The Welsh Government homelessness response to the pandemic has been widely praised by local authorities. New research led by Heriot-Watt University shows that 21 of Wales’ 22 councils say the ongoing provision of self-contained emergency accommodation has been important in preventing or minimising homelessness.
The Homelessness Monitor Wales 2021, commissioned by homelessness charity Crisis, provides the most comprehensive study of homelessness in Wales.
It also shows that 19 councils said the suspension of the ‘priority need’ test for support had been important in preventing or minimising homelessness.
Two thirds of councils now support the permanent removal of the test, which prevents some single adults with no children from getting rehousing support. Removal of the test has been recommended by the Wales Homelessness Action Group and the test will be reviewed as part of the Welsh Government's action plan to end homelessness.
But 21 of the 22 local authorities are now expecting a rise in people seeking homelessness support due to being evicted from private tenancies. The ban on most evictions in Wales ended in June but six-month notice periods have been extended until at least the end of 2021.
The report also found that two thirds of councils expect more people seeking homelessness support due to homeowner repossession, with the same proportion expecting an increase due to job loss, following the end of furlough and £20 cut to Universal Credit.
The Welsh Government is still funding emergency self-contained accommodation for anyone who needs it, as well as more settled move-on accommodation. In August, it also committed £250m towards 20,000 new low carbon homes for social rent.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “This research shows that the Welsh Government has taken the right approach to protect people from homelessness in the pandemic: using its devolved powers to continue providing emergency accommodation to anyone who needs it, while funding crucial move-on accommodation and committing to serious investment in social homes. It is vital that this highly effective action is continued so we can end homelessness in Wales for good.
“But it is very concerning that as we enter winter, councils across Wales are expecting rises in homelessness. It is critical that councils, government, health services and charities continue working together, as they have done throughout the pandemic, to ensure no one slips through the cracks, no one is left out of support.”
Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, director of the Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research (I-SPHERE) at Heriot-Watt University is the lead author of the report. She said: “The Wales Homelessness Monitor shows that interventions targeting homelessness during the pandemic were highly effective at making sure the many people experiencing or at risk of homelessness had somewhere safe to stay.
“But our research also illustrates that the economic aftermath of the pandemic risks an immediate rise in levels of homelessness. Looking forward we must build on the positive work happening in Wales through the current Programme for Government and five-year Action Plan to make sure the Covid-19 crisis doesn’t lead to increased levels of homelessness, and that we achieve long lasting change.”