Y Pwyllgor Llywodraeth Leol a Thai

Local Government and Housing Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Carolyn Thomas AS
Jayne Bryant AS
Joel James AS
John Griffiths AS
Mabon ap Gwynfor AS
Sam Rowlands AS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Allan Eveleigh Cymdeithas Tai Gogledd Cymru
North Wales Housing Association
Bonnie Williams Housing Justice Cymru
Housing Justice Cymru
Catherine Docherty Byddin yr Iachawdwriaeth, Cymru a De Orllewin Lloegr
Salvation Army, Wales and South West
Dr Steffan Evans Sefydliad Bevan
Bevan Foundation
Emma Shaw Byddin yr Iachawdwriaeth, Cymru a De Orllewin Lloegr
Salvation Army, Wales and South West
Jasmine Harris Crisis
Jennie Bibbings Shelter Cymru
Shelter Cymru
Jessica Hymus-Gant Nacro
Katie Dalton Cymorth Cymru
Cymorth Cymru
Matthew Dicks Cyfarwyddwr, Sefydliad Tai Siartredig Cymru
Director, Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru
Shayne Hembrow Wales & West Housing
Wales & West Housing
Steven Bletsoe Cymdeithas Genedlaethol Landlordiaid Preswyl
National Residential Landlords Association
Thomas Hollick The Wallich
The Wallich

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Chloe Davies Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Gareth Howells Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Jonathan Baxter Ymchwilydd
Naomi Stocks Clerc

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:00.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:00.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Okay, welcome, everyone, to this meeting of the Local Government and Housing Committee. Item 1 on our agenda today is introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. May I say to begin with that this meeting is being held in a hybrid format? But aside from adaptations relating to conducting proceedings in hybrid format, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. The public items of this meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv and a Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. The meeting is bilingual and simultaneous translation is available. May I ask Members of the committee—are there any declarations of interest? No. Okay, thank you very much.

2. Digartrefedd - sesiwn dystiolaeth 2
2. Homelessness - evidence session 2

We will move on, then, to item 2, which is our second evidence session on the committee's current work on homelessness. I'm very pleased to welcome, first of all, joining us virtually, Allan Eveleigh, assistant director of communities for North Wales Housing Association; and here with us in person, Shayne Hembrow, group deputy chief executive for Wales and West Housing; Steve Bletsoe, operations manager for Wales for the National Residential Landlords Association; Matt Dicks, director of the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru; and Steffan Evans, head of policy, also dealing with poverty, for the Bevan Foundation. Thank you very much.

Perhaps I might begin now with some initial questions regarding the supply of temporary accommodation. What we'd like initially is your views on the current demand for temporary accommodation across Wales and the response of local authorities in delivering the Welsh Government's 'no-one left out' policy. What do you think is the current picture? Who would like to begin? Matt.

Thanks, Chair, and bore da, pawb. So, it was reported yesterday at a conference, a senior civil servant told delegates that the number of people in temporary accommodation in Wales is now up to 14,000, and that's up from 8,000 in August. Now, that's down to a number of things, obviously. There's the Ukrainian refugee programme and other refugees from Syria and Afghanistan, but on top of that we're hearing much more evidence—and colleagues will probably have more granular detail on that—of private rented sector landlords pulling out in ever-increasing numbers. So, the strain on temporary accommodation and the demand for it, the supply versus demand, is starting to skew pretty badly. Just some evidence from some of our members: it means that there's now pretty much a waiting list for temporary accommodation, let alone move-on accommodation and permanent accommodation across most of Wales. We're hearing specific examples, in some local authorities, of rough-sleepers who've been waiting for two weeks or more to secure a place in temporary accommodation. It's meaning that local authority housing teams are having to do things like negotiate with families to stay in existing accommodation, families where there's conflict and impacts on mental health and well-being. So, we're kind of having—and people will talk to this more—a perfect storm in terms of the demand ever increasing for temporary accommodation, or people being made homeless and requiring temporary accommodation, and a decrease in supply at the same time. So, we're heading towards a pretty dire situation.

So, you would think that the local authorities are struggling, then, really, to meet the demands of that situation.

Yes, and this has existed for a while. Cost of living has imposed greater pressures on that, particularly with the increasing number of private rented landlords pulling out of the market. Anecdotally, I was told about two landlords in Neath Port Talbot, just a couple of weeks ago, with over 100 properties each putting all of their properties on the market. So, that's the sort of scale of private landlords starting to pull out of the market, and we'll come on to the reasons later. Also the pressure that that's putting on housing and homelessness teams in local authorities, which we'll come on to later, but if I could just read you this quick quote from a survey that we've been carrying out through the pandemic period. It's our 'Joining the Dots in local authorities housing departments' survey, and we've been surveying local authority staff. This is just one of the people who's responded, and they said, 'It's just wearing. There is ceaseless demand, not enough solutions. Even when we arrange move-on, it does not ease pressure, as demand is constant.' This is from survey data from July, so just imagine that tenfold with the increasing pressures of cost of living and the impact of PRS landlords moving out.


Okay. Thanks, Matt. Would any of our other witnesses like to add anything in terms of the demand situation at the moment, and the response of local authorities? Steffan.

Yes, just to echo what Matt said, obviously, the role of the local housing allowance is something that we've looked at as well, and we've heard that that is both driving people into the temporary accommodation system in the first place, because they can't find properties available to let at a rate covered by benefits, and also that's trapping people in temporary accommodation, because local authorities aren't able to find properties to move them on to because there's a shortage.

And just to add to Matt in terms of some of the other ways we've heard about how local authorities are trying to manage, we've heard anecdotally from some local authorities where they are now asking tenants who've been issued with an eviction notice to stay in the property until a court order is received. They will now pay for all the court procedures to cover that legal case, because they simply don't have a place for that person to move to. So, it's about finding them somewhere to stay until they absolutely have to. That, of course, creates a risk of a vicious circle, because on the one hand you've got one part of the local authority team trying to find landlords to work with, and to get them to take people out of temporary accommodation; on the other, they're being viewed as making like difficult for landlords, so that creates a trust issue as well if that's the kind of model that we want to be looking at as well.

Thank you. I think part of the situation we're in now is a reflection of the situation that's been growing over time. So, local authorities are dealing with—and I may have the numbers slightly wrong, but I think the proportions are right—something like 800 presentations a month, of which there are only available homes for around 500 of those. So, you end up with a situation with around 60 per cent to 65 per cent of people where we have a housing supply—local authority or registered social landlord properties—to meet that need, but you have a shortfall. And that shortfall then moves into temporary accommodation and takes up that temporary accommodation. The next month, you've got another cohort of another 800 or 900 people, and there's still no more available for the number of people that we couldn't house the first time.

So, we do have a growing number in temporary accommodation, and that has been exacerbated through COVID and everyone in, and the rise in section 21 notices that my colleagues have mentioned. So, we have a growing shortfall, which is why we have the scary numbers that Matt mentioned of potentially 14,000 people in temporary accommodation, made up of people in Wales as well as people that are coming to Wales because of the difficulties that they experience in other countries.

Yes. Okay. Thanks very much. So, in terms of the role that housing associations, and, indeed, the private rented sector might play and are playing in helping to provide that temporary accommodation, to what extent do you think housing associations and the private rented sector can provide a filling of the gap, as it were, in terms of the demand and the supply? Obviously, some local authorities have their own housing stock, others have transferred their housing stock to housing associations, and the picture will be different from one local authority to another. But I know, Matt, in your evidence you noted that there will be issues around the quality as well of the supply. So, could you help the committee understand just what housing associations and the private rented sector might be able to do? 

I think the first thing to say, Chair, is that collaboration between housing associations and local authorities has never been better, really. It's always been good, but it got to another level during the pandemic and has continued beyond that, and working together to house more people than ever before. And that continues. But one thing I didn't mention is that, ultimately, the problem here is the historic and systemic undersupply of social affordable housing. That's fundamentally it, because once people get into temporary accommodation, there's nowhere or very little supply to move them on to, particularly—we were talking about this earlier—one-bed accommodation. I think the vast majority of people in temporary accommodation are single people, and there's a severe lack of one-bed accommodation to move them on to. And that's around viability, but it's also around people not wanting to live in these big blocks of one-bed flats, et cetera. So, there's something around that systemic and strategic under-supply of social and affordable housing, which, to be fair, the Welsh Government gets and is addressing. But we're living in these times where the money being invested—what was it, almost £1 billion announced in the last budget round, over three years? Well, that's not worth £1 billion now, is it? So, there are pressures, pressures on the supply chain and skills in terms of actually using the money available to build. So, that's the underlying problem.

And in terms of the temporary accommodation that people are in, it's just not suitable in most cases. Families are sharing one-room bed-and-breakfast facilities, with no space for children to play or study; they share bathroom facilities; there's a lack of cooking facilities, so they rely on take-outs and take-aways, which, given the cost of living, is becoming more problematic, not least for the health of children, going to school on empty stomachs or poor food. And then there's the impact of increased transport costs, because much of this accommodation is away from schools or childcare, to help people work, and then isolation and mental health issues about being away from the communities that you live in. So, there are lots of concerns about not being able to move people on and the types of temporary accommodation. And then we have the issue with the PRS that I was alluding to before. So, it's about how can we support the PRS, in particular, at this stage to stay in the game and ensure that we have enough temporary accommodation to deal with what's coming down the track. I hope that's answered your question, Chair.


So, there's the quality issue, Matt, and then there's pace and scale as well, isn't there?

Yes. Yes, indeed. We need more temporary accommodation so that we don't have to discharge into bed and breakfast, but we're admitting defeat then, aren't we, really, because the real problem is moving people on into permanent and more stable accommodation. So, it's an odd debate to be having, because what we want is to find permanent homes for people and not have to rely on bed and breakfast. But the demand on that is becoming so acute that, as I was saying earlier, we have waiting lists for temporary accommodation.

Our stance at the NRLA is that it's a supply-and-demand issue. We commissioned a research document by Capital Economics, which showed that Wales needs to create 9,000 new private rented properties per year to meet the demand. And whilst ever those figures are missed and accumulate, then we're just pushing the problem further down the road and putting even more strain on the system. The PRS, ideally, should not be supporting the social housing industry, but it has to, and it needs to, because of where we are. And we have a situation in Wales at the moment where landlord confidence is the lowest it's ever been. Our quarter three stats showed that the results of the confidence of landlords in Wales is the worst that the UK has ever had—any region of England has never been as low in confidence as Wales is at this moment within the landlord community.

But there is a need for supply; supply will help to moderate rent increases. Because, again, going back to the quarter three research done by Zoopla, the rental demand compared to 2022 is up 142 per cent. That is creating, to an extent, the increases in rent that everybody's concerned about with the cost of living; there are other contributory factors, like additional costs to the landlord, but rent demand is a huge thing. And as far as the NRLA are concerned, we need to be building more of the right houses, in the right places, for the right market, to support the social housing market, which isn't able to cope at the moment.

What are the headlines, Steven, in terms of that level of dissatisfaction amongst private landlords in Wales?

I don't think it would surprise anybody. Eighty per cent of our consultees on that survey, 84 per cent cited the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 as the primary reason for selling their properties.

Okay. Would anybody else like to add anything on these matters before we move on? Allan.


If I could come in. I wholeheartedly agree on the supply issue being fundamental, but I just would encourage people not to look at it in isolation. I've worked in areas where I've had properties where I couldn't let them for love nor money, yet I've had homeless people on the streets around the corner. So, there's got to be some joining up as well, which I think is something to think about in terms of the public health issue, and support for some of the people who are experiencing more entrenched homelessness. So, just to add that into the mix, really.

Chair, can I come in? Our UK housing review showed that around 23 per cent of households in the private rented sector are living in fuel poverty, so if the PRS is going to be part of the medium and long-term strategy in terms of temporary accommodation, then we need to invest in decarbonising these homes, because it's pointless putting people in temporary accommodation that is fuel poor, particularly in the climate around fuel costs that we're having at the moment.

My question was also about the private rented sector. Do you want to elaborate further on why you think those properties are coming back on the market? Last week, we did hear evidence that, in Swansea, the price of private rented houses has gone up as well. It's £1,000 for a three-bedroomed house, and the LHA covered about £500 of it, so there's a huge gap there. But I was just wondering if there was anything else you'd like to add about why they're coming on the market that's not been covered already.

Building on the work we've done on LHA, we've done quite a bit of work over 2021, and we've done two updates looking at what's available on the market—on your Rightmoves, Zooplas et cetera. Our most recent data from August showed that on 1 August only 60 properties were available across the whole of Wales at the LHA rate. There were seven local authorities where there were zero properties available. That's obviously put a massive pressure on the system. I think we've already heard some of the reasons why rents have been increasing. I think Rightmove's most recent data from October suggests rents have gone up 15 per cent in Wales in the last 12 months, so that's a huge, huge increase. And obviously at the autumn statement last week there was no commitment to increase the LHA. We know that is going to cause big, big pressure; it's going to make a situation that's already challenging even more challenging.

Then, on top of that, the other factor that maybe we haven't touched on so far is the rise of short-term holiday lets. We've done some work looking at the Airbnb sector, and we found that in all Welsh local authorities bar one, you can make more money in 10 weeks by letting out your property on Airbnb than you can at the LHA rate. So there are now two really big drivers: the demand versus the supply in the private rental sector allows landlords to push prices up way beyond the LHA anyway, and in those areas where maybe the demand might not be there, they can go into the Airbnb industry, or other sites, and they can make large returns as well. So, that is putting pressure from two ways on rents, and that's really reducing the stock that's available for people on the lowest incomes.

You said in Wales there's the greatest fear. I read somewhere that, in England as well, there are lots of houses still being put back on the market, but I think—. So, you think that the legislation coming through in Wales is the biggest factor, as opposed to everything else—you know, rising inflation, the market and maybe moving the funding somewhere else.

Of course. We have two different stats: we have stats on what has gone before and we have stats on what is due to come. Our stats show that 2.5 times as many landlords have sold properties compared to buying them, so that's obviously a concern. That's small landlords. The majority of our members are small landlords—you know, your one, two, maybe four, five-property landlords. They are leaving the market. Our anecdotal evidence is that there are bigger landlords buying them. So, you're losing that relationship between a small landlord and a tenant—that personal relationship where landlords are more loath to put the rent up because they have that relationship with them. But, more worryingly, again, referring back to our quarter 3 confidence survey, we have—I'll just get the right figure—62 per cent of people looking to sell their properties. So, that's what's coming down the line. Eighty-four per cent of those said it was due to changes in legislation; 50 per cent said it was cost to upgrade the property; and 13 per cent said it was due to a change in their business strategy.

The other problem that we have on the horizon is spiralling interest rates. When we're talking about rent controls and making sure that rents don't go up, landlords are seeing their mortgages go up by huge amounts per month, and it's part of a mortgage condition that your rent has to be a certain percentage more than your mortgage payment. Landlords are having no choice but to put their rents up or to look to sell the properties because they physically can't afford their business strategy. That's obviously something outside the control of Welsh Government, that's Bank of England policy, but that's the reality of what's happening, and it's concentrating the mind of small business owners—landlords—who are looking at possibly costs now being higher than their income. 


I just wanted to jump back in there as well, building on what Steve was saying. Another big problem we've got in Wales is a lack of data to really work out what's going on here. Steve mentioned there those landlords that are selling. Are they selling to other landlords, albeit maybe bigger landlords? Are they selling it to owner occupiers? Are they selling it to people who want second homes or Airbnbs? The solution you want to that problem is different depending on where the properties are going. There is a lack of data. We've talked about knowing what's going on with rents as well, about can we use Rent Smart Wales more smartly, to be collecting that data so that then we've got more up-to-date data, more robust data that we can use to have discussions around what the level of the LHA should be. Also, when we're discussing the broader policies, whether that's something on rent controls on the one end or incentivising landlords on the other, it gives you a more core basis to be starting that discussion. I think there is a shortage of that data to allow us to have that discussion.

And there's a shortage of houses to buy as well, isn't there, and we've talked in the past about rents not being taken into consideration when applying for mortgages as well, so there's all that that's part of it. 

I'm now concerned that Steffan's read my briefing notes. Being the operations manager for Wales for the NRLA is a very privileged position, but a lot of what I have to do in my role is looking at the information that's available in England, in the English housing market, because there's a very comprehensive English housing survey. When we're looking at Welsh information, I've quoted Zoopla. I'm referring to a commercial entity to get information on property. We need to know what's happening with the housing market in Wales. We need to have very in-depth, detailed information on what is happening here, because, as people who work within the industry, we're going to commercial partners, we're looking at patterns from England. We need to know what's happening in Wales, because otherwise we're guessing. We certainly support what Steffan has just said in the NRLA. To know what's going on, to know how to address it, we need the information. Rent Smart Wales holds some of that information. We don't get it—we don't know it. They know which members have left the market completely. We're trying to work it out from surveys of percentages of people. There are better answers found with better information, and we need that information desperately. 

Like others have said, it's a perfect storm of lots of issues, isn't it, and some of it laid at the door of legislation. But I think it's important to say about the Renting Homes (Wales) Act that whilst there's always unintended consequences from legislation, the Renting Homes (Wales) Act is the right thing to do; it provides more security of tenure to tenants, it provides better standards, or will provide better standards, in the private rented sector and across tenures. So, it's absolutely the right thing to do. In terms of everything happening at once, that's not helped, but it would provide a six-month notice period, which would address and mitigate some of the problems that tenants are facing now after receiving section 21s. So, I think that's important to put on the record. 

I suppose the only thing that comes to mind is the transitional accommodation capital programme funding for RSLs purchasing some of those properties that are becoming available from the private rented sector. Obviously, we're a trusted pair of hands in terms of, potentially, managing some of that stock, but I think there are some challenges with regard to deadlines for actually completing purchases by the end of the financial year, which causes some challenges and some risk in taking up some of that funding. That was the only thing to add, really.


That's really important to know as well. We've discussing that as a solution. Thank you. And then my second question is about housing staff, the strain this is putting on housing staff. So, would you like to respond to that?

