ITV News' Rhys Williams has this report as the Welsh homelessness crisis worsens while charities warn of total collapse
A group of 90 Welsh charities say the homelessness sector is at risk of collapse due to a surge in demand and successive real term budget cuts by the Welsh government. The body which represents the charities has told ITV News that more than three quarters of its members are running statutory services at a loss and are using emergency reserves to plug the gap. Cymorth Cymru and Community Housing Cymru says without an urgent increase in the Housing Support Grant (HSG), which funds the vast majority of support for the homeless in Wales, the entire system will collapse. The Welsh government’s Housing Support Grant currently stands at £167million, more than 12% (£24million) less in real terms than it was a decade ago. The Welsh government says it recognises the immense pressures facing frontline services but froze its Housing Support Grant due to an extraordinarily difficult budgetary position.
We spent an evening with Helping our Homeless in Wales, a self-funded charity currently seeing a huge rise in the number of people coming to them for support.
Volunteer Kelly De-Winton says: “Thirty people would have been a busy night for us but in the last six months we are seeing around 80 people a night”.
According to the latest homelessness statistics, the number of people rough sleeping and in temporary accommodation are at an all-time high. A total of 12,537 households were assessed as homeless last year, an increase of 7% in a year. Last month the Welsh government introduced a white paper with “world leading” legislative changes aimed at “abolishing homelessness”, but Cymorth Cymru’s director Katie Dalton says that these positive proposals need to be backed up by increased funding.
She says: “We could end up having no one able to deliver services in Wales. And that means that people experiencing or at risk of homelessness will not be able to get the support that they so desperately need.
“If those services are not available, there’s a huge risk that people will come to serious harm, that people will be out on the streets without any support and accommodation and ultimately could die.”
Cost of living pressures, housing costs and cuts to services are causing a spike in rough sleeping across Wales, with one Cardiff charity reporting they are supporting three times more people than last year.
Despite this increased demand, the funds allocated to emergency accommodation providers is more than 12% lower in real terms compared to a decade ago. Ministers in Cardiff Bay will publish a detailed draft budget for the next financial year by Christmas and charities say they expect funding to be frozen. Figures shared exclusively with ITV News show 75% of homeless service providers are running their statutory services at a loss, with 52% having to use emergency reserves.
They also show that 40% of service providers would be forced to hand back existing contracts with local authorities should funding be frozen.
One of them is Platfform, which provides crisis support to people at risk of homelessness in South Wales.
Its chief executive, Ewan Hilton, told ITV News: “We can’t keep doing it. You will lose organisations. We already have lost charities in Wales. We will have to step away from work that we can’t make work financially.
“We are working really hard to maintain services, but it's meant we've had to make some really difficult decisions elsewhere in the organisation so that we can maintain real living wage for our support staff and maintain our services.
“The Housing Support Grant is one of Welsh government's flagship prevention budgets. It's one of the budgets that keeps people out of hospital, keeps people away from homelessness services and keeps people away from social services. We can't continue to fund statutory work out of our own money.” A spokesperson for the Welsh government said: “We recognise the immense pressures facing frontline housing support services and the importance of the work they provide. “We have therefore maintained the previous increase to the Housing Support Grant budget this year so that it remains at £166.763million, despite the extraordinarily difficult budgetary position we currently face.”
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