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What we can learn from Wales' 'world-leading' plan to end homelessness once and for all

The Welsh government has unveiled new plans that will see homelessness prevented at an earlier stage. Here’s why the proposed reforms are earning praise

Climate change minister Julie James has laid out plans to end homelessness in Wales

Minister for Climate Change Julie James unveiled the white paper to change how homelessness is tackled in Wales to mark World Homeless Day. Image: Welsh government

The Welsh government has unveiled “world-leading” plans to transform how homelessness is tackled in the country in a bid to make the issue a thing of the past.

The proposed reforms could see local authorities forced to step in to prevent homelessness six months before someone loses their home rather than 56 days ahead of time as the law currently stipulates.

Climate change minister Julie James launched a consultation on a new white paper laying out the wide-ranging changings to the law in the Senedd on Tuesday to mark World Homeless Day.

“Everyone in Wales should have somewhere to call home and today we’re marking a new chapter to help people remain in their homes and prevent anyone in Wales from experiencing homelessness,” said James.

“This white paper delivers our long-held view that homelessness is not just a housing issue. It sets out a radical and ambitious plan to ensure all services work together to spot the risk of homelessness early and take action to stop it from happening.

“For those who remain at risk, services will be co-ordinated in their response; to ensure the right help is in place, delivered by the right people, at the right time.”

Labour ministers have committed to end all forms of homelessness in Wales as part of a co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru as well as reforming housing law as part of the Programme for Government running until 2026.

More than 350 people with experience of homelessness in Wales shared their insight with an independent expert review panel to inform the reforms.

The most recent statistics show that more than 12,500 people were supported by local authorities across Wales over the past year – a 7% annual increase – and the reforms look to give councils more power to prevent homelessness and ease the strain on services.

As well as ensuring there are earlier interventions, the proposed changes to the law will see a greater responsibility for spotting and preventing homelessness to be shared across public services.

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Local authorities will also offer people person-centred, trauma-informed support to people facing homelessness as well as bespoke plans to mitigate the impact on their lives and help to stay in their homes.

The Welsh government is also looking to improve access to social homes for homeless households by reviewing allocation systems.

Ministers are looking to scrap rules that mean people can make themselves intentionally homeless and adding additional groups to local connection rules that block people from receiving support if they are not from the area, including care leavers, veterans, domestic abuse survivors and prisoners.

Changes will also see assessments made at the start of a prison sentence to determine whether prisoners will be homeless within six months of their release in a further move towards prevention.

Matt Downie, Crisis chief executive and panel member, said: “As the numbers of people experiencing homelessness in Wales continue to rise, bold action is needed.

“We’re thrilled to see the Welsh government showing real vision by taking such bold action, setting out its intention to move forward with a number of significant changes to the law. We urge others to back this legislation and help make it a reality, because the results would be truly life-changing.

“While there’s a long journey ahead to put the detail onto these proposals and see these changes on legislative books and put into practice, the ambition shown today is world-leading. Together we can end homelessness in Wales.”

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Katie Dalton, director of Cymorth Cymru and panel member, said she was “incredibly grateful” for the input of people who have experienced homelessness in Wales.

Dalton said: “It has been a privilege to engage with over 300 people who have experienced or been at risk of homelessness, listening to their views on how the law needs to change.”

Responses to the consultation can be sent here before 16 January next year.

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

We’re calling on the prime minister to make sure everyone can afford to stay in their homes and pay for the essentials by:

  • Unfreezing local housing allowance rates
  • Increasing universal credit to £120 a week for a single adult and £200 for a couple.

Will you add your voice to our call and sign the petition?

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