Yes, definitely. We're finding increasing challenges within our general needs housing stock. The direct lets to people facing homelessness, whilst I absolutely understand the reasons for it and agree with them, are putting challenges on some of our neighbourhoods and our communities, because the support and the background knowledge of those individuals is limited compared to some other support provision. We're finding that the number of anti-social behaviour cases, the number of hoarding cases, things like that, really take an awful lot of time for housing staff to manage, and resource as well. In one of our blocks, we've had to employ security guards to allow us to go about our business. A good chunk of that issue is relating to just one individual who was probably not suitable for that property, who was vulnerable, who ended up getting cuckooed and involved in county lines and things. A support setting would have been a better provision for that person, and he now wants to go into a support setting to get him out of this mess that he's found himself in. So, yes, we're absolutely finding challenges in terms of neighbourhood management.

It's the conditions of properties as well—the amount of money that we're having to spend on void properties when they come back to us because they haven't been as well looked after and things like that. We're finding that that's increasing. And, obviously, because there's, potentially, more vulnerable clientele coming in to some of our properties, we're having to spend more money in terms of protecting those people and setting them up on the right footing to make the tenancy sustainable, so the standards of painting and decoration and providing second-hand furniture and things like that to enable people to get off on the right foot. So, there's increasing cost, there's increasing resource input required, and I also think that we need to make sure we're considering—. I know we're going to be looking at rapid rehousing later, but it all meshes together. I wouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater in terms of supporting different supported options and looking to keep that toolkit as varied as it can be. So, there's definitely a resource issue for our colleagues and what they're dealing with.

So, we're hearing that support staff is really important. Thank you.

If I may just add a little bit to what Allan has said, where he's focused very much on moving people into your schemes and into your estates. If I can just make a little bit of a plea for those staff that work as support workers, particularly for people in temporary accommodation. That has got worse as people are spending increasingly longer time in temporary accommodation, then their stress and their anxiety increases and, therefore, the people supporting them becomes an even more challenging job. I know Allan certainly provides more support, but a number of housing providers across Wales provide a lot of supported accommodation. There's pressure on one finding, recruiting and retaining those support workers, because the operating environment that they're in has definitely diminished and got much, much harder over the last couple of years. 

Just to add to that some statistics from our 'Joining the Dots' survey, which we've been running since 2020 through the pandemic and beyond, surveying local authority housing and homelessness teams, and 75 per cent of them felt that their mental well-being had decreased since January 2020 because of the increased pressures the pandemic caused in terms of housing people. I thought this was interesting as well—it highlighted a decrease in their confidence in health and housing partnerships, so that lack of confidence in what health is bringing to the table in terms of providing those support services and helping housing organisations and housing professionals deliver those support services. That went down to 58 per cent from 67 per cent at the start of the process. That will tell you something about the pressures on other bodies as well that support the housing process. So, just a general pressure increasing exponentially. And I'll just quote that quote again, from a front-line housing professional in the local authority housing team:

'It's just wearing. There is ceaseless demand, not enough solutions. Even when we arrange move-on, it does not ease pressure, as demand is constant',

which, I think, tells us the whole picture. 


Okay. Thanks, Carolyn. We'll move on to Sam Rowlands, then, a committee member who's with us remotely. Sam. 

Good morning, all. Sorry I couldn't be with you in the room this morning. I really appreciate your time. Just going back—before I move on to some questions about housing supply—to the point made earlier about the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 being perhaps a right thing and a good thing. But I'm trying to then level that with the statistic we heard that 84 per cent of those leaving the private rented sector are doing so primarily because of the Act. So, what's the issue? If it's the right thing and a good thing, why are those who might consider themselves to be either experts or, certainly, in the industry, are wanting to get out of that because of the Act? Can someone help me understand that a bit better?

I feel that all eyes are on me to answer that one. I think there's a number of different reasons, and I don't think that you'd find good landlords in the industry disagreeing with the concept of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act. Despite popular opinion, landlords don't want to issue section 21 notices—they don't. They want a good relationship with a good tenant that gives them a long-standing, long-term, stable financial investment. That's what good landlords want. They want to provide good houses. They don't have problems with supplying properties that are fit for human habitation. Everything within the matters and consequences makes sense to good landlords. 

Match that with the fact that, at the very last second, a sunset clause was brought in, which hasn't even sat in front of the Chamber yet. The legislation is due to come in on Thursday—a week today—and we have legislation that has not been put in front of the Senedd for completion. That came to the industry extremely lately, and it's changing the way that landlords look at things. Landlords feel put upon. There are very few people who will feel sorry for residential landlords; the way they are painted by certain sections is that they all walk around with briefcases full of £50 notes. The majority of them aren't; the majority of them want to provide a service to an industry that needs it at the minute. We're discussing people living in temporary accommodation. The PRS wants to support those people. They want to provide good houses. They need them provided to them. But when you come in with that sunset clause change at the very last second, days before the implementation of the Act, it spooks the market. There is constant concern over the incoming rent controls. There are always problems around eviction bans. It is a multitude of things, and we at the NRLA don't stand against the Renting Homes (Wales) Act. We've embraced it, we've endorsed it, we've released our standard occupation contract in the last couple of days, and I hope that the periodical is available tomorrow, or today would be even better. But it spooks the market, and I would certainly point to this bringing in of the sunset clause as being very detrimental to the implementation of it. 

Yes, as Steven says, implementation hasn't been great, not least the sunset clause, but also getting the regs out and the contracts out has been delayed, which is why we had to delay it. So, that hasn't helped and has spooked the market probably more than it needed to be. But it's happening at a time when all these things are converging, and we're getting this perfect storm. So, maybe it would have been less impactful had we been doing this in a time when the sun was shining, possibly.

But, ultimately, it is the right thing to do. It provides more protection. It will provide better standards—standards in the private rented sector—which is what we need, particularly around fuel poverty and decarb, et cetera. But the issue isn't with the legislation. We all knew that there would be unintended consequences, and we all spoke about them. The issue is that the strategy and the systemic and historical supply of social and affordable housing to absorb the impact of the unintended consequences that legislation like this would have are simply not there. They are not there to absorb all that's happening at the moment, let alone the implementation of good legislation, which will protect tenants, and landlords to a certain extent as well. So, that's the problem. Ultimately, at the bottom of all of this is that historic and systemic undersupply of social and affordable housing.


Yes, I was going to say, in terms of the effect of the implementation as well, I think the difficult context means that we may miss some of the opportunities afforded by the Act as well. One of the opportunities in the context we've been talking about today is the six-month notice periods. So, in theory, you should be able to—. That gives local authorities longer to work with landlords to address issues. It gives local authorities longer to find alternative accommodation for someone. So, in theory, it should reduce pressure on temporary accommodation because you have more time to avoid that person ending up there. But what we've heard from quite a few local authorities—and COVID in a way acted as a bit of a pilot here, because we did have a six-month notice period through part of COVID—was that while some were able to take advantage of that, others were in full firefighting mode and were basically telling people, 'Thanks for letting us know; please come back in 52 or 54 days before eviction when our statutory duty kicks in.' That opportunity, then, that the Act afforded is potentially going to be lost unless we think about how we can—. Yes, they both need to be tackled at the same time, so there's the need to reduce that pressure on temporary accommodation, to actually further reduce it in the longer term by freeing up that staff resource to help people through some of the benefits that the Act will provide.

Yes. Thanks, Chair, and thanks for those responses. Just going back to the point, then, of housing supply, and not just within recent months or even recent years but looking back over perhaps the last 10 years, what have been those main barriers, do you think, to ensuring that social, affordable or market supply of housing, and do you think that there are steps being taken to remove those barriers, or do you think that those barriers still exist and, therefore, in 10 years' time we're going to have a similar or even worse conversation?

Coming from a PRS point of view, if you carry on the route that you've charted the last 10 years, you'll have the same problem in 10 years' time if not worse. There needs to be—and it's a phrase used—more of the right houses in the right places for the right people. Planning law and legislation needs to reflect that to bring it about, because the developers are not going to do it willingly. We had a discussion beforehand—we are not building the houses that are needed to solve this problem as of now, and there needs to be a complete change in direction to build those right houses to fix this problem, and that comes through legislation and making people do that, because it's not commercially viable to build them but it's necessary to build them, and there are, despite all of my doom and gloom around confidence, personal small landlords out there who will buy them and they will provide them to the service. They will always be there, because of where we are in the world of investment now. Bricks and mortar is still a viable investment, but they need to be built and they need to be available.

Yes, I partly agree with my colleague, because I think perhaps we have not made enough change over the last 10 years—or longer, to be honest, because I think it goes well beyond 10 years—to achieve a significantly different result. I think lots of things have been done, though, so there are positive benefits. The £1 billion that Matt mentioned and the commitment of the Welsh Government to supporting social housing development over those last 10 years has made an enormous difference and has mitigated, I think, quite significantly the scale of the problem that we would be facing if that had not been done, because lots of housing has been provided.

That said, I think that we do have a significant mismatch between the housing that we need to provide if we're going to address the number of people in temporary accommodation and the homes that are being built by the private sector or by the social sector. And if you look over the last 10 years, only about 10 per cent of the homes that have been built are one bedroom, and yet you've got 8,000 to 10,000 people needing one-bedroomed accommodation in temporary accommodation, that exist in temporary accommodation at the moment. We have that mismatch in planning terms, and we've had that for a very long time and the reluctance of lots of people concerned in the sector to build more one-bedroomed accommodation, and addressing that is a very brave move in policy terms and in planning terms, to stop the huge volume of three-bed homes that we also need built, and move to something that actually matches closer to the huge demand that we're facing. That we haven't done and we haven't addressed, but I think the commitment and the funding that has been put in, when you compare and contrast that to England, where you have very, very low numbers of social housing provided, we've had significant numbers—well over 3,000 in the last year—and that has made an enormous difference.


Could I just ask why you think there has been that reluctance, then, to provide those one-bedroomed properties?

Because, proportionately, you make a lot more profit out of building a three-bedroomed property if you're a house builder than you do building one-beds.

That's the fundamental at the core of that. There are challenges if you're going to build lots of one-beds in managing those properties, and what you want, ideally, is a nice blend of those things where you have a much greater proportion of one and two-bedroomed flatted and housing accommodation as part of an overall development, whereas what we have are lots and lots of three-beds.  

Yes, I guess there are two points I want to make, picking up what Shayne was saying there as well. I guess the first is that I don't know whether we really have a vision for what we want housing in Wales to be like. Building those one-beds is part of that longer term thinking, isn't it, and about what we want to achieve. And by that I mean that we talk a lot about unintended consequences, but actually what is the unintended consequence? Do we want, basically, the tenure mix to stay roughly what it is now but just have more housing? Do we want more social housing, fewer owner-occupiers? These are all questions that—. Actually, we talk about unintended consequences, but we need to know what vision we have for the sector to know whether it's a negative consequence if landlords are leaving the sector, or not. We're not having those conversations, maybe. 

Thinking of the more medium term, sorting this out is going to take time. You're not going to build tens of thousands of social housing properties in the next two to three years; it's going to take time. But the problem we've got is immediate, and it's obviously right that we take action in the immediate term to help people, but are the steps we could be taking that help people in the short term that help move us to where we want to be in the longer term. So, that's why some of the questions you've asked around purchasing properties, I think, are really important ones, because that's a way to increase supply now, find accommodation for someone now, and it actually moves us towards somewhere where we might want to be in the longer term, rather than maybe getting stuck in the trap of building more temporary accommodation, because we need that but actually that doesn't really resolve anything necessarily in the longer term because we're just moving the problem from waiting lists for temporary accommodation to having loads of people in temporary accommodation and nowhere to move them on. So, I think there is a need definitely to do the short-term stuff but thinking about how does that fit into where we want to be heading in the medium to longer term as well. 

Sorry, Sam, before you do, I think Allan wanted to come in. Sorry, Allan. 

Yes, I was just thinking, when people were talking about the one-beds and things, large swathes of one-bed properties are challenging to manage. That's an issue. But, thinking back to the bedroom tax and the ability to actually allocate some different sized properties to single people or couples, if the market wants to build two-bed properties but we can't allocate them to couples who might actually put roots down and have a family and actually want to stay in the property in the longer term, then we don't have the ability to do that because of things like the bedroom tax and affordability. So, just to flag that as another issue. It's a long-standing one now, but it's something else that has had some unintended consequences. 

Sorry, I shouldn't be pressing the 'mute' or 'unmute' button myself, it seems, so apologies for that.

Yes, and perhaps just a brief comment on the point around some of the schemes that Welsh Government have been introducing in terms of providing funding in particular to social landlords around remodelling existing accommodation and converting buildings. I just wonder if there are any comments on how effective that piece of work is and if there are actual real opportunities in repurposing social housing stock, or is housing stock already filled up and you can't really move things around too much?

Thank you. I think the funding for that and the programmes of work that are in place have really helped because I think there is some scope for repurposing or for remodelling existing accommodation, whether that's in the existing social housing stock or not. I think the truth is that it's only a relatively small number of homes that you're likely to provide through that, because the vast majority of social housing homes are let and people are happily living in them and there is not a need to repurpose them because they meet the needs that they're there for. There's a relatively small number that any of us would have at any time that you might call strategic voids, or for whatever reason, have been left empty. Some of the funding that Welsh Government has provided to help bring those that have a very high cost back into use has helped, but it was never going to deliver thousands of homes—at best, it was going to deliver a few hundred.


Diolch, Cadeirydd. Good morning, everyone. I think, Steffan, you mentioned that sorting this out is going to take time and that the problem is immediate. You also touched on the impact that the local housing allowance rates are having on access to the private rented sector. I don't know if you want to say, or anybody else wants to say, a little bit more about that. But are there options to address the shortfall in rents through using discretionary housing payments?

Yes, absolutely. So, we know that there's a serious problem around the LHA just not meeting market conditions and that's not Wales-unique; that's an issue across the UK. The Department for Work and Pensions's own data points to it being a problem; I think that there was data from last year that showed, by the DWP's own calculations, that for about 68 per cent of people, their housing allowance didn't actually cover their rent. So, this is known and it's a major problem. And from our work, we found that the effects of that are threefold. So, either it forces people directly into the homelessness system because they just can't find somewhere where their benefits would be enough to cover their rent. People, on the other hand, sometimes move into accommodation where the rent is bigger than what they get in benefits. That's challenging financially and that's become a lot worse as rents have gone up and as the cost-of-living crisis has bitten, because, obviously, the amount of cushion that people have financially, which wasn't really much anyway, has become even less, or people just move into not-very-good properties, because those are the properties that are actually available at LHA. So, there's a threefold impact from it, which is really putting pressure on the homelessness system and tenants themselves.

So, fundamentally, we need to reform LHA. I think that that is a starting point and I think that's something we'd probably all agree on there in terms of that support better aligning to what's needed in the market. I think discretionary housing payments are definitely a space where we could be doing potentially more in Wales to complement that slightly. I think the commitment that the Welsh Government has made in providing some extra money to local authorities to top up DHPs is really welcome. And we are seeing some positive signs from the data on DHP use—that local authorities in Wales are now actually doing way better than local authorities in England in terms of the amount of cash that is getting out to people. There are some local authorities, still, that are not spending 100 per cent of their DHP pot. There are not many, but there are one or two, and so, there's a need to look at that.

We're also going to be doing a short bit of work ourselves over the next couple of months to try and get an understanding of people's experiences of accessing that support as well—so, how similar are people's experiences in different parts of Wales? So, we know that money now does seem to be getting out of the door, but is that getting out of the door in a way that helps tenants themselves? And how easy that would be, and how different people's experiences are. So, that's obviously one way, but there are also other things that, maybe we could look at that are not directly financially related—that's kind of within the gift of Welsh Government, but we know that stuff like guarantee requirements, credit checks and that sort of stuff is really difficult for people on low incomes to satisfy, and that's putting on extra pressure. So, not only is your choice of properties massively limited because your benefits don't meet the cost of rent, but even within that pool of 60 properties that we found in August that were available with LHA, about 17 of those had some sort of requirement that would make it virtually impossible for someone on the lowest income to actually be able to rent them in the first place. So, that's another area where, maybe, that's not financial support, but that would make some difference to people in terms of increasing that available supply slightly if we were able to get rid of those really egregious examples of requirements that are placed on tenants.

Okay. Perhaps you could share your work with us, as well, on that, and your assessment. Sorry—Steven.


Yes, and again going back to surveys that we've carried out, the last information we have on this matter goes back to quarter 1 of 2022, so, well before the cost of living really bit, so this is a starting point. Just over 60 per cent of landlords stated that LHA hadn't caused any rent arrears. With a couple of 'don't knows', that means that, worryingly, 38.6 per cent of our survey, their tenants had fallen into arrears because of LHA, and that's before the cost of living hit. So, I don't want to know what that figure will be when we go back and we ask that same question again now, because since 2022, LHA hasn't gone up; rent has, fuel has, food has—everything has, and LHA freezing is a huge problem, and it's causing problems. Because whilst reference is always made to section 21 notices being issued, sometimes section 21 notices are issued to deal with rent arrears, because the process of eviction through rent arrears is so complex, complicated and drawn out, section 21 is used as the default to deal with the problem, and you write off the debt. So, this is the unseen side of section 21; it's the easier route to deal with rent arrears.

So, LHA and, potentially, discretionary housing payments supporting a system that needs to be reformed in the short term is the answer. And we joined with the Bevan Foundation to look at the COVID support grant that was underused, to be deferred across to DHP; that hasn't been able to be done, but DHP could resolve, in the very short term, the problem of arrears if it can be administered quickly, promptly and properly to the right people who need it.

Just a bit of a sideways look, all the things that my colleagues have described, you know, that spiral into debt and the impact that that has on family relationships, mental health and mental well-being, et cetera, are the kinds of things that consume people in this situation that, ultimately, result in tenancies ending. So, we did a piece of work with our Tyfu Tai Cymru project a couple of years back about supporting the PRS and tenants with mental health issues in the PRS, and the Government took that on board and it started working. But more generally, it's about providing support to PRS landlords to support their tenants. That's what it's ultimately about: investment in the PRS and supporting them to maintain tenancies and keep people in their homes.

Absolutely. I'm just wondering about the potential for the leasing scheme Wales to be scaled up to be made more attractive to private landlords. Any ideas about that?

