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Local Authorities must do more to tackle underlying causes of homelessness

Credit: PA

Local Authorities in Wales need to do more to tackle the underlying causes of homelessness according to a report from the Auditor General for Wales.

The report found local authorities are making 'good progress' in implementing new homelessness duties but found much of the changes needed to reduce the demand for services and prevent homelessness are not always happening.

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.

– Huw Vaughan-Thomas, Auditor General

The 2014 Housing Act, introduced by the Welsh Government, requires local authorities and their partners to focus specifically on homelessness prevention as a means to address the growing numbers of homeless people in Wales.

A WLGA spokesperson said new flexible funding being introduced this year will allow local authorities to improve their approach and delivery to reduce homelessness:

We welcome the report from the Wales Audit Office as it shows that local authorities are steadfastly committed to supporting households avoid the trauma of homelessness wherever possible, in a time where numbers are rapidly increasing and council budgets are being heavily cut. The report rightly recognises that, in many cases, the root causes of homelessness are often complex and challenging to prevent and resolve.

The changes to homelessness legislation in Wales introduced in 2015 mean that local authorities are helping more households by preventing them becoming homeless. Across Wales there has been an increase in the numbers of people approaching their local authority for assistance.

The new flexible funding arrangements being introduced from 2018-19, amalgamating a number of pre-existing grant programmes into a single grant, will enable local authorities to respond with innovative approaches to improve service delivery and to achieve best outcomes for vulnerable households.

Welsh Government have provided an additional £2.6m during the current financial year to support projects aimed at preventing homelessness among young people and tackling rough sleeping. Local authorities, housing associations and Welsh Government have committed to work together to fulfil a range of aims, including continuing to mitigate the impact of ongoing welfare reforms, and to co-operate effectively with key partners to prevent homelessness, and reduce the use of B&B accommodation for 16 and 17 year olds and care leavers.

– A WLGA Spokesperson