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Abolish 'priority need' to tackle rough sleeping in Wales, says Assembly committee

Credit: PA

A National Assembly committee is calling on the Welsh Government to abolish the concept of 'priority need' for housing if it wants to reduce the number of people sleeping rough in Wales.

It says this will give all homeless households, including rough sleepers, the right to housing.

The Committee recommends that all rough sleepers should be automatically assessed as being in priority need until the system changes.

Many rough sleepers who have poor physical or mental health are not currently classed as priority need.

345
people were sleeping rough across Wales in the two weeks from 16-29 October 2017.

Figures show there has been a steady rise in the number of rough sleepers in Wales, although the precise scale of the increase is unknown.

The number of people sleeping rough in Wales is growing and as a society this is something we simply shouldn't accept.

The reasons behind people living on the streets are often complex and there is no one-size fits all solution.

What our inquiry has found is that the criteria used to identify those who are in 'priority need' of accommodation is such that even the most vulnerable people within our communities are falling through the cracks.

We want the Welsh Government to introduce a phased approach to abolishing priority need, which would start by ensuring that everyone sleeping rough is considered in priority need, and is entitled to support and housing.

– John Griffiths AM, Chair of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee

A homelessness charity has urged Welsh Government to act on the report.

We welcome the publication of this report but urge the Welsh Government to act on the recommendations as soon as possible in order to reduce rough sleeping in Wales.

One of the critical issues raised by this report is the current threat to the Supporting People Programme, which supports 60,000 people every year to avoid homelessness and live independently in their communities. We are pleased that Assembly Members share our concerns about proposals to remove the ring-fence protection around this vital funding and merge it with nine other grants. We urge the Housing Minister to ensure that this funding continues to be ring-fenced specifically for homelessness and housing-related support services.

We really welcome clear recommendations to ensure that rough sleepers and prison leavers are automatically regarded as priority need for housing, as many will have multiple, complex health and support needs.

– Katie Dalton, Cymorth Cymru Director

The Committee's recommendations will now be considered by the Welsh Government.

The Welsh Government said they are focused on preventing homelessness

Our innovative housing legislation aims to reduce homelessness and people sleeping rough, with a stronger focus on prevention and a more inclusive approach to helping everyone at risk, not just those in priority need groups. The Housing Minister has made it clear she intends to review the legislation on priority need and how it works for rough sleepers and some vulnerable groups in Wales. We welcome the committee’s report and will consider its recommendations and respond in due course.

– Welsh Government Spokesperson