I'm sure that Steve might have more direct comments on that, rather than myself. The feedback we've had so far has been 'mixed', maybe, is probably the word to use. I think we have heard of some positive examples, but I think that there's a concern about, realistically, how many landlords are we going to have on the scheme to make a difference at scale, necessarily. Is the support provided through it generous enough to really attract people, and again, there's a question then that, if you move the cash support to be generous enough, is that really the most effective use of that cash? Could you be using it to be doing something longer term, to sort out that problem around the supply side? So, I think there is a bit of a tension in terms of that, but I'm sure that Steve has more direct experience with working with his members.

I'm now absolutely convinced that you've seen my briefing notes [Laughter.] To say that there's a mixed message is an understatement. So, again, going back to our members, looking for positives, 88.6 per cent of landlords see that the guaranteed income is a positive and 73.9 per cent see that it's a hassle-free nature of letting a property. However, when looking at negatives, 88 per cent of landlords fear a loss of control over their property, and 78 per cent fear the risk of damage to their property. So, 'mixed message' is the ultimate way of describing that. There are benefits, there are drawbacks, and there is a way that that can help the system, but there are things that need to be addressed to make it less of a concern for landlords. 

Was this sent to you? [Laughter.]

I think one of the messages that we picked up as well from some of the work we've done with some of your members, actually, is about the fact that the LHA becomes a problem here again, because the level of the guarantee is set at LHA level. Well, if you can make significantly more by letting out your property at the higher rate than LHA, actually, running the risk of having no-one to pay your rent for three months is worth it, because you'll make more in the other nine months then you would by letting it out for guarantee. But the fundamental problem, I think, is that the LHA is intrinsically linked, because it's just so far below market rates now that any sort of guarantee at LHA is not that attractive to a huge number of landlords. So, that, I think, is a real major challenge, and it's about how devolved policy and UK policy sometimes work against each other, potentially.

I mean, I was speaking to one of our members yesterday who's a landlord with multiple properties in Cardiff, and he said that the leasing scheme isn't going to solve their problem; it's far too restricted, and most lenders won't lend on it, and the gap between what they are paying and what is available—the point Steffan was making—on the open market is just so far apart now that not even the socially minded landlords are considering it. So, that's where we're at, but the flipside of it, as I was alluding to earlier, is I think that 26 per cent of PRS properties are in fuel poverty, so if we are going to rely on PRS to plug this gap between temporary accommodation and longer term provision, then we have to ensure that they're to a similar or same standard as social housing, particularly around the fuel poverty issue, given the current energy costs. So, it's a double-edged sword and we need to address it.


Thank you, Chair, and I've got to apologise, I've got a bit of a cold, it's all in the nose, so I sound quite nasally. Thanks ever so much for coming today, it's been really interesting and informative, actually. I just wanted to ask one final question, really, on the rapid rehousing transition plans that the local authorities have been asked to do now. I was just wondering about how easy a process that was for local authorities to move to from their traditional rehousing plans that they've had. But then, also, how inclusive a process was it, do you know? So, when the local authorities were drafting these plans, was there involvement, do you think, from all sections of stakeholders, basically? And I know that the Welsh Government has predicted an estimated three to five years to get these up and running, and I was just wondering if you thought that that was achievable, really. Thank you.

I think it's a really difficult question, to be honest. The move to rapid rehousing is extremely difficult for all the reasons that we've discussed up to now in terms of if you look at the number of presentations from people who are homeless or rough sleeping and you just look at the volume of that against the supply of available accommodation, you're not going to house those people with the available supply. So, if I'm honest, I don't think a transition to three to five years is realistic at all; I think it's many multiples of that. You're looking at a decade or more, and only then if you address the supply issues.

If we look at the capability of the system, just in terms of how many people present and how many are available that would actually match what those people need, there is a mismatch, so those people will automatically go into temporary accommodation. I think rapid rehousing, though, is the solution to ending homelessness. We do need to ensure that homelessness is brief, it is rare and if you spend time in temporary accommodation, it's very short before you move into settled accommodation. But we will only address that if we do increase supply of the right homes in the right locations.

Wales and West work in 15 of the 22 local authority areas, and we've been involved in a number of the discussions. I think, for the local authorities in the year that they've had to date, it's been very difficult to prepare the transition plan for rapid rehousing on the back of homelessness plans and a number of other action plans, which is why a good number of the local authorities have been unable to complete a transition plan that is inclusive and has involved all partners, as they would have liked to, so, a number have been more interim transition plans, with more work to be done over the future. I think 15 of the 22 have been submitted, some of those have had lots and lots of involvement; I know that my organisation and others have been deeply involved, but in other areas, they've not been able to do that. So, I think it's been very difficult for them.

Thanks very much. I'd echo again what Shayne's experience has been. We've been involved pretty well with the local authorities where we work. So, again, it's a bit inconsistent—some more than others. I think, again, rapid rehousing within five years without supply is not going to be feasible in my view, the same as Shayne's.

Equally, as well, one of the things we've considered when we've been in conversation with the local authorities is that rapid rehousing is a solution, it's not the entire solution. It's a fantastic thing to aim towards, but it's not right for everybody, and I would encourage not reducing the options available to tackle a really complex issue. Some different types of support settings, whether they be temporary, whether they be self-contained, et cetera, or not, are solutions for some people at the right time, so I'm not sure why you would reduce the toolkit available to deal with such a complex problem. So, just to add that to the mix, really. I think local authorities have shared that view. They've looked at it and gone, 'Do you know what? We'd really like to keep this option available, but, under the rapid rehousing guidelines, that's not something we'd look to do.' And the experience of customers in some of those hostel settings and things, the evidence that they've provided around how that has contributed to their story in terms of where they're at, has been extremely positive. So, when we talk about temporary accommodation, perhaps we need to make sure that we've got some sort of differential between people staying in bed and breakfasts versus people staying in well-established support settings and things like that. So, that's just something to add, really.


Thanks, Allan, for that. Just to come back to you on that, then, you mentioned that it would still be good for local authorities to have a raft of policies that they can dip into to help the situation. What policies do you think would suffer as a result of this rapid rehousing action plan, then?

Well, for example, I know we've got hostel settings, we've got, I don't know, a 13-room supported housing hostel setting, and to convert that into self-contained units wouldn't be viable financially and also you'd be reducing the number of properties, when we've already said that actually we can't meet the supply needs already. So, local authorities are probably not keen to reduce the number of properties available to them to tackle some of these issues, but supported housing in the traditional sense is being considered as not the way forward. It isn't rapid rehousing—it's not—but it is a fantastic tool for some people at the right point in their journey. So, for me, it's about, well, just because one answer is right doesn't mean that other answers are not and that they can't contribute to a broad spectrum of tools that could be available to meet people's needs.

I gave the example earlier of the person who was housed directly from homelessness into a flat in general needs with support provided to him, which he rapidly disengaged from once he was through the door, kind of thing, who then found himself vulnerable, cuckooed, involved in county lines et cetera. He's now really keen to go back into, or to go into, a supported hostel setting, where he'll get that much more intensive support and have that available to him whenever he needs it and he won't be as vulnerable to some of the issues that he's facing currently. Similarly, at the same time, moving people directly into that general needs setting when they may actually need support actually blocks people who are in that support setting who are ready to move on into permanent accommodation.

So, when we think about some of the policies, it's about how we join those up. So, it's not about necessarily just the one let from this person to that property, it's thinking about the wider picture in terms of a chain of lets and how you can alleviate homelessness through considering maybe two or three lets that, actually, would ultimately result in one person's homelessness situation being resolved. And in doing so, I suppose, with rapid rehousing, if we're focusing primarily on those experiencing homelessness, and given the numbers that we've talked about, we will be doing, it will be to the detriment of people with other priority needs. My worry with that is, if we're not dealing with people who've got other priority needs, such as mobility or overcrowding and things like that, then they're the people who are going to add to that pile of people experiencing homelessness in the future. So, it's not joined up enough for me in terms of the allocations, and it's a bit one dimensional in terms of the support provision that's being considered. So, it's a complex picture, really.

Yes, just to reiterate that point about housing support and more flexibility in housing support, a lot of our members have been calling for that, because not all support is housing related, and the merger of all the support funding into that one supported housing grant has taken some of that flexibility away. That's what our members are telling us.

Back to the substantive point that was being made earlier about supply, it's funny, isn't it, we've been spending the last hour talking about what's causing the demand and the increased demand on temporary accommodation and increased homelessness figures, and it all comes down to supply, at the end of the day. So, to talk about rapid housing in that context, it's a bit like opening a sweet shop without having the sweets. So, the Welsh Government absolutely get that and are investing record amounts, £1 billion over three years, but the problem we're going to come down to—and Shayne will know more granular detail on this—is, in terms of moving forward, the cost-of-living crisis, the impact on supply chains, the lack of labour, the lack of skilled labour in the decarb agenda, are going to cause huge problems in building out and reaching that 20,000 target that's been set for this Senedd term. So, we're still not getting to the stage where we need to.

My overarching point, which I was going to leave to the end in summing up, but it seems like a sensible place to make it, is: despite that record investment, and despite the Government getting it, is that investment commensurate with the scale of the crisis we're facing, fundamentally? And that's why, along with our campaign partners, Shelter Cymru and Tai Pawb—and you'll know this, Chair—we've been really pushing for the incorporation of the right to adequate housing into Welsh law, which recent cost-benefit analysis has showed us will save the public purse in Wales £11.5 billion, which can be reinvested in housing and other areas, and that's across the public policy piece—creating more economic activity, health savings, well-being savings, local government savings. So, it makes economic sense to invest more in housing, because it's costing us a boatload of money that we can't afford and therefore can't reinvest in housing. So, that's my pitch today.


Well, thanks, Matt. And we will have to end on that note, because I'm afraid that's all we've got time for for this session. Thank you all very much for giving evidence to the committee this morning. You will be sent a transcript to check for factual accuracy. Diolch yn fawr. 

Okay, committee will break briefly, then, until 10:15. 

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:07 a 10:14.

The meeting adjourned between 10:07 and 10:14.

3. Digartrefedd - sesiwn dystiolaeth 3
3. Homelessness - evidence session 3

Okay, committee will resume, then, with item 3 on our agenda today, which is our third evidence session regarding our work on homelessness in Wales and the current position. I'm very pleased to welcome Jasmine Harris, senior policy and public affairs officer for Crisis, who is joining us virtually, and here with us in the committee room, Jennie Bibbings, head of campaigns for Shelter, and Bonnie Williams, director of Housing Justice Cymru. Welcome to you all—bore da.

Perhaps I might begin, then, with some questions on the supply of temporary accommodation, and firstly your view on the current pressures local authority homelessness services are facing and the current picture with temporary accommodation and support services across Wales. Who would like to begin?


So, I can talk about our casework. We've seen a big increase in homelessness casework over the last year. It's gone up by 41 per cent between August last year and this year. In terms of temporary accommodation, the main issues that we've seen are around inability to access, so, it's the waiting lists, which I know we'll go on to talk more about. There's loads of stuff around suitability of temporary accommodation, and of course the evictions as well, for a whole host of reasons, sometimes due to unmet support needs, sometimes leading back into street homelessness.

I think it's really important just to say at the outset that Shelter Cymru casework—we totally recognise that it's not representative of local authority practice as a whole; it's representative of what happens when things go wrong, because, if people get good outcomes, they don't need to use our services. So, just to put that proviso in place. But I think it's really there as a barometer of progress, because if people's housing needs are being met then they don't need to use our services. 

From our perspective, I think the concern and the focus for us is that we're all aware that supply is a real issue at the moment. Therefore, as Jennie's touched on, it's the quality of the available temporary accommodation and the support services to enable people to move from that accommodation into housing when that's available, and those are the real concerns for us at the moment, recognising that supply is a challenge.

Yes, okay. And the support services, is there anything in particular you—? Sorry, Jasmine, did you want to come in at that point?

Yes, thank you, Chair. Firstly, I'd just like to say that I think it's really positive that the Welsh Government are working towards solving these problems in the long term, but it's fair to say that, at the moment, we're not quite seeing the trends going in the direction that we would like to see them, and, yes, temporary accommodation is a really big issue. We are seeing more people entering into the homelessness system than we are seeing leaving the homelessness system, and there's really a bottleneck in temporary accommodation that is, as we've already just discussed, on a lot of occasions not suitable for the needs of the people that are within that temporary accommodation—people being offered out-of-area accommodation or just really poor quality temporary accommodation, which makes it difficult to leave their homelessness behind. Added to that is the lack of move-on options, so that people are stuck in temporary accommodation for a significant period of time, and I think the pressures on the services are created by those problems, and across local authority homelessness support teams and third sector support teams we've got a workforce that has been essentially firefighting for a long time now, dealing with crisis situations, and they just don't have the resources to deal with the amount of cases that are coming in, which is making it really difficult. So, it's a difficult job at any point in time, but at the moment the job is ever more difficult, because it's telling people that there just isn't enough accommodation or support to go round. 

Okay. Thank you very much, Jasmine. In terms of the 'no-one left out' policy, there are lots of pressures at the moment, including cost-of-living pressures that we're all very familiar with and will be with us for some time. Do you think that 'no-one left out' policy is realistic in terms of those pressures and what we're likely to see over the coming months?

Well, I think that the ambition is absolutely right, and I think that when we set out that ambition it was right, and I think Welsh Government—. I'm proud, as the director of a bi-national charity, to be representing Wales with those ambitions versus what we're seeing in England going into this winter and the number of people that will be rough-sleeping. However, what we have got is an implementation gap, and there are many reasons for that: partly, it's the establishment and implementation of a new approach, but also the incidents that we didn't know were going to come our way. COVID was one, but that came on top of Syria, Afghanistan and now the Ukraine situation as well. Admittedly, we've got 14,000 people at the moment in Wales in some form of temporary emergency accommodation, and that includes those being hosted through Homes for Ukraine, 2,500 of which of the 8,500 in temporary accommodation are children, and we know that that's not ideal. It's not the aspiration, but I do believe that the policy in itself is the right direction. So, again, from our perspective, it's about how we can at the moment, while there's this implementation gap, make sure that the offer of accommodation or shelter—I know that we'd like to afford everybody a home, but at the moment we are talking more about shelter—and the services that support people while they're in that shelter, and help them transition into home, are of the highest quality that they can be. And that's where we do see a disparity, and that's where I think there needs to be a focus.


Yes, I would say I think it's right to be asking whether or not it is realistic to implement the 'no-one left out' policy, but the fact that is that we've committed to implementing it in Wales, and it might be better to turn our conversations to how we can make it more realistic. There are a number of measures that we can put into place and take action on that will make it sustainable, rather than assessing whether or not it is sustainable. I think it's worth just starting to think about those actions, what they could be, and then begin to deliver them rather than deliberate over whether it's the right direction. We've committed to the direction, so we should start being more practical about making sure that it becomes a reality.

I completely agree with what's been said so far. The only thing that I would add is the recent priority need category for people who are street homeless. We've seen that have a positive effect for individuals. Previously, during the lockdown period when the 'everybody in' was guidance, we would try and represent individuals who weren't being given temporary accommodation, but we weren't able to do that in a judicial way. We tried to get a judicial review and it was thrown out by the court because it was only based on guidance, whereas now with the priority need category, we are able to seek judicial review if individuals who are street homeless aren't getting temporary accommodation.

So, that's good for individuals as long as they're accessing our service and they're getting that representation, but I think we're acutely aware that judicial reviews don't make accommodation, and you're essentially giving individuals higher priority, and there's still a lot of people out there who are street homeless and not getting the accommodation they need.  

Okay. Thanks very much, Jenny. Jenny, one further question from me before we move on. Oh, sorry, Mabon, yes. Mabon ap Gwynfor who is a committee member joining us remotely. Mabon. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Gadeirydd. Diolch, bawb. Gobeithio bod pawb yn fy nghlywed i efo'r offer cyfieithu. Mynd at bwynt Jasmine yn fanna, diolch yn fawr iawn am y cyflwyniadau. Mae Jasmine cweit reit wedi rhoi her yn fanna, yn dweud bod yn iawn i ni ofyn y cwestiwn a ydy'r polisi yma yn realistig i ni i'w gyflwyno, ond yn hytrach na gofyn y cwestiwn yna, dylem ni fod yn gofyn sut mae cyflwyno'r polisi yn llwyddiannus. Iawn, felly, o gymryd ein bod ni'n mynd i ofyn y cwestiwn yna, oes gennych chi awgrymiadau o ba gamau sydd yn gallu cael eu cymryd er mwyn sicrhau ein bod ni'n medru cyflwyno'r polisi yna'n llwyddiannus? 

Thank you very much, Chair. Thank you, all. I hope everybody can hear me and the translation equipment is working. Just to go back to Jasmine's point there, thank you very much for your presentations. Jasmine quite rightly has provided a challenge there, that it's right to ask the question whether this policy is realistic for us to implement, but rather than ask that question, we should be asking how the policy should be implemented successfully. Right, in taking that we're going to ask that question, do you have suggestions of what steps can be taken in order to ensure that we can implement that policy successfully? 

Various suggestions, yes, and hopefully we'll get into some of those during the course of the evidence. There's a whole ream of work around prevention, and I know local authorities—we had a webinar yesterday with local authorities—are trying really hard to continue to do that preventative work, because I think a lot of them have recognised that they've been getting into crisis mode and just dealing with people coming through the door, and they do still need to do that early work. So, that's increasingly starting to happen.

I think that there are various things that we can do to prevent people having to go into temporary accommodation in the first place because it's a real trap, and I'm going to get into this a bit more as we go on, but when people go into temporary accommodation, a lot of it is unaffordable for people who are in work. Sometimes, people have to give up their jobs when they go into temporary accommodation. Sometimes, they make the mistake of getting a job while they're in temporary accommodation and they find they're hit with this enormous rent bill. So, avoiding people getting into that dependent passive position, as much as we can, has got to be a part of this. 

