fund the construction, renovation, or repair of social and affordable housing in Wales, be it through Local Authorities or Housing Associations. Although the amount of social housing has increased in recent years, the annual number of new homes completed in the social housing sector is around 1,200. In 2016, the Public Policy Institute for Wales estimated that Wales needed between 3,300 and 4,200 new units each year in the social sector to meet estimated demands over the next decade. Almost 3 times what is currently being delivered.

This is why we support the calls to increase the budget. This budget is classed as ‘capital’ spending and ideal for financing through borrowing – as such increasing it won’t require cuts to other frontline services. It will also generate a direct return in terms of rent, and significantly assist in helping meet other objectives such as delivering a housing first model within the homelessness system.

Ensuring that Local Authorities continue to provide emergency accommodation

During the pandemic, there was an increased focus on getting people away from rough sleeping and into emergency accommodation. This was largely as a result of the emergency situation clearing the usual barriers and bureaucratic processes that had hitherto prevented the housing of rough sleepers. However, the initial momentum and cooperation that characterised the initial efforts has fallen away, with some services reverting to previous behaviours. So, we think it is vital that the budget for next year continues to ensure that funding is available to provide emergency accommodation – as part of the transition process to a housing first model we support.

As well as budgets, we need real partnership working to sit alongside resourcing. This is essential in delivering services that will make a real difference. We also need to challenge the postcode lottery that sees people eligible for support in some areas, but not in others, and change the system to ensure everyone is treated as an individual and entitled to support. It will take more than budgets alone to tackle these challenges. But by ensuring the 3 calls of the campaign are adopted by the Welsh Government, we can continue the positive work of recent years in changing our homelessness system.