And on the supply side, which is completely vital, I know the Welsh Government has made some really encouraging first steps towards getting house building more aligned with housing need, locally, through the prospectuses. And we're in a very early position with those yet. I still pick up, and this is anecdotal, that there does seem to be a reluctance to build the types of homes that we know a certain cohort of homeless people need—people with the highest levels of unmet support need, the people who are going round the system at the moment, who can't sustain temporary accommodation, who get evicted into street homelessness and come around again. We know what they need; they need Housing First. We've got a really good model there, haven't we? Alternatively, it's about long-term, stable, supported accommodation that's purpose built, with the needs of that cohort in mind. But there is a reluctance among providers still to do that—it's a lot of work in terms of management and it doesn't stack up so well in terms of the rents. So, we need to make that a financially viable model for social landlords to step in and build that type of home.


Okay. Thank you very much, Jennie. Right. Let me just ask you one further question, Jennie, and then we'll move on to other committee members and their questions. In your evidence, you pointed to the existence of waiting lists for temporary accommodation in some local authorities, and I think that Welsh Government supplementary guidance has made it clear that this is unlawful and shouldn't be happening. Jennie, could you give us some idea of the extent of the problem, the extent to which it is happening at the moment?

Yes. We did a freedom of information request; it's a little out of date now because the figures are for the end of October 2021. We had 21 of the 22 authorities respond to us, and of that 21, 13 told us that they did have a waiting list at that point. The total number of people who were on all of those waiting lists was 335; the highest in a single local authority was 178. But, as I say, that was October 2021, so I would expect the picture to be different now. I don't know whether the Welsh Government is monitoring that themselves—possibly.

Okay, Jennie. Thank you very much. We'll move on then to Mabon ap Gwynfor. Mabon.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, a diolch unwaith eto am eich presenoldeb chi. Ymddiheuriadau fy mod i'n hwyr i'r cyfarfod yma, am resymau personol. Mae yna achosion wedi bod yn fy swyddfa i, pobl leol yn dod ger fy mron yn gofyn am gymorth, yn dweud eu bod nhw mewn llety dros dro, a'u hanghenion nhw ddim yn cael eu cyfarch oherwydd bod ganddyn nhw deuluoedd, neu, os ydyn nhw mewn gwesty, does ganddyn nhw ddim oergell i gadw bwyd, dim popty i baratoi bwyd, ac yn y blaen. Pa mor addas fyddech chi'n ei ddweud ydy'r llety dros dro sy'n cael ei ddarparu yng Nghymru yn gyffredinol ar hyn o bryd, ac a oes yna enghreifftiau da y medrai awdurdodau eraill ddysgu oddi wrthynt?

Thank you very much, and thank you again for your attendance. Apologies that I was late to this meeting, for personal reasons. There have been cases in my office of local people coming before us and asking for support, saying that they're in temporary accommodation, and that their needs are not being met because they have families, or, if they're in a hotel, they don't have any fridges to keep food, no ovens to prepare food, and so on. How suitable would you say is the temporary accommodation that's being provided in Wales in general currently, and are there good examples that other local authorities could learn from?

Great. Thank you for the question, Mabon. I suppose we come back to the point of there being a real disparity—a disparity of how we're implementing the legislation that Jennie's touched on, but also then the services that we're providing and the quality. And I think one of the things that we come across again and again is that, when it comes to schools, and the quality of schools, we have an independent body in Estyn that comes in and inspects them on behalf of local authorities and Government. But what we're seeing, I think, across the board here is a real lack of quality standard assurance. So, we don't know what the level of quality and the difference is between one provision and another, between one local authority and another. And at first-hand I've been taken around some of the most appalling B&B accommodation, but, similarly, I've seen some absolutely fantastic accommodation, and that costs the same to the individuals living in that accommodation, despite the difference in service there, and similarly in support.

So, what we know is that really, really crucial is the rapid rehousing—moving people from that bottleneck, through from accommodation into housing. But we know, again, that rapid rehousing and Housing First is a well-regarded model, but it has to be implemented well. And in Rhondda Cynon Taf, and wider generic studies, we've seen up to 57 per cent of people failing to maintain their tenancy after six months. And it is quite commonly understood that, within two years, 50 per cent of people in a lot of models again are experiencing homelessness. So, making sure that that support is right and it works is absolutely vital, and that's why the focus of our written evidence was on a volunteer version of this that we run in Swansea.

We run alongside a number of other services, and our tenancy sustainment rates for six months are 100 per cent, and for over 12 months are above 90 per cent. We also have very different engagement rates. So, traditionally, we know that roughly 36 per cent of people in the rapid rehousing programmes don't engage, and again we have over 90 per cent engagement with our model. My challenge and my worry are that I can't promote that model because I can't compare those statistics to any other service in Wales, and on asking, I'm told that it wouldn't be appropriate to receive those, even if they're sanitised, so I've got to do a freedom of information request.

But it brings me back to wondering how we're assessing which services we're commissioning, how we're looking at what types of temporary accommodation we're putting people in, because, Mabon, as you said, there is a real disparity in the provision of the accommodation and the services. Supply is a massive, massive issue that we can't solve tomorrow. However, what we can do is make sure the people experiencing temporary accommodation, and support services to get them into accommodation, is the highest standard it could be, and that is within our gift.


Diolch. Cyn ein bod ni'n cael y ddwy arall i gyfrannu, tybed, Gadeirydd—. Mae Bonnie wedi codi pwyntiau pwysig yn fanna o ran diffyg gwybodaeth er mwyn mesur llwyddiant un rhaglen yn erbyn y llall. Tybed, Gadeirydd, ydy e'n bosib inni ofyn y cwestiynau yna, trwy'r pwyllgor i'r Llywodraeth, er mwyn inni fedru cael y wybodaeth yna er mwyn pwyso a mesur llwyddiant y rhaglenni a'r modeli yma. Ydy hynna'n rhywbeth y gallem ni ei wneud, Gadeirydd?

Thank you. Before we have contributions from the other two, I wonder, Chair—. Bonnie has raised important points there regarding a lack of information to measure the success of one programme against another. I wonder, Chair, whether it's possible for us to ask those questions, through the committee to the Government, so that we can have that information to look at the success or not of these programmes. Is that something we can do, Chair?

Yes. I'm sure we could, Mabon, and we can discuss that as a committee later. Yes.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Diolch, Bonnie, am yr ateb hwnnw. Mae'n codi andros o lot o gwestiynau yn fwy na'u hateb, mewn gwirionedd. Jennie, oes gan Shelter farn ar hyn?

Thank you very much. Thank you, Bonnie, for that answer. It raises quite a lot of questions rather than answers, really. I wonder, Jennie, whether Shelter has a view on this.

Yes. As Bonnie says, there's such a range, and some temporary accommodation is of a very good standard, and some of the support is excellent. Perhaps we tend to see the extreme examples at Shelter Cymru, but, back in May, I was sent some photos of some local authority-managed temporary accommodation, and we were quite shocked at the photos. The accommodation was really dirty, it clearly hadn't been cleaned for a long time, there was damp, the mattresses were dirty—and I'm sorry, it's a bit of a disgusting detail—but someone had been sick in one of the communal sinks and it had been left there for a long time and not cleaned up, and the smell was apparently overpowering. And, for us, we were asking the question about environmental health and, unfortunately, the client didn't pursue, they were moved to different accommodation, which is often the trouble with suitability challenges, is that the local authority doesn't want a suitability challenge, so they'll find alternative accommodation for the individual. So, that means that we don't get any case law around suitability; we don't get to push it in a judicial sense. But I think there's a really important point there about how we—. There's not an inspection regime for temporary accommodation. We need to get in front of this in terms of assuring those standards, because relying on individuals to challenge it through suitability isn't sufficient, for a whole host of reasons.

Diolch, Jennie. Ac yn yr un modd, Jasmine, oes gennych chi farn ar addasrwydd llety dros dro?

Thank you, Jennie. And, Jasmine, do you have any views on the suitability of temporary accommodation?

Yes. I'd completely echo what both Jennie and Bonnie have said. I'd say that we do see some decent temporary accommodation through our services, but the majority is unsuitable and of a low standard. So, we have reports of emergency accommodation that's infested with rats, fleas and scabies. We have instances where the hot water is controlled centrally, so every time someone wants to have a shower, they have to phone and ask for the hot water to be turned on, which really just strips people of their autonomy and humanity, really. So, it's a really unsavoury place to live in these poor accommodation services.

We held a stakeholder event last week, as part of the expert review panel for legislation reform, and the main theme coming out was that people have a lot of support needs going into temporary accommodation, but what's happening at the moment is they're coming out of temporary accommodation with more support needs than they went in with, because of the chaotic nature of the environments in this temporary accommodation. It's quite common for people experiencing homelessness to have had experience of trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and to have mental illnesses, and these are just really unsuitable environments for people who have that background. It can lead to retraumatisation and, as I said, increasing support needs. So, I think there are many different types of temporary accommodation that we need to provide, but they're not being matched to the right people at the moment, and there's perhaps a particular lack of temporary accommodation for people with complex support needs, so the higher levels of support and the more specialist support. Particularly in B&Bs that were never designed to be temporary accommodation for homelessness services, the managers of the B&Bs do not have the experience to support these people, and often, I think, people feel very isolated in these temporary accommodation settings, where they're not really receiving the support they need and they just feel abandoned and hopeless in their bids to end their homelessness, because they just don't see how they're going to get out of the temporary accommodation system. These environments are extremely chaotic and have a really serious impact on people's mental health.


Gaf i, felly, ddilyn i fyny ar hynny—diolch, Jasmine—os caf i, Gadeirydd? Mae'r tair ohonoch chi wedi sôn fod yna enghreifftiau da ac enghreifftiau gwael. Ydyn ni'n sôn fan yma am rai awdurdodau sy'n dda ac awdurdodau sy'n wael, neu ydyn ni'n gweld y gwahaniaeth yna o fewn awdurdodau?

May I, therefore, follow up on that—thank you, Jasmine—if I may, Chair? The three of you have spoken about the fact that there are good examples and bad examples. Are we talking here about some authorities that are good and some authorities that are bad, or are we seeing that difference within authorities?

Our experience is that there is a difference within authorities. For example, the accommodation that I mentioned, that's known locally as a place of last resort; it's the place where you put people who are coming out of prison, people who have been around the system a lot, and, in itself, it's a kind of gate-keeping mechanism because it's got a certain notoriety—you don't want to go in there. So, I think there's a lot of variation within authorities as well as between.

I would agree with that, I think. Our services that work directly with people experiencing homelessness are in Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot, and we see a variation across. It's really the luck of the draw of where you get placed, and some unsuitable accommodation for one person might be perfectly suitable for someone else, but I think, because of the nature of the pressure that the workforce is under, there's not necessarily time to do a full and thorough assessment of somebody's needs and put them in the most suitable accommodation available. So, yes, we do see a mixture. It's not a case of some local authorities doing it well and others doing it not so well; it is really varied across local authorities and within local authorities. 

I would say, Chair, that, I suppose, on the point that Jennie made previously about the unlawful waiting lists and the specific pressures that apply to some local authorities, for example Newport—so, once the bridge toll was removed, we know that we've seen a huge movement of people across the border and we've seen a greater housing price increase there, and the rental market is pretty much non-existent—we know that the pressures, for example, on some are different to others, but we've also seen a willingness to implement the legislation more proactively and preventatively in some places than we have others, hence the resultant unlawful waiting lists.

Gaf i ddod nôl mewn munud, os gwelwch yn dda, os awn ni ymlaen i'r nesaf? 

May I come back in a minute, if we go on to the next set of questions? 

Okay. Just before we do, I just wanted to ask one further question, which is around the use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation—your views, really, on whether that's necessary at the current time, what the issues around it are and is it realistic to expect the use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation to cease at the current time.

I think that there's a risk here around demonising B&B at the expense of other forms of temporary accommodation. So, going back a few years now, when the suitability of accommodation order was newer, some Welsh local authorities stepped right away from providing B&B, and were quite proud of that, but what crept in in its place was, I think, an even worse model, which is the floor space model, which a number of Welsh local authorities operate today. That's a really unsafe, frightening environment, where you haven't even got your own space or, if you do, it's like a cubicle, a 'pod' as they call it. So, there's a risk that we end up, unwittingly, contributing to the rise of even worse forms of accommodation.

But there was just one other point that I wanted to make here around alternatives to temporary accommodation, which we think is worthy of further exploration. We've had some positive conversations with the Welsh Government about the idea of being homeless at home. So, some English authorities have done this in the past where they've created a policy where someone can be homeless and be deemed to be homeless by the local authority, but not having to go into to temporary accommodation. So, I think, for myself, if I lost my home tomorrow, I'd much rather stay with my mother-in-law than go into a B&B with my kids. But, if I did that, I'd be risking a 'not homeless' decision. So, how do we create an environment where it's safer for people to choose to stay somewhere that's not going into a horrible B&B? And I think the benefits of that, apart from reducing pressure on B&B and other forms of TA, is that you're not having to pay those high rents. So, it's easier for you to maintain or get a job, and I think, increasingly, as the cost-of-living crisis bites, we're going to see more and more people who are in work experiencing homelessness, and I think it's a real fallacy that we've fallen into this trap of thinking everyone who goes into temporary accommodation is incapable of work. It's not true. We don't actually know, because no-one's really counting, how many people could, potentially, get back on their on their own feet financially. So, I'm quite keen on this idea. We're creating dependency in this system. So, in thinking creatively around alternatives, in a person-centred way because it's completely consent first and foremost, there is potential there.  


Just on that, very often people are told that, to get on the housing list, they've got to become homeless. So, following on from what you're saying, it's ridiculous. They might be in private rented accommodation and they can't afford the rent or they're being evicted because that's going on the market. But then they're being told they've got to go into a homeless shelter or be made homeless before they can go on the housing list. So, is that the policy you think we should look at?

We definitely do need to look at allocation policies.

Homeless has that higher priority, doesn't it, I guess, on housing lists.

And that is a difficult call. How do you prioritise access to this scarce resource? Is it about how serious people's situation is? Or is it about how long they've been without a stable home? And, in reality, we have to take all of these factors into account, don't we? But there is a sense at the moment that it would be a risk. If you went to stay on your nan's settee instead of going into a B&B, you might lose your priority on the waiting list. There's also a load of other barriers around the waiting list to do with arrears, which I think is something that is underappreciated, and I'm keen that we do some work to get into temporary accommodation and talk to people. We're going to, hopefully, do a bit of a case file review in Shelter Cymru to look at how many people can't get into social housing because they're indebted, either because of old arrears going way back or, sometimes, because of the TA itself. There's a shortfall with the rent sometimes. The service charges can be really high, and that isn't covered by housing benefit, so people get into debt while they're in temporary accommodation and that can bar people from social housing. There are big questions around allocations and none of them are easy to answer because it can't just be about seriousness and it can't just about time served; it has to be a balance in between. So, it's not an easy one to bottom out, that one.

Sorry. So, what other main reasons, do you think, people are seeking homelessness-related advice for? What is the effectiveness of interventions, and may additional interventions be needed this coming winter—I'm really worried about that—such as the suspension of evictions or a mortgage rescue scheme?

The suspension of evictions was something that we were really hoping to see, because it really did help during the pandemic. I know it's a very difficult time to make policy affecting the private rented sector at the moment, because there are so many section 21s happening, so I do recognise that the Government's got difficult decisions to make around whether to suspend evictions. But it's not unprecedented. We've done it before, and it happens in France every winter. So, that was something that we were hoping to see something from the Government on.

Mortgage rescue as well is another area where we know Government is looking at this. We are starting to see mortgage repossessions increase in Wales, so, if we get in at an early stage, we can prevent some of that getting out of hand. I was talking to a woman last week. She's a social tenant and she went through a mortgage rescue back in 2009, and she's still there now as a social tenant. And she was so happy that she kept her home and she sustained it all those years, and we helped her through that at the time. And it just brought it home to me again what a powerful intervention that can be. So, yes, mortgage rescue, and rent rescue as well, where you buy the homes where landlords are selling. There is some good work going on and the potential for that to be scaled up. 


Yes. So, with regard to the reasons that people are presenting as homeless, I think one of the main reasons is relationship breakdown. And we can term that as both violent and non-violent. So, there is a big link at the moment with the rise in domestic violence and the rise in presentations of homelessness. We know that, during the pandemic, domestic abuse and violence was on the rise. I think it continues to rise. And affecting both homelessness and the rates of domestic violence is the cost of living. So, obviously, it has financial pressures, but it also puts pressures on relationships. And I know that the cost of living has a disproportionate effect on women, and particularly because of perpetrators of domestic abuse attributing their abuse to pressures related to the cost of living. So, I think there's an important link there to explore

Also, I think, when it comes to an eviction moratorium, Crisis has been quite vocal on this idea in the past months, and what we're wary about is that there might be some unintended consequences of a ban on evictions. So, it might be more of a delay of someone's homelessness rather than really preventing homelessness altogether. So, if you ban evictions, then there's increased risk of rent arrears, which would then become a barrier for some people accessing their tenancy in the future. So, rather than actually preventing that homelessness, it's really just pushing it further down the line. It's not that we're saying it's completely the wrong idea, but an unintended consequence of that would need to be mitigated.

Just to follow up on that, there's the increase of different demographics of people now experiencing homelessness and, with the cost of living, that's going to continue. As we've just head, the relationship breakdown means that, again, we need to be looking really closely at the suitability of accommodation, as Jenny's highlighted, because if people are experiencing homelessness for the first time and we put them into the wrong accommodation with no support, actually they can start to experience trauma that will mean that they may not get straight back into mainstream housing and a job. So, for example, one gentleman that we support had a relationship breakdown. His wife and children remained in the property. He will say that she is the perpetrator of domestic abuse. So, he fled the property and went into emergency accommodation. We tried to get him into accommodation as soon as possible because it was vital to him to be working and for his kids to be able to visit him. Now, his kids couldn't visit him in a large-scale temporary accommodation place; it just wasn't suitable. So, it meant he suddenly lost all contact and relationship, really, with his children, as well as his job, because he couldn't hold onto it during that move and that transition. So, we got him into accommodation as soon as we could. There were no carpets in the property, and he was afforded one single bed and one single armchair. So, again, his kids still couldn't come and visit him. And, so, thankfully, through donations—which is just not where you'd hope us to be at this point in Wales—we managed to help him to choose a sofa bed so that the children—. He had a sofa, he'd had extra beds, and we carpeted the place. But we're a third sector charity, and it was unfortunate that, while we were really pleased to be able to support and help him, that that was his only option, otherwise his children wouldn't be able to visit, he wouldn't be able to get back into a job, and it would really be a situation that would have impacted on his mental health. He's now working, has set up that tenancy into a home, and has sustained that for over a year and a half, and we see the future to be very strong for him. 

But it really is luck of the draw, I think, as to where you end up and the suitability of that accommodation, and, again, the quality of it. So, in terms of the B&B question, if the quality is there, it's absolutely fine, but we're also, in some areas now, talking about night shelters again, which is a place that we hoped we'd never go back to in Wales. We're also still seeing mixed-sex dormitory accommodation, including for, in some circumstances, Muslim women, who feel they can't remove their hijab at night because it's a mixed-sex dormitory. These are not where we hoped to be at this time, and it's the opposite direction of the policy. So, my real ask today is for us to consider some way of ensuring the quality of what we're providing, because as we move forwards to delivering the policy of affording everybody the opportunity to have a house, we know that we can't be there yet. It is the right policy direction, but for circumstances beyond our control in Wales, we are where we are and we can't get to that yet, so we must ensure that people can at least experience decent accommodation and support in the meantime, and the disparity out there is just too vast.


Okay. The ability of people living in temporary accommodation to access support and whether some groups are facing specific challenges, for example, young people or people with complex needs—just your advice on that, please. Thank you.

So, from my point of view, there are lots and lots of different support services across Wales, but what we're not clear on is whether there is any assessment made of which service would support which person best, what the differences are between the services, what the most effective models are, and what people really need. So, do we have those specialist services? We know, in some of the work that's been done around rehousing people from temporary accommodation, which is vital for us to concentrate on in Wales given the bottleneck situation that we've got, that 36 per cent of people can't engage with generic services. And we know, from the Shelter report, 'Trapped on the Streets' that people, particularly when they're suffering trauma, which any of us would be if we were experiencing homelessness, really, can't navigate the different systems: 'Go to this appointment on a Tuesday over here', or 'Go to this appointment over here.' It's really, really challenging. So, making sure that people have got the right support, as you say—specialist services to meet specialist needs—and that it is available as and when they need, but again, like the B&Bs and the accommodation, that it is of a good quality. And what we cannot get our hands on at the moment is the different between one service and another, and why some local authorities have been recommissioning the same service, year on year for the last eight years, without potentially looking at benchmarking or evidence basing what is working.

Yes, I would just say about the support that people are receiving, some people are receiving good support, and Bonnie mentioned that there are a lot of different support services available, but others aren't aware of the support that's available and aren't receiving that support, so it's leading to something I think Jennie mentioned earlier, which is being put in temporary accommodation and falling into arrears, and then it's more difficult for them to find move-on accommodation. And more generally, just having that support to find settled accommodation—that's not necessarily there at the moment, so that's another contributor to the bottleneck.

And, as so many of these people are in unsuitable accommodation, I think it would be wise to look at the providers of this accommodation. If we are to continue with B&B accommodation, what training could be delivered to these providers to better equip them to deliver that support as well? That's not to say that we want B&B accommodation to be something that we use as a long-term solution; it's very clear that B&Bs aren't a home and aren't an end to anyone's homelessness. But, if we are to continue, then it's even more important that we look at the support that's provided to people. Young people, particularly, were mentioned, and it's just well known that young people struggle more in these situations, because it's just a case of being that bit younger and it being that bit more difficult to come to terms with the conditions in these environments.

Thanks, Carolyn. I'm just going to ask a quick question before we move on to Jayne Bryant, and that's about the private rented sector and the specific challenges of maintaining tenancies there, perhaps considering the rates of local housing allowance as part of that picture.

Yes, I'm happy to take that. Section 21s are a quarter of our entire casework at the moment. They've exploded, and there are various reasons behind that, aren't there? It's a bit of Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 avoidance, a bit of interest rate rises, and, I think, now being a good time to cash in on your investment, in looking at what's going to happen with the housing market.

I think there is more potential to work with private landlords in Wales, and there is willingness for landlords to do more. We did a survey of private landlords, which we published earlier this year, and about half of that sample said that they didn't want to let to people who had come through homelessness, and there were concerns about support needs not being met. That was the big one. And some bad experiences, some good experiences came through. But, when we were asking landlords what would make it more likely for them to let to people who are in receipt of benefits particularly, direct costs—so, the housing cost being paid direct to the landlord—that was a big one; benefits being paid in advance; and, of course, the point about local housing allowance being closer to market rents.

We've just run a 'write to your MP' campaign to try to influence the budget around unfreezing local housing allowance. And we had—I don't think there was a very strong reaction from MPs across any of the parties, to be honest. Some of them were supportive, some of them were not supportive, but even the ones who supported it, it felt as if they were saying that this is a losing battle and there's no point championing this. That's the impression; that was the sub-text that came across to us in the replies that we had. 


I think Crisis is very clear that investment in local housing allowance is vital at the moment, particularly because, in Wales, I think recent research shows that less than 4 per cent of private rental properties are accessible to people who are on LHA. And investment in LHA will solve the problem in two ways, in that it makes current tenancies more sustainable, but it also gives people in temporary accommodation more options for settled accommodation that they can access with local housing allowance. But, we would also ask that any investment into local housing allowance is coupled with rent stabilisation, because it will only be useful to people to have that extra money if rents stay at that affordable rate. So, we've assessed how affordable the rents are and, as I said, under 4 per cent are affordable to people on local housing allowance. But, that's only if those rents stay at that affordable level. That's not a call for hard rent controls or a complete rent freeze, but potentially tying rents to an inflationary measure, and we would be open to discussing what that could possibly look like. There's potentially scope, we think, at Crisis, to look at whether it could be tied to wage growth, and it's definitely something that we feel needs to be explored in Wales to address these issues around the genuine affordability of the private rented sector. Because there's no doubt that the private rented sector needs to play a big role in ending homelessness and in this housing emergency, but at the moment, it's not really able to do that because of the LHA rates.

And as much as we need to work with tenants, we also need to work together with landlords so that landlords feel that they are in a place where they can provide sustainable tenancies, and one of those beyond-rent-level questions is around other restrictions that are placed on tenancies, such as requests for excessive deposits or a guarantor. One of our Crisis members I was speaking to last week was telling me that, to access one private rented property, they were asked for a month's rent upfront and two months' worth of rent as a deposit, which is just completely excessive and not a doable thing for a lot of people, but particularly for people who are experiencing homelessness. So, I think, beyond rent levels and beyond LHA, we need to look at those factors and work with landlords to understand why they're asking for those really tall orders of requirements in order for people to access these tenancies. 

Diolch, Cadeirydd. I'll just take you back a bit, following on from Carolyn's question, really, and the example you gave, Jennie, about that accommodation that was so horrendous, and just the voice of people who are in this accommodation feels so weak and unheard, in some ways, doesn't it? I think, because somebody would be going back into that accommodation, wouldn't they, if they moved them out, somebody else is going back into that. And the people whose voices aren't strong are living in these conditions. So, I'm just wondering how you feel the voices of those people who are in that accommodation can be strengthened.


It's so important, isn't it, because we're talking about a cohort of people who aren't able to represent themselves, aren't we? There are some great projects out there. So, Cymorth has got an Experts by Experience project and I was reading a report from them last week, which was people talking about what it was like in temporary accommodation and this theme came through so strongly—that it's like being in prison, but you don't know how long you're going to be there. And lots of people said that and one young person said that the thought occurred to them, 'Well, if I can hack this, I can hack prison. So, I may as well commit a crime.' That was another theme that came through as well.

For me, what the problem here is is that we need to get ahead of it. So, as Bonnie's been talking about, a role for an independent regulator, someone who could engage directly with people with lived experienced or people who are there now. But we shouldn't be having to wait for individuals to assert their rights in order for this stuff to get dealt with; it should be happening as part of the regulatory regime so that people don't have to—. Because it is so difficult to assert your rights. As an individual who's stuck in temporary accommodation, you don't want to rock the boat; you've got a lot of stuff going on in your life as well. And we encourage people to undertake reviews and things like that, but you can't—. Sometimes, it's just too much for people to do. So, yes, there's a call there for a homelessness regulator, isn't there, which we have talked about before.

Yes, I was just going to acknowledge that the voices of people with these lived experiences are really crucial to getting things right. And I think, as part of the ending homelessness national advisory board and the expert review panel for reviewing the homelessness legislation, it's going to be a key part of that work—to have people's voices with this lived experience involved.

And what is also important, as part of that work, is to make sure that people are remunerated for their time because they are, as Jennie mentioned, the Experts by Experience panel that Cymorth run—they are experts, so, they should be afforded the appreciation for their input and it can be quite traumatising to speak about issues that are really difficult times for people. And it's really valuable to our work, so, we need to recognise that and pay them back for giving us their time and their expertise.

You mentioned that people come out with more support needs than when they went into temporary accommodation, which is really worrying and sad to hear, but can you perhaps all tell us a little bit about some case studies of some of the individuals that you've heard about on that, who have been touched by these issues from being in temporary accommodation?

I think worse than that, we support people to find and sustain housing; we also support asylum seekers and refugees across Wales, and, as you know, refugees are entitled to benefits and housing. And in some local authority areas, they are being told that they need to sleep in a tent on the streets for a number of nights in order to be classified as homeless—bringing us back to that point before—otherwise they won't have the right to have housing. So, it's even more basic than understanding how we can help people prosper and move one.

At the moment, there's just this real concern of the implementation gap and the lack of, again, as Jennie said, regulation of how we implement legislation. So, for me, there is just a really wide gap between the aspirations of the legislation and where we hope to be and how we're operating on the ground, and no mechanism in between to provide us with any assurance that people are receiving what they're entitled to, supported appropriately and in a fair system really, where what you can receive in one local authority area is the same as another. Because that is not where we thought we'd be in 2022, with tents being offered on the streets.


Absolutely not. Does anybody else have anything to add? Jasmine. 

I think one really difficult situation is people who have experience of substance misuse. They're often placed in temporary accommodation where they're surrounded by the drugs that they are trying to escape from. It's really difficult to rehabilitate in that setting. I spoke with one of our Crisis members last week who was visiting a friend and they said they just throw all substance misusers or ex-substance misusers into the same house. She said she was visiting her friend and there was a knock at the door, and it was someone who just asked, 'Does anyone want any coke?' In that situation where her friend is trying to make a positive change in their life, we're kind of just setting them up to fail by placing them in these settings, where there are other people there that aren't on that stage in their recovery and their substance misuse journey. It's just a really difficult place to be, and for someone who hoped to end their journey with substance misuse and fully recover and rehabilitate, that's just not possible.

We have another member who has ADHD and lives in temporary accommodation, and the overstimulation of the chaotic environment is just so difficult to deal with, and it is leading to a deterioration in their general mental health. Those specific issues come from—[Inaudible.]—but in the right accommodation, they wouldn't need to become such big issues. It's perfectly normal, and it should be perfectly normal, to be able to live with ADHD in an environment that supports people to live a normal and good quality life, but in such settings that the temporary accommodation is offering it's particularly difficult for people with neurodivergence and with mental health issues.

Thanks, Chair. Good morning, all. I appreciate your time again this morning. I just wanted to move on to talk about some of the supply issues or challenges, whatever sort of word you'd like to use. I appreciate that your three organisations are generally looking at the sort of crisis end of things, but I wonder if you'd be able to briefly outline how the supply of housing more broadly is having that knock-on effect towards the crisis end that, often, you're having to support with.

I think it brings us back to that trauma issue and making things worse for people unnecessarily. A refugee that works, that has to sleep in a tent because there is no accommodation, he doesn't drink, he doesn't do any drugs; to sleep in a tent in the night-time economy—he was sleeping in the city centre—is really worrying for the potential deterioration of his mental health and physical health. As Jasmine's described, and Jennie, what we're seeing is people being forced into situations that are taking them backwards rather than forwards because of the supply issue. And it is unfortunate, because of the renting homes Act situation, the private rented sector, the affordability issues, benefits—there are so many issues that are coming together at the moment, but the quality and availability of housing is having a massive impact on the number of people that are having to experience homelessness for far longer than they should in poorer conditions than they should. And the worry for us as organisations is the trauma that that puts on people and then the ability that they will then have to sustain tenancies and thrive.

I'd agree with that, but also, I think, it's one thing talking about the supply, but supply in general won't solve the problem. It needs to be affordable supply. I think building more social homes is definitely one solution to that, but I also appreciate there are many barriers to building social homes, including the planning system, which is a whole other kettle of fish. But one thing that might be good to look at, and I know the committee have looked at this before, is empty homes and the amount of empty homes we have in Wales that we could bring back into the supply. They're already there; there are, I think, over 25,000 empty homes in Wales at the moment, and it just seems like a no-brainer to convert existing supply as well as look at bringing new supply in, looking at whether there can be greater incentives for landlords to bring those empty homes back into use, whether or not that can be linked to the Welsh Government leasing scheme. It's just definitely something to explore, and thinking about whether people are aware of the incentives to bring empty homes back into use, particularly whether people are aware that these empty homes are contributing to the housing crisis and to homelessness. I'm not sure it's quite clear to people the effect that keeping these homes empty for a prolonged period of time has on the wider community. So, I think it's really important that the committee considers looking into how that could boost supply, the conversion of existing supply, rather than creating new supply.


That point about empty homes is a really important one, isn't it, because the lack of affordable supply is at the fundament of all of this. But with the challenges that we're facing in building, we need to be looking at acquiring and bringing houses back into use. The mortgage rescue and the rent rescue models are definitely worth further exploration. But it does come back to this point about what's being built meeting what we need in Wales, and we've still got a lot to do in that space. One in three Welsh households are single-person households now, but we're not really building at scale homes to meet that need. We're still building mostly large family homes. On the one level, we've got families, particularly black and minority ethnic families with large families, that are struggling to get their housing needs met, and then, at the other end of the scale, we've got all these single people, and a large majority of people in TA are single people. So, it's about building the right types of homes, as well, that actually meet need. That's not easy to do, certainly in a market context, because they're not the ones that generate the most revenue.

And particularly, then, it's where we build those homes. We know from the future generations legislation, from 'Planning Policy Wales', from our building standards, our aspirations for active communities, active travel, 15-minute towns, that where we want to be building, particularly affordable housing, is where people are close to transport links and amenities. When you overlay all of that data, it shows quite clearly where we should be building—in close groups close to amenities. There's data called BIMBY—build in my back yard—that outlines where these zones would be. Actually, when you overlay that on where we are building, we're building all along the M4 corridor or out in greenfield sites without putting in the transport links first. In European countries, when they build new housing estates—because we do have to have some of the larger ones to make the numbers that we need—they put in the public transport links first, so people aren't dependent on cars. They put in the schools first, so people don't have to commute and get used to that way of living. We're not doing any of that. We know that evidence base is out there. We know it's in the future generations report that was laid before the Senedd, and we're still not doing that.

In town and city centres, there are massive opportunities for regeneration, particularly with the cost-of-living crisis. We know that we've got churches, church halls, working men's clubs, Salvation Army properties, local authority properties all situated in town and village centres, close to all the things where people need to be, particularly if you're in poverty, and that's where we really need to focus. We also know that the most carbon-efficient building is the one that's already been built, so repurposing, regenerating our towns and allowing people who can pay affordable rents to live in those places is a vital part of the picture. I don't feel that there's enough focus on that at the moment. We are acquiring land in the easiest places to build the largest number of homes that aren't the right type of homes. I think land acquisition needs to be far more thought through to meet our policy aspirations in Wales, which are tenfold, to build in and around village and town centres.

Thanks for that. There were some really helpful ideas there for us as a committee, certainly, to keep in mind. Perhaps just a last question from my side is in relation to the existing social housing stock. I'm just wondering what opportunities you think there might be to ensure that, within the existing social housing stock, those people in temporary accommodation have access to that housing stock. What opportunities are there to change, whether it be policy or the make-up of those buildings themselves?


I'm happy to take that. We've touched on allocations already and some of the potential for change there. I'm so conscious that a lot of local authorities, when they're moving people on from temporary accommodation, quite often go around the allocations policy, or else they're having to build additional flexibility in there because the allocations policy hasn't been written with the needs of the people who are most vulnerable in mind. So, there's lots that can be done in that space.

The other point to raise here is about the potential for shared accommodation. I know there are very good examples and there are very bad examples, and it's not for everybody, but we had a workshop at our conference last year and there was a project by a social housing provider where young people were matched, two people to a two-bed accommodation. They were able to work because the rent was social work, the support was floating, with really good tenancy sustainment rates. We had Douglas Haig from the NRLA sharing his insights on how to make shared accommodation work for the PRS. There's loads of learning there, but there's a reluctance to enter into shared because it's seen as high management. Yes, there is a lot of management involved, but it can be very successful, as Douglas and PRS have shown us for years. So, strictly on a consent, fully informed basis, is there more we can do there? Particularly where you've got two-bed flats, for example, that are low demand, not really suitable for families, should we be putting more high quality well-supported shared arrangements in place?

Can I answer by asking Jennie to expand on the work that they've done around increasing housing allowance with the discretionary housing payments to allow people to afford more than—

Thank you, yes. So, as part of our solutions brainstorming around rapid rehousing, one of the points that we've been exploring is whether we should be using discretionary housing payments to top up people's benefits to cancel out the bedroom tax for specific cases. So, in that scenario where you've got lower-demand two-bed flats, could you have a single person under-occupying if it meant that they were coming out of temporary accommodation? The top up isn't actually that huge when you look at the average social rent. What that would mean—. Certainly, it's hugely cheaper than putting someone into temporary accommodation. I think the type of person that would really benefit from that would be separated fathers, for example. As Bonnie outlined, there's no consideration in terms of children's access, and I think that's so damaging for the well-being of children, isn't it, as well as for the father. So, specific cases of topping up discretionary housing payment. I know DHP is often seen as a sticking plaster, and it is a stickling plaster, but you can make long-term awards. There is provision in the regulations. You can make awards in perpetuity if you choose to as a local authority. Whether you do is another question.

Because it builds on the fact that the 8,500 people that we've got within the 14,000 wider cohort are predominantly single people, and we don't have single-bed accommodation. So, from my point of view and ours organisationally, that would be a massive help in hand-holding people into properties that are available.

Thank you, Chair, and thanks ever so much for coming today. I've got to apologise I've got a bit of a cold, and it's all in my nose so I sound quite nasal. You touched upon there about the rapid rehousing transition plans. I just wanted to pick your brains a bit more about that in the sense of how smooth a process do you think it's been to move to them and do you think it's been inclusive in the sense of, when you've been asked to design these plans, local authorities as well when they've been asked to design these plans, everyone's been involved and everyone's had an equal say as stakeholders. Also, do you think there's a lack of flexibility there? In one of the evidence sessions we heard earlier there was concern that, by moving to these rapid rehousing plans, there might be better support that would lose out because everyone's moved to these plans instead of what might already be available. And I know—a final question, sorry Chair—that the Welsh Government has set a timeline of between three and five years for these to be fully operational, and I was just wondering if you thought that was a realistic target, because we've heard from previous evidence sessions that they don't think that is anywhere near a realistic target.

So, from our perspective, I think three to five years is going to be a challenge. I think it might have been achievable without all of the other issues that have come our way affecting housing in Wales, which have stretched our resources incredibly thin across the sector and within Welsh Government itself. I think that the process hasn't been as inclusive as I'd hoped, but, again, we do know that the challenges on local authorities, stakeholders and Welsh Government are extremely high pressured at the moment, and we do recognise that. However, we are also aware that there was an ask of local authorities to consider third sector and volunteers, and we don't feel that that has been really taken into account particularly, but partly maybe because, again, we're missing an evidence base of what works. So, again, people are scrabbling around within their local authority to see what they can do in their own rapid rehousing, without actually an evidence base of what services across Wales are actually succeeding. Because supply is such a challenge for us at the moment, we must make sure people don't re-enter homelessness, and we must make sure that, when they finally get through that bottleneck into accommodation, they can sustain it. So, again, the evidence base on the quality of provision out there is absolutely vital, and I'm nervous that the rapid rehousing transition plans we've seen haven't looked more broadly around what there is available in Wales, and taken really into consideration some of the asks around volunteering and the benefits of using your community. 


I think I would say that this journey that we're on is absolutely the right journey and, as an organisation that's been involved in campaigning to end homelessness, it's so refreshing to have a Government that has that goal in their sights and is making it a priority. And we have surfaced a lot of problems in the system. These problems were already there; it's just now we're looking at them, because we want to solve these issues, in a more fundamental way than we ever have before. So, I think that's really important to say.

We are very much at the beginning of this process. There was a certain amount of the transition plans being done at pace, which local authorities, I know, really struggled with. And I haven't done that look—. We haven't done look yet across the plans to see how they are in terms of consistency and that kind of quality control and adherence to the model—all of that stuff remains to be seen. I know that local authorities aren't feeling that it's something that they can, by and large, make huge progress on at the moment. I mean, different ones are in different places. But it is absolutely the right thing to do. Five years was set in a different context, and, in a different context now, perhaps we do need to look at that, because it is going to take longer to fix some of these issues that we've surfaced than perhaps we thought at the time. So, whether the Government looks again at that, I don't know.

I think this point about whether some people would be worse off under a rapid rehousing system is a really interesting one. I would say, 'Not if it's done properly', because people thrive in stability. This is all about getting people into stable homes and spending a minimum amount of time in those insecure situations, because so much can go wrong in those insecure situations, and the longer people are kept in that situation, the more damaging it is for them overall. So, the principle should be better for everybody, but there is still going to be a role for supported accommodation. What that looks like I think we're still working through—not as much as it is now, but, for some people, that kind of environment, if they choose it, could be better for them.

I think the first part of that question to address would be the final part, which was, 'Is it realistic to deliver these rapid rehousing transition plans?' Again, I'd refer back towards the beginning of this session, when I talked about potentially not using our time to assess how realistic things are, and turning to thinking about how we can make them realistic. And we've discussed a number of solutions to homelessness today that will contribute to making the transition to rapid rehousing more realistic. We know that rapid rehousing is a proven solution to homelessness, so there's really not that much point and merit in arguing that point at this moment. Many local authorities have completed their rapid rehousing transition plans. They're not yet all publicly available, so it's difficult to comment more broadly on them, but I think it's fair to say that it's the right direction and that there's definitely some sense of flexibility. Because, from the rapid rehousing transition plans that I have seen, what I would say is that quite a lot of them are quite high level with not loads of detail in them. So, there's certainly room for flexibility within that detail that we would potentially like to see. We do think that there should be a review of the rapid rehousing plans, in general, across Wales, and that will, then, enable different authorities to learn from each other, to see other plans, to see where best practice is, and then to move everyone forward in that manner. At the moment, obviously, as I said, we haven't seen all of the rapid rehousing transition plans, so it's difficult to give a broad all-Wales conclusion on it. But it's definitely the right direction to be moving in, and we need to think about how we can best support local authorities to make them a reality. 

Okay, Jasmine. Thank you very much. Carolyn, I'm afraid we're extremely pressed for time.  


I'm sorry. You mentioned before about DHPs, using that. I remember it was raised that that funding has been cut by approximately 27 per cent this year for local authorities, following a cut in that funding from UK Government. So, I remembered you mentioned that and they mentioned the budgets. So, that was all. Thank you. 

Okay. Thanks, Carolyn. Mabon, it will have to be very brief, I'm afraid. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Gadeirydd. Rwy'n deall does gennym ni ddim amser i ateb y cwestiwn sydd gen i, ond ddaru Jennie Bibbings o Shelter sôn yn gynharach am y ffaith bod service charges ar lety dros dro yn medru bod yn uchel iawn. Buasai gen i ddiddordeb mewn clywed ychydig yn fwy am hynny. Does gennym ni ddim amser rwan; tybed os fedrith Jennie neu un o'r tystion eraill yrru unrhyw dystiolaeth neu wybodaeth bellach i mewn i ni ar y pwynt yna, neu hwyrach fod y tîm yn cysylltu er mwyn cael mwy o wybodaeth yn dilyn y sesiwn yma. 

Thank you very much, Chair. I understand that we don't have time to answer the question that I have, but Jennie Bibbings from Shelter mentioned earlier the fact that service charges on temporary accommodation can be very high. I'd be interested in hearing a bit more about that. We don't have time now, but I wonder whether Jennie or one of the other witnesses could send any further information or evidence to us on that particular point, or perhaps we could get in touch with you to seek that additional information following this session. 

Mabon, we'll do that. Thank you very much. Okay. So, thanks, Jasmine, thanks, Bonnie, thanks, Jennie, for coming in to give evidence today. You will be sent a transcript to check for factual accuracy. Diolch yn fawr. 

Thank you. Okay, committee, we'll break very briefly, I'm afraid, for about three minutes. Go and grab a cup of tea.   

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:27 ac 11:33. 

The meeting adjourned between 11:27 and 11:33. 

4. Digartrefedd - sesiwn dystiolaeth 4
4. Homelessness - evidence session 4

Welcome back, everyone, and welcome to our witnesses for the committee's final evidence-taking session on our work on homelessness for today. Let me welcome, first of all, joining us virtually, Jessica Hymus-Gant, services manager for Conwy S180, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham at Nacro—thank you for joining us today, Jessica—and here in person, Katie Dalton, director of Cymorth Cymru, Thomas Hollick, policy and public affairs co-ordinator with the Wallich, Catherine Docherty, assistant regional manager for Wales and the south-west with the Salvation Army, and Emma Shaw, regional manager Wales and south west, homeless service, again with the Salvation Army. Welcome to you all; thank you for joining committee today.

Perhaps I might begin with some initial questions before we move on to other committee members. Firstly, then, on the supply of temporary accommodation, your views on the current pressures on temporary accommodation and homelessness support services across Wales. What is the current picture, would you say? Katie.

Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you for inviting us to give evidence today. I think the picture is the worst that it's ever been, certainly in my 11 years working within this sector. You know the numbers that have been published by the Welsh Government. Those go as far as August, where we see 8,500 people in temporary accommodation, but we know that's much more now. We see, every month, over 1,000 people presenting as homeless and being placed in temporary accommodation, and only about 500 being able to move into settled accommodation. So, every month, that is increasing substantially, and we don't see that that's going to get any better. The pressures that are being felt by staff working in those temporary accommodation situations are extreme. They feel that they don't have any solutions to offer because there is no move-on accommodation. So, people are getting frustrated, angry, upset, distressed understandably, because they've been in there, for some people, for up to two years. That then is having an impact on how they react, sometimes, to staff, who are not able to give them positive news about move-on, and that's making it increasingly stressful for the staff within those temporary accommodation settings. So, morale is really low, and I think the people working in homelessness services do this because they love their job and they want to help people. And, at the moment, they are unable to help people, so that's having a huge impact on their lives. 247

I think we're seeing the potential for this to grow significantly. If some of the sales in the private rented sector don't translate into other landlords who choose to let out—if those go to owner-occupiers, to second homes, et cetera—then we're losing some of the accommodation that we currently have. The cost-of-living crisis might see increased numbers coming into temporary accommodation over the coming weeks and months, and we know that market rent prices mean that if someone does lose their home, it's incredibly difficult to find anywhere that's affordable at the moment. For people who are reliant on benefits—. I know it's not the responsibility of the Welsh Government, but local housing allowance rates, the shortfall there is a significant factor in homelessness. But even people who are earning a good wage cannot afford some of the rents out there. So, I think it's extremely difficult at the moment, and, as I said, worse than I think I've ever seen in the past 10, 11 years. 


Okay. Thanks, Katie, and we'll be coming on to a number of the issues that you've raised there. Would anybody else like to add anything in terms of the current picture and the pressures on temporary accommodation? 

Yes. I think Katie's really summarised that very well in terms of the pressures that are on homelessness services across, certainly, north Wales. I've worked in this field for 24 years and I've never known it quite so bad. We found that there are huge numbers that have remained in temporary accommodation since the pandemic, but the provision of the private rented sector is dwindling. We've seen unprecedented numbers of landlords selling up, partly I think because of misunderstanding or not really wanting to deal with the ins and outs of the changes that are coming with the housing law. But also we've seen since the pandemic, certainly in more of the tourist areas in north Wales, a lot of the accommodation has gone to Airbnb because landlords are seeing that they don't have to deal with the ins and out of legalities, and it's a quick buck to make, if you like. 

So, what we're finding is that there seems to be a bottleneck in temporary accommodation and also in supported housing in terms of what people can access if they're wanting to move on. We know that landlords that we work closely with who are advertising properties have, within the space of an hour, had 100 enquiries, have had 50 viewings booked, which basically leaves people who have more complex needs completely out of any possibility of being able to get private rented sector accommodation. Rents are increasingly huge and not in line with local housing allowances, which means that people are either entering into accommodation that they cannot afford, despite warnings from people that are helping them access accommodation, or they are just not able to afford it at all anyway. 

We've also got local authorities who are pipping them to the post in terms of offering private landlords six months' rent upfront, which basically means that everybody else is blown out of the water in terms of what they're able to access. So, it's a pretty dire situation from our point of view, and I'm increasingly dealing with staff teams who are really suffering vicarious trauma through the phone calls that they're taking and just not being able to offer anything suitable or any hope, really, unfortunately.


Okay. Thank you very much, Jessica. And, Emma, you wanted to come in.

Yes. I was just going to add to both of those statements really, with the number of—. I really feel that the picture of homelessness could present very differently over the next three years, with the current picture and then the pressures of the cost-of-living crisis, the increased number of section 21 notices presented to local authorities, and being asked as services, really, to think about how we work with families and how we work with people that probably, traditionally, are not used to a homeless system, and how do we work with those individuals in a preventative way, when a lot of the finances and focuses are towards the end-of-door services, because of the current pressures and people feeling very stuck, and low resource within current provision. I think it's a real challenge for us over the coming years about where those finances sit and ensuring that we have a really balanced portfolio within housing, to not create further pressure on the front entry for those people that, traditionally, would not have engaged in homeless provision before.

With all of that happening at the moment and the cost-of-living situation likely to persist for quite some time, how sustainable do you think the no-one-left-out policy is over the coming months? Would anybody like to offer a view?

So, our view, my view, is that it's not sustainable not to have it as an option because the people don't go anywhere. So, we turned to this public health, everyone-in approach during the pandemic, which was absolutely the right thing to do. I think it undoubtedly saved lives during the pandemic. And we've been continuing it on as best we can since 2020. I don't think there's any option to go back, because what it means is withdrawing service from people who are currently able to get it. And it would be the people who are most at risk, the most vulnerable people, who would be most likely to fall through the cracks if we returned to see this gate-keeping model. So, I understand absolutely the pressures, and I agree wholeheartedly, but I don't see that it's an option to retreat into a more gate-keeping model. Because the people who present and who will be denied are still going to be there, they're still going to be presenting, just to other services—so, it will be the police, it will be health, mental health, all kinds of other public services delivered. And the knock-on effects on just community cohesion, I think, will continue to escalate from there.

I agree. We cannot go back, we should not go back, because, as Tom said, those people don't disappear from within the system. I think COVID and the excellent response from both Welsh Government, local authorities and their partners during the pandemic has exposed the number of people who were previously hidden homelessness, or people who weren't owed a duty. So, those people still existed, they were experiencing homelessness, but they weren't known to the system or they were refused help from the system. So, we now have a situation where we know much more about those people, and we know from the numbers in temporary accommodation that that exceeds any estimates that we had in the past. But we cannot send those people back. We know those are the people who have experienced the most complex trauma, often from childhood, that have significant co-occurring mental health and, potentially, addiction issues as a result of that trauma. And, as Tom pointed out, the costs will not disappear; they will be picked up by other public services. And if we don't intervene, then the crisis will become more extreme and the cost of public services and the cost of those individuals will be more extreme.

So, this is really, really difficult. Everything that we have all just told you is really, really challenging. But we absolutely cannot go back to just leaving people behind—it's the wrong thing to do. In 2022, in Wales, in the UK, where we're one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it is unacceptable to just leave people behind and leave them without a home. And it is very challenging, but we have to do whatever we can. We know that the long-term solution is more social housing, because we have had underinvestment for decades. But we need to look at a patchwork of other solutions whilst those social homes are being built, and there isn't one solution that happens in the short term; it's a number of different solutions that have to work alongside each other.


Okay. Thank you very much. We'll move on, then, to Mabon ap Gwynfor. Mabon.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Mae gen i un set o gwestiynau dwi'n awyddus i fynd ar ei hôl, ond cyn fy mod i'n mynd ar ôl y rheini, fe ddaru Cyngor Sir Caerdydd, yn sesiwn dystiolaeth wythnos diwethaf, sôn am yr angen neu'r gefnogaeth i atal pobl rhag cael eu troi allan dros gyfnod y gaeaf yma, oherwydd y buasai hynna yn prynu amser iddyn nhw, o leiaf, er mwyn trio sicrhau bod ganddyn nhw fwy o unedau mewn lle, fwy o dai yn barod ac yn y blaen, ac mai amser oedd yr hyn oedd yn brin iddyn nhw. Ydych chi'n credu y buasai atal troi allan am ryw gyfnod penodol, neu amhenodol, yn rhyw fath o liniaru sefyllfa yr argyfwng fel mae e ar hyn o bryd?

Thank you very much. I have one set of questions that I'm eager to pursue, but before I do, Cardiff County Council, in an evidence session that we held last week, mentioned the need for support to prevent people from being evicted during this winter period, because that would buy time for them, at least, to try to ensure that they have more units in place and more homes in place and so on, as it was time that was tight. Do you believe that preventing evictions for a set period, or an undefined period, indeed, would mitigate the situation and the crisis as it currently stands?

Yes. I think we're entering a really difficult period and, therefore, doing all we can to prevent evictions is really, really important. What we can't simply do is have an evictions freeze that isn't accompanied by the support and the solutions, because it just simply pushes things down the line; what we need is active support to help people retain that accommodation or access new accommodation. But, certainly, more time to do so is really important, and I think that's why lots of us have welcomed the extension to the no-fault eviction notice period, because it gives people more time to find solutions. So, that means that there needs to be provision of emergency funding that can help people who may have lost a job and are entering a temporary shortfall in wages and therefore being able to pay rent. Where can we step in to help people through emergency funding so it doesn't result in homelessness? Because if they then find a job, actually, things will settle down and they'll be able to remain in there.

I would also say that support services are absolutely critical in this regard, because simply having a roof over your head doesn't solve lots of the challenges that you're experiencing. And I think we know that individuals and families are going to be under extreme pressure over the coming months and that support to help them maintain tenancies is the best form of prevention. Unfortunately, what we're seeing, in the indicative Welsh budget from last year, is a cash-flat settlement for the housing support grant. Now, that is extremely worrying for my members who provide support services across Wales, because they've not had any further injection in funding into their services for over a decade. The Welsh Government will tell you in their evidence that they increased the housing support grant by £40 million a couple of years ago, which was really welcome, but that actually probably took us back to a kind of inflationary standing-still point, and. actually, much of that was used to fund new services because of pressure rather than being pumped into existing services. And what I'm hearing from front-line workers and from managers is that staff are on their knees. They haven't had a pay increase, or a meaningful pay increase for 10 years, and due to all the pressures we've already outlined, they're looking at jobs at Tesco or in delivery and thinking, 'I can get paid more for much less stress, leaving the sector and doing this'. And these are not people who treat this flippantly; these are people I've spoken to who have worked in this sector for 20, 30 years because they love this job and they love helping people, and they are being pushed closer to the edge because they haven't had a wage increase. And some of them, you'll see from some of our evidence, cannot put food on the table. There are front-line workers in this sector who are skipping meals because they can only afford to feed their children. They are taking on extra jobs above and beyond 45, 50 hours per week. One person told us that a member of their team is turning to sex work in order to top up their support-worker wage. These are people on full-time wages doing incredibly complex jobs, who we all called 'key workers', 'essential workers' during the pandemic, who, every day, are supporting people through traumas of childhood abuse, domestic abuse, mental health crises, overdoses, sometimes helping people who've attempted suicide. These are highly complex jobs, and they're not being paid enough. And we have a real risk of the homelessness system completely collapsing if those people continue to feel that they cannot put food on the table, because they're going to leave the sector and we will not have that support system. And that is one of the most critical elements in preventing homelessness from happening—those support services that go into someone's home, help them resolve those crises, help them to access the support they're entitled to, and keep people out of the homelessness system—and that means we need to see an increase in the housing support grant in the next Welsh budget, and I urge this committee to do all it can to call on the Welsh Government to increase that budget, because that is key to prevention.


Okay. Thank you very much, Katie. That's a very clear ask, as we say. Okay. Mabon.

Diolch. Rhyfeddol. Diolch, Katie. Ond, yn dilyn ar y cwestiwn, felly, o ran y camau medrai gael eu cymryd yn y tymor byr, yn syth bin, rŵan, er mwyn trio lliniaru'r sefyllfa, hwyrach buasai, fel roeddech chi'n sôn, atal pobl rhag cael eu troi allan fel rhan o becyn yn rhywbeth a fuasai'n helpu. Yn y sesiwn flaenorol, ddaru Crisis sôn am yr angen, fel rhan o becyn ehangach, i gael rent stabilisation. Ydy rhywbeth fel yna yn rhywbeth rydych chi'n meddwl buasai'n help i liniaru'r sefyllfa bresennol? Rydyn ni'n gwybod bod pethau tebyg yn digwydd mewn gwledydd eraill. Yn mynd nôl i atal troi allan, rydyn ni'n gwybod, yn Ffrainc, fel roedd un o'r tystion blaenorol wedi sôn, fod yna atal troi allan yn Ffrainc wedi bod dros gyfnod y gaeaf ers dwy neu dair blynedd bellach. Felly, fel rhan o hwnna, rent stabilisation, ydy hwnna'n rhywbeth rydych chi'n meddwl buasai'n gweithio?

Thank you very much. That was shocking. Thank you very much, Katie. But, following on from that question in terms of steps that could be taken in the short term, immediately, now to try to mitigate the situation, you said that preventing people from being evicted could be part of a package that could help the situation. In the previous session, Crisis spoke about the need, as part of that wider package, to have rent stabilisation. Would something like that be something that you think would help to respond to this current situation? We know that similar things are happening in other countries. Going back to preventing evictions, one of the previous witnesses said that they've stopped evictions over the winter period in France for two or three years now. So, as part of that package, would rent stabilisation be something that you think would work?

I think it's something that we should definitely look at. I think it's really interesting to see what's happening elsewhere. I think we need to just look at it a bit more closely, because, if we're going to do it, we've got to make sure we're doing it right, not leaving room for any unforeseen circumstances in terms of the consequence. For example, if there's too much of a lead-in period, that can lead to potential adjustments as landlords leave the market at that point. So, it would just need to made sure that it's been really carefully thought out with landlords and with tenants.

Yes. I absolutely, in principle, completely agree with rent stabilisation. I do think we need to be careful of unintended consequences. I know the committee has heard a lot about that earlier, in terms of some of the legislative reform that I absolutely support and think is the right thing to do, but I think it's also important to recognise when there are sometimes unintended consequences. I think that, whether it's rent stabilisation or resources to help top up people's ability to pay that rent, I think that will be really, really important, because we know that keeping someone in the home is much better for them, but also for public services.

But, as you said, Mabon, it needs to be a package of a number of different things. So, the Welsh Government, earlier this year, has made additional capital funding available to turn around voids that landlords have previously felt were too expensive to turn around in terms of the cost-benefit, but that's brought some voids back into use. If people are selling up, the ability to purchase properties, whether that be as a housing association or local government, bringing empty properties back into use, I think, will be really important. Utilising land in ways—so, if there are land banks for future development, can we make use of that land in the meantime to provide some form of accommodation whilst it's sitting empty? Action on second homes in some of those areas where that's a major problem. And, as I said, prevention being at the heart of this. So, I think the big solution, long term, is more social housing, but it's really difficult in terms of social housing development at the moment, and that doesn't happen overnight. And as I said, I think it needs to be a combination of all of those different things that work together in order to find some solutions in the shorter term.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Os caf i fynd ymlaen i bwynt ychydig yn wahanol rŵan, yn meddwl am lety dros dro, a nifer o bobl yn gorfod aros mewn llety dros dro, wrth gwrs, rydyn ni'n gwybod os ydych chi yn benodol mewn rhywle yr un fath â gwesty neu B&B yna does gennych chi ddim y gallu i baratoi bwyd, prydiau bwyd i'r teulu ac yn y blaen, ac i gadw pethau yn ffres. Pa mor addas ydych chi'n meddwl ydy lletyau dros dro Cymru ar hyn o bryd, a beth yw'r gwahaniaeth rydyn ni'n gweld mewn awdurdodau ar draws Cymru, neu hyd yn oed mewn cymunedau ar draws Cymru, pan fo'n dod i lety dros dro?

Thank you very much. If I could move on to a slightly different point now, thinking about temporary accommodation, and a number of people are having to stay in temporary accommodation, we know that if you are in a hotel or a B&B then you don't have the ability to prepare food for the family and so on, or to keep food fresh. How suitable do you think temporary accommodation in Wales is at the moment, and what are the differences that we're seeing in different local authorities across Wales, or even within different communities in different local authorities?

I can start, if you like. I think, working across some elements of Wales—. So, I can't make references across the whole of Wales, but certainly in areas where I have services and have relationships with commissioners, we have seen the use of B&Bs has needed to take form because of the 'nobody left out' policy. Particularly, I think the challenges are those rural or semi-rural communities where they have had, previously to lockdown and the pandemic, maybe had one person sleeping out on the streets. When the pandemic hit and everybody had been called in, quite rightly, it meant that they had full B&Bs all of a sudden, because the hidden homelessness population was coming out; people couldn't sustain the majority of the people living within one household. So, with that, I can see how the need for B&Bs was introduced, and I can see the challenges for some of these commissioners and communities to move away from that B&B infrastructure when there aren't very many other options available to them.

Are they suitable? Most probably not. Were they needed? Yes, most probably they were needed at the time. What does that support look like, going forward? I know that in certain boroughs we have, as an outreach team, supported and gone in and enhanced the support model that's available to people. But they are majority single; they're not family members. I do know, in other areas, of places that families have moved into and they have had difficulty cooking, but that is not within our commissioning framework. But, certainly for single adults, moving into B&B accommodation was necessary at the time. I think support was enhanced, but the lack of move-on ability from those adds a real great pressure to feeling stuck and having a detriment on mental and physical health moving forward.

It's equally the same for staff going into environments of this nature, where it's very limited and very contained. There's not much space for engagement, there's not much hope associated with where people move on to from there. So, that would be my reflection on the areas that we work.


Thank you, Chair. We've actually been speaking to people with lived experience over the past few weeks about their experiences of temporary accommodation. So, we've got some real-time feedback from them. We've spoken to people in single-person temporary accommodation, in family temporary accommodation and in accommodation for young women, and I think the reality across Wales is it's really varied. There is some good-quality temporary accommodation that has, historically, been funded well, maintained well and had good-quality, holistic support services wrapped around it. I think, increasingly, over the last two years, as we try to get more and more people in as a result of COVID, then local authorities have had to use whatever they can get their hands on, and that has been very poor quality in some circumstances.

The key feedback that we got from the people we spoke to who are currently in temporary accommodation is that there needs to be more variety. So, where temporary accommodation is needed, there needs to be a variety and suitable accommodation for different groups of people. So, we've had people talk about being placed in the same temporary accommodation as someone who is in recovery from addiction, who is staying abstinent, staying clean and working really, really hard to do so, and then being placed in temporary accommodation around active users and that being really, really difficult for them to cope with, and some people going back on the streets because they cannot be around active users. We've also met a young woman who, at the age of I think it was 17 or 18, was placed in temporary accommodation with people who were actively using, who were being unwell as a reaction to the substances they were using and becoming violent, and that was really, really scary for that young woman. We also talked about families as well who need to be in a space that is suitable for their children. We also heard concerns about large-scale temporary accommodation, where there are so many people placed in the same area in the same building who have often come with complex traumas, and that is just not helpful for anyone in that circumstance.

Some of the common themes that we had from people—. So, parents and children having to share a single room, having absolutely no space from each other, for the children to study, for the children to play. Shared bathrooms, a real sense of lack of dignity for people who are living in temporary accommodation and having to share bathrooms with other people. No cooking facilities, and, with the cost-of-living crisis and the expense of food, that can prove extremely costly for people who have to go and buy food from takeout, who can't cook basic food in their accommodation. No laundry facilities. Young families, going through potty training, having no access to a washing machine. Can you imagine what that is like, living 18 months in temporary accommodation with a young child and not having access to any laundry facilities? And then things about being far away from schools, workplaces and support networks—so, the sense of isolation when people are not able to access those support networks. And then one thing that was absolutely critical was communication. So, people felt that they were placed in temporary accommodation, and, because they had a roof over their heads, it was almost like 'job done'. They're still homeless. They're still somewhere where they don't have access to the most basic of facilities, but they felt deprioritised because they had a roof over their heads. They didn't have communication or updates; they were left completely lost. Two or three people said that being in temporary accommodation felt like a prison sentence, but they didn't know their release date, because they had no idea about how long they were going to be in there.

And in some cases, that was not a criticism about the quality of the accommodation or the excellent support from staff. However good the quality of the temporary accommodation is, it's not a home. It's not somewhere that you can feel settled and safe, and, for all the reasons I've outlined, it doesn't give you the basic dignity and capability of running your life. 


Yes, I'd add a couple of things onto that list that Katie's just shared. We found, in lots of cases, no cooking facilities really having a de-skilling effect—people just kind of losing those skills of cooking and preparing healthy food, and it has a real impact on your health. 

Another huge one that I came across recently was just lack of Wi-Fi. It's not something you might think of, but then, applying for universal credit, getting appointments and things, job centre, health things—so many things are done online, and you can't do that in a lot of the TA where there's no connectivity. So, they have to come to our offices, or they have to go to a public place, which is fine, but I think that's something that would really help as well. 

And then, finally, one other example that I came across was quite restrictive rules in some temporary accommodation around having guests and curfews and things like that. Some of the people we support have quite high—. It's not realistic to impose these sorts of conditions on them, and people receiving a strike for having a guest over—. Just to improve their quality of life—. Everyone should be allowed to have people over to their house, but having a guest over, a friend over, to visit meant that someone was facing eviction, which is just not realistic. It's setting people up to fail, I think. But, yes.

Okay. Thank you very much. We'll move on, then, to Carolyn Thomas. Carolyn. 

Okay, thanks. So, I'm just asking questions about homeless prevention and services. So, you talked earlier about the housing support grant, how important it is, and it's helped 60,000 people each year. I think the funding's also been cut as well, though, over the years, coming from the UK Government as well, but we know how important is. So, local authorities have been commissioning some homelessness support. Do you think that the right service is being commissioned? And the types of support available to people living in temporary accommodation—the challenges they're facing, particularly in accessing particular types of support. You've talked about it a little bit already, so, if there's anything that's been missed, that would be really great. 

And also people with complex support needs—getting the right accommodation, and the extent to which the housing first model is currently accessible to those in need in Wales. So, quite a lot there. I've put them all together, because you've talked about some of these things before as well. So, thank you. 

Yes, I'm happy to kick off and there'll be some more detail, I imagine, particularly on housing first, from Cath. So, in terms of—. I've already emphasised the importance of the housing support grant, and Cardiff Metropolitan University carried out research a couple of years ago that shows how much cost savings it produces to other public services. I'm really happy to circulate that to the committee to strengthen your evidence on that. 

I think the question about whether we have the right services goes hand in hand with whether we have enough services. And I think, over previous years, the grant was cut when it was a Supporting People fund, and there was a cash-flat settlement for a number of years, which, in real terms, was a cut. We did, as I say, see an increase in that a couple of years ago, but that really was just kind of making up the gap that had already existed in the funding cut. So, my perspective is that it was absolutely welcome, but it didn't go far enough. 

I think it's really difficult for commissioners at the moment to commission the sorts of services that they need and they want, and I think that the way that services are commissioned is reflective of the restricted funding that local authorities have. So, this is not about me criticising local authorities necessarily; it's about a broken system that needs to be fixed.

What we want to see is a commissioning system that increases staff pay, because, at the moment, we're having a real recruitment and retention issue. The fact is that some workers are able to get a higher wage being a delivery driver or a supermarket worker, and that's no disrespect to those key roles, but the complexity, as I've already outlined, of the roles that we're talking about—it's a highly skilled job.

We also know that staff need to have support for time for reflection, because of the complexity of the trauma that they're experiencing. So, if we want them to be the very best workers that they can be, and deliver high-quality support, then they need to have reflective practice to reflect on some of the traumas they've experienced; what could have been done differently, what worked well. But they also need clinical support. This all costs money. It's absolutely critical if we want services to run well, but at the moment it's not factored into commissioning. And some services are commissioned on an hourly support basis, so the only funding that comes through is for each hour of support, so it doesn't help provide staff training and it doesn't help to provide reflective practice or clinical support for staff. So, that's a real problem, bearing in mind the traumas that we all know that people are experiencing.

I think, if the housing support grant budget was increased, we could increase staff pay and increase the support available to staff to help them through this difficult time, but we could also look at some of the needs that are now presenting with those 8,500 people in temporary accommodation. So, as I said before, a lot of them were hidden homeless before; we now know who they are and we know what their support needs might be, so that needs to feed into the commissioning of services so that we've got the right levels of support service to meet the needs that we know are out there in the community.

One of the things when we talk about the right services is how it works in partnership with other public services as well. We can't just commission housing support services on their own; we need mental health services and substance use services to be around the table and accessible. My impression, from all of our members across Wales, is that there is a relatively good relationship with substance use services in many areas. I think their approach to supporting people, their understanding of trauma and the impact that that has on people, and that kind of 'no judgment', 'no blame' sort of approach, is fairly similar to homelessness services. I think mental health services are much more difficult; they're very difficult for the general population to access, so you can only imagine how difficult it is for people in the homelessness system to access.

In terms of Housing First, I think we've seen a huge growth of that over the past few years. There's been a clear commitment, not just from the Welsh Government but from opposition parties, to support the delivery of that model. We know that it is the model that works most for people who have been failed by the system, for whom other services just haven't worked because of the traumas and the complexity of their support needs. So, we collect data on housing first in Wales, and data that was published about six to nine months ago showed that we've got 15 housing first projects across 15 local authorities in Wales. Five hundred and twenty-one people, at the date of data collection, have been supported by housing first projects since their inception. Two hundred and forty-five people had started housing first tenancies since that inception, and the tenancy sustainment rate for those people was 90 per cent, which is extraordinary, because these are people who have often been in and out of this system for decades or more, and for the first time, they're getting the wraparound support that they need, a settled home of their own, they're being given a chance, and their tenancy sustainment rate is 90 per cent. That is absolutely extraordinary, and I think continues to show the evidence base that we need to invest in housing support for those people who need it.


Yes, if I can. That would be great. So, yes, just to add to what Katie said really, and just to give some context for why specifically I'm speaking to this. Part of my—. A lot of my role over the past five years was the development and implementation of our housing first project based in Cardiff. We were funded to deliver 25 units of support for complex rough sleepers, and we are now at that target. That doesn't mean to say, though, that we have met all the demand in Cardiff. We currently have eight individuals who we continue to support on an outreach basis, and I would say, on average a month, we probably get about half a dozen referrals for new individuals into the service that we just don't have the capacity to take. We also have a housing first project based in Merthyr Tydfil. I believe, at the moment, they are supporting around 20 individuals on an outreach basis. That project has a capacity of 12. So, the need of people far outstrips our ability to support them at this point in time.

As Katie said, the outcomes are exceptional for us in Cardiff. We're slightly above the Wales average at 93 per cent of people successfully sustaining their tenancy. And I just want to emphasise that I’ve worked in the sector for 12 years. Some of the guys who now live independently in our services are people who I met on my first day in work who, other professionals indicated, were probably never going to successfully sustain somewhere independent to live, and they are now achieving that exceptionally well, along with a whole host of other improvements in their physical health, their mental health, reductions in their substance use, reconnections with family, and just living a confident and positive independent life, which I suppose is the aspiration for everybody, really. So, yes, I just wanted to emphasise again, as I said, that point that Housing First does have exceptionally positive results, it also reduces a significant strain on other parts of the economy—health, for example, substance misuse services, criminal justice. And for us, seeing an increase in the funding towards Housing First would enable us to support a lot of people who still need that.


Yes, just to add, really, to that, when we talk about reflective practice, the impact on staff and vicarious trauma, when you look solely at the housing first model, the intensity at which staff work with people is incredible, and the relationship is quite rightly therapeutically strong. But that has a huge impact on people and their ability to offload and pack their work. That does require quite a lot of organisational commitment. So, as an organisation, we commit to reflective practice and clinical supervision and we commit to very bespoke training, which is above and beyond any sort of commissioning framework. So, just to enhance what Katie has referenced, when you look at models that work really well with those individuals who were historically very entrenched, with probably very good reasons to themselves for that, to work with them to move them forward is not only a pressure on housing, with people waiting six to 12 months from initial referral to then waiting for the right property to come through, the level of motivation that that staff member has to show to that individual to sustain that relationship while they're either sleeping on the streets or in and out of temporary accommodation is really impactful.

On top of that, the cost-of-living crisis, their ability to pay them a good living wage and all of the other pressures of that commissioning phase mean that, as an organisation, we're having to make decisions ourselves about what we can afford to enhance people's working experience. And that comes at an organisational cost. And I think, as we look forward with the cost of utilities and the cost of other expenditure and committing to training, we have to really think about where that money has to go, going forward. So, I think it's a real enhancement from Katie to put that voice across from us as a sector about how that funding needs to look, going forward, for future commissioning.  

Yes, if I could just add a little bit. I think, generally, local authorities are commissioning good services, a good range of different services across their areas. They're a little bit fragmented in some places because of the nature of having 22 local authorities, and everyone is doing it in their own slightly different way. But, I think for the overarching—we still have more work to do in terms of moving towards a more collaborative way of commissioning and developing services, as opposed to a competitive race to the bottom, who can deliver this service cheapest, which is not the way to provide a good-quality service, and it's certainly not the way to provide all the extra stuff around training and development and providing all that support for staff who have experienced vicarious trauma. I know that that's very much in the Welsh Government's direction, but I think it's just building that culture of collaboration across all the local authorities. So, we're really keen to see that. 

And then also I'd like to just pick up on the point that Katie made about Housing First, and all services, really; it's not just the housing element, it needs buy-in from health, from drug and alcohol teams, and mental health particularly is an area of high need. I would say, for more or less all of our clients—99 per cent of our clients have some degree of mental health difficulty, I would say. We can refer them into mainstream mental health services through the GP; there are all sorts of issues there, which I'm sure that you'll be well aware of, but getting access to those services can be really, really difficult for our guys, and in some cases—. We've commissioned our own—well, we've self-funded it outside of the HSG—network of trained counsellors who can provide a fast-track referral into the counselling service for our clients, just to get them something, in the meantime, whilst they're going through into all the waiting lists and things for the proper support that they need. But without that buy-in from the health service at the front, models like housing first, like rapid rehousing, they can only do the housing bit and we're talking about a lack of supply of housing—they can't even do that bit—but it needs the housing element and then the support needs to come in. And the support comes from, not just housing support, although that's the key underpinning this, but it's all those other agencies as well.


Okay. [Interruption.] I think, just briefly, Katie wanted to come in at this point. Katie.

Yes, one point that I will make about the commissioning of services is it being necessary to have a diversity of services out there, and I think one of the things that we need to be weary of is consolidating contracts into a lower number of larger contracts that make it impossible for some of the diverse providers who have specialisms to be able to compete within that environment. And I also think that there are some concerns from providers about local authorities bringing services in-house for cost-saving reasons. But the reality is that many of the people who are supported do not have trust in statutory services because of the experiences that they've been through—some of the traumas they've experienced—and having what they view as more independent, third sector providers being commissioned to do this is more likely to have more positive engagement.

Thank you, Katie. Jessica, did you have anything to add? Jessica, can you hear me? I just wondered if you have anything to add.

Just that we've come across a number of people who just have not wanted to access temporary accommodation, either because of undiagnosed mental health issues that they're not wanting to—. Maybe it's their perception of what temporary accommodation is, but they're not wanting to be putting themselves in a vulnerable situation; they feel too vulnerable for that. So, they would rather remain homeless than access temporary accommodation. And also, there is an increasing issue—because we're getting just regular people who are becoming homeless as well as those who have got more complex issues—with people who are presenting with pets, and stating that they've got support pets and they don't want to access HMOs because of that.

So, sorry, I know it's going back to a previous question as well, but in terms of commissioning, I think there are some good examples of new commissioning that's going out at the moment that will try and address a bit more of a variety in terms of what's available for people, but, at the moment, I would say that the temporary accommodation that we know is in existence here in north Wales is not suitable at all.

I think Katie's very well covered most of that, but I don't know, shall I just see if anybody else has a quick response?

Because, I think, Katie, you've talked about the importance of capturing and amplifying the voices of those with lived experience in this, and Thomas has touched on it as well. I was just wondering if anybody else had any examples that you could share with the committee about the impact of those living in temporary accommodation, supported by your organisations—the issues they're having—and also around staff, because, again, Katie mentioned how low morale was within the workforce, but, perhaps, if anybody else had a few points to add to that—.

Yes, on staff morale, I think they're feeling the pinch, definitely. We, as an organisation, the Wallich, are doing everything we can to support our staff and to make sure that they feel valued and we're doing everything that we can to support them. Sorry, what was the first element of—?

Yes, people with lived experience. So, I think you heard in a previous session about the complexities around benefits and entitlements and working, and trying to rebuild that part of your life whilst in TA can be really difficult, because if it changes your eligibility for the housing element of universal credit, that can then have knock-on in terms of the costs that you need to pay for the TA, or just what you're eligible for in terms of move-on. So, that can be quite a complicated little bit that our staff try and provide advice on. It's not always easy to get the right advice, but I think we're doing our best. It varies. I think there's a lack of consistency around the rules in different TA. We've got clients we're supporting who potentially would be able to work more hours, or are working and could happily support themselves, but they're stuck in the system without anywhere to move on.


Some of the committee members came to see Cath, I think, back in the summer. We saw the service and got to speak to some people there, actually. I don't know if you want to say anything about the staff and the impact on morale. 

The individuals that you guys came up and saw were, in the majority, from our Housing First service, and also from our Bridge programme, which is a residential detox programme based within Tŷ Gobaith, which is our adult lifehouse. A lot of the individuals who you spoke to were at a point in their journey where they're a little bit away from work readiness. But just to echo what Thomas said, we currently have a system that works against people getting back into work. So, if someone has become homeless and they end up in temporary accommodation in a supported setting, it can be very, very challenging then to leave that setting, because as soon you start to earn money, your benefit then reduces, and nobody really in that situation could afford the cost to be able to sustain that temporary space. We are trying to combat that a little bit in the Salvation Army. One of the initiatives we have, again within Tŷ Gobaith, our adult lifehouse, is working pods, which are basically rooms where we try and enable people to stay on a temporary basis whilst they're in work with supplemented rent to enable them enough time to save money to then move on into the private rented sector successfully.

To go on to answer your question about how staff feel at the moment, I would say that Katie has emphasised these points really, really well, as has Thomas, as has Emma; there's low morale, and a real challenging situation coming out of COVID. As someone who was working in front-line services at the time, those were incredibly challenging and difficult times. Staff and residents were very afraid, with very mixed feelings about coming to work and the challenges being faced in work. Many of our clients really struggle to regulate their emotions, and so staff were dealing with a lot of anger, a lot of stress, a lot of confusion as well about the issue, and that is still going on. I'm still regularly seeing incidents coming through where we have staff members and clients who are COVID positive. The rest of the world is kind of treating COVID like it's gone away, but for us in services, very much we are still seeing those continuing patterns of people becoming unwell and then having to plan for contingency around that, about how we continue our services in those circumstances. That creates a lot of pressure for individuals and there's a lot of vicarious trauma.

I'm just repeating other people's points here, but obviously, the cost of living has a massive impact on staff, and obviously, ongoing pressures with recruitment into the sector as well is a real challenge. I'm not saying anything new there, sorry, but just emphasising the points that have already been made, which are really important.

Just to make an offer to the committee, we run the Frontline Network Wales, we engage with them regularly in regional meetings and sometimes national meetings, and if members of the committee would like to join us for some of those meetings and speak directly to front-line workers, then we're really for happy to facilitate that. I know a couple of Members have done so before and that went down really well. We're also running an 'experts by experience' project where people with lived experience are directly contributing to the current review of housing legislation in Wales. A lot of that has been a base for the written evidence that we've submitted, but again, we're really happy to facilitate engagement with people with lived experience if the committee feel that would be helpful.

Thank you very much, Katie. We'll discuss that later, but thank you very much for the offer. I know that you've shared some of the lived experience of service users with our Senedd citizen engagement team, which has been very useful in providing case study information, so thanks for that as well. Sam Rowlands. 


Thanks, Mr Chairman, and good afternoon, everybody. I appreciate your time in joining us today. I know time is pressing, but I have a couple of points in relation to housing supply. I wonder to what extent people experiencing homelessness are able to access social housing and whether the allocation policies at the moment are appropriate. Are there some policies that you think the Government in Wales should be considering to make that access more equitable?

On this, I was particularly looking into move-on into registered social landlords, RSLs, and I think there's a mixed picture. Some of them are doing better at turning round voids quicker than others. I think there are real challenges there in terms of just their staffing, in terms of getting the properties refurbished, getting the gas and electrical safety inspectors in to just do all the checks and things that they need to do. A lot of those things are slowing down, just because of human resource, and that can mean that it's taking longer to turn voids around.

In terms of the allocations policy, I think we've seen some examples of where we worry that RSLs may be cherry-picking, and high barriers to entry could be preventing some of our clients with the more complex needs from accessing suitable move-on, for example high thresholds around previous failed tenancies, previous rent arrears, and anti-social behaviour in some cases. We support people with high needs, they have a lot of these things, and that can be just a barrier, that there's nothing available for them because they've got these marks on their record. In terms of rapid rehousing and Housing First again, these people should be considered eligible to move into a permanent home, for example, in a housing association, but there can be some reticence sometimes in terms of taking people with high needs, for a variety of different reasons.

I noted in our written evidence the difference in Scotland versus Wales. In Scotland, there is a legislative duty on RSLs to take clients who have a duty under the homelessness legislation. If they have a void and there's a client that would suit to go into that void, they have to take them. In Wales, it's a lot softer, the language in the legislation. It just gives a little bit more flexibility, but maybe that's coming at a disadvantage for some of our clients.

Having really recently spoken to a lot of people in temporary accommodation, I think they would say that it's incredibly difficult to access any sort of housing, including social housing. One person was a mum with young kids who had been waiting nearly two years in temporary accommodation, so for them it feels absolutely impossible.

We've talked about lack of supply, so I won't go into that too much, but I think there's a real difficulty in navigating the system for people who are trying to access housing, and I think there's still a number of local authority areas in Wales where there is no common housing register. People are having to navigate different systems for different social housing providers and, actually, that is just a layer of complexity that is completely unnecessary. One thing we could look at is requiring all areas in Wales to have a common housing register. I think there are three local authority areas where that doesn't happen at the moment. We need to make the system simpler.

Communication is really important. People can understand that they might be waiting a long time, but updates and understanding what their expectations should be are really important; otherwise, people feel really lost.

The right home in the right place is incredibly important. If we want people to sustain tenancies and not end up back in the homelessness system, then it has to be the right home in the right place. At the moment, people are feeling that they're going to get penalised if they're offered a social tenancy, but it isn't the right home in the right place, but they feel like they will then be deprioritised if they refuse it. That is a real problem if people are feeling coerced or pressured into taking a home because they may not see another one again if they don't accept it.

As Tom highlighted, people with previous rent arrears and anti-social behaviour are often seen as too high a risk, but we've got to give people second chances. Lots of people in the system have experienced significant trauma. If any of us faced that—. It's incredible that they're still standing. We have to make it more accessible for people who've had problems in the past to be able to access it, particularly when we're going to be seeing lots more people in rent arrears with the cost-of-living crisis. We can't just stop those people from being able to access it.

I think the data is not reliable. Some people will quote figures that allocations from social landlords in Wales is lower than the rest of the UK. Social landlords will argue that it is much higher than that, but the data is just not accurate. So, we need better data to understand that. I think there's inconsistency across different landlords, so there's a real question about what our expectations should be. Are some people pulling their weight more than others and should we therefore be putting pressure on people to do more?

Then, I think there's the balance of wanting RSLs and local authority stock-holding to allocate more proportion to homeless households, but being able to manage that in a way that doesn't create ghettos, giant blocks of one-bedroomed properties where everyone who's come out of the homeless system gets put. There will be community concerns about that, but also, for those individuals, they want a fresh start in life, they want to be able to stay clean from substances, they don't want to just be placed somewhere where there are lots of other people with lots of trauma. Being clever about how we allocate is also really important. Thank you.


I was just going to say that I think Housing First has been an incredible litmus test for some of the elements that Katie's suggesting here in terms of the right property for the right person. We're clearly evidencing in our sustainment rates that, when you get that right, even the most complex individual can succeed incredibly living in their own independent tenancy.

It's also about having the right balance of community. Helping our communities in a wider sense become resilient and accepting of individuals is massively important in enabling success for that person. I think it's essential that we don't, as Katie said, ghettoise people in large blocks and settings of single flats, because it just doesn't work. It just takes the problem and moves it to another location, essentially. I'm just emphasising those points—that when we do take those steps, when we're thoughtful about the accommodation that we offer, we're able to change the perception of social and private landlords that anybody is able to succeed with the right level of support and in the right kind of home.

I would just like to add on some of the modelling from Housing First and some of the lessons learnt from that. When that was initiated with a group of RSLs, in reflection to that, they made a commitment to us—it wasn't a financial commitment, it was a commitment to the service and the project. As an organisation, they were going on their own journeys about opening up their thoughts around what individuals looked like, what their support looks like. Even the language of 'setting up to fail' is a real negative language to even open up a dialogue about a referral into, ultimately, a house and a home. It's the same when people walk through our front doors in front-line provision, as well as living in a community. It's enhancing that community space and reducing those restrictions and changing that language.

Certainly, the Housing First model is a steering-group model, so it's a model where people are collectively coming around the table and challenging some of those languages, changing it, understanding some of the pressures and the fears led by the RSLs about what that community looks like, understanding that community and understanding where that person wants to live. In a bigger city, that's different. But, certainly, some of our work in a semi-rural place poses a different set of challenges about what that community cohesion looks like and how does somebody choose that area and live effectively within a community setting where everybody knows everybody. So, there are some other different challenges I think we have to look at. But, I think the modelling of Housing First and the collective response of what that support looks like is a great place to start.

Yes, sorry. One quick point—I hate to sound like a broken record, but not really—is that RSLs and also private landlords will tell you that they would be willing to take people who have support needs or may have had trauma in their backgrounds, but the assurance that they need is around the support services being there. It comes back around to the housing support grant and do we have enough of that support provision to give landlords the confidence to take people into those properties. Because that'll be the one bit of assurance that they need, that support services are going to be there to help that person to manage that tenancy.


Thank you, Chair. I'm conscious we are running a bit over time. I just want to thank everyone for coming today. I just wanted to pick your brains on several questions, if I may. I've spoken with the other evidence sessions and I've asked for their opinions on the rapid rehousing transition plans. I know, Katie, from your written evidence, your organisation has been quite actively involved in drafting them and helping local authorities with them. But I was just wondering whether or not that is an experience you've felt that others shared, if that makes sense. One of the concerns that has been expressed is that these haven't been inclusive enough—so, not all stakeholders were involved with them. Do you think then—and this is for everyone—there is a concern then that other options, because of these rapid rehousing plans, are then taken off the table then, because there's a focus on these plans?

And finally, on that section, the Welsh Government has highlighted a desire for these to be up and running within about five years, really—and I know, Tom, you were listening in with the other evidence sessions; that's basically something that's been deemed as not achievable, and I was just wondering if those were your thoughts as well.

And then, finally, about ending homelessness action plans, I know you've all mentioned there, really, about the lack of support that your support workers are having, in terms of pay as well. But I know that that action plan is wanting to develop a resilient and valued workforce, recognised for their expertise. And I just wanted to know whether or not that is happening at a pace, really, that you'd like, I suppose. Sorry about all of the questions there, Chair.

Thank you very much, and really, really important questions, because it's really easy to get bogged down in the operational challenges, but, actually, looking to the future, and looking at the strategic things, is really, really important.

So, if I take rapid rehousing first, I think there is definitely a consensus from local authorities, and I think probably a growing consensus from others, that rapid rehousing will be very, very challenging to achieve in five years. I think people are starting to think more about a 10-year transition plan with regard to rapid rehousing. I think it's really challenging for local authorities to have developed those rapid rehousing transition plans. I don't think the Welsh Government has had all of them in yet, and drafts were supposed to be in in June/July, and final versions in September/October. But I think that is symptomatic of the pressures that are on local authorities at the moment.

I think one of the challenges within local authorities is that homelessness is often seen as the responsibility of the housing options teams, the housing support teams, and, actually, homelessness should be the responsibility of the entire local authority, because all parts of public services need to be playing that part—so, in terms of local authorities, that's social services, education, early intervention and prevention services—but also that strategic housing function; the capital development side of it needs to be playing its part. But I think, for too long, the responsibility of homelessness has been on the shoulders of those who are just commissioning support services, and that is wrong, because they don't have all of the levers to do this. So, I think they've been dealing with all the challenges we've talked about in temporary accommodation. Staff in local authorities are absolutely on their knees and, at the same time, they're being asked to look strategically at how we might completely transform the whole homelessness system in the next five years. So, it is completely understandable that those transition plans have not been developed as quickly or as robustly as we would have liked. The context is absolutely important there. 

I think what we would like to see with those transition plans is an increasing involvement of other stakeholders. So, we understand the pressures, and they may not have been able to engage with other organisations so far, but it's critical that they do so. So, the support providers that I'm sharing the table with today are going to be absolutely key in delivering rapid rehousing, and they need to be engaged wholeheartedly in the process. But local authorities also need to engage with health services in particular, and other public services, criminal justice, probation, et cetera, because, as I said, this is not just a housing issue, it's a public services issue, and, if we're to move towards rapid rehousing, we need those other public services to play their part. I would say that the engagement with those has probably not been as much as we would have liked, but we understand the context that local authorities are working in. But they absolutely must do that engagement going forward. 

In terms of the ending homelessness action plan as a whole, I think what really pleases me is that it wasn't written and put on a shelf gathering dust. The Welsh Government is actively trying to implement elements of that action plan. That is being done collaboratively with the sector. So, the ending homelessness national advisory board, which includes a wide range of stakeholders from within housing and outside of housing, has determined those priorities, and a series of task and finish groups have been established towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year on workforce, which we argued for as a key priority, but also on developing outcomes frameworks, rapid rehousing. Some have recently been established on health and homelessness and equalities. So, the Welsh Government is certainly not sitting on its laurels; it is actively taking up task and finish groups. I know that, because I sit on 50,000 of them at the moment. But that work is moving at pace. Those meetings are happening at least once a month, in some cases. So, work is being done, and resource from the Welsh Government is being put in to taking those forward. But the reality is that each of those areas are highly complex, and we won't be coming up with solutions in a week or a month; they will take time to roll out.

With a particular focus on the workforce thing, Joel, there's a number of sub-groups under the task and finish group, which have also been established, and we sit on a number of those. There is about to be some research commissioned on pay in the sector. So, we've all described to you how complex the job is, but how low the pay is. So, the Welsh Government has committed to commissioning independent research so we can understand how that compares to other sectors and then produce recommendations to Ministers about where that pay should be. We would like to see the pay at an appropriate level to respect the skills that staff have, and that then takes it out of the commissioning process so we have a minimum pay level, which means that providers are not competing against each other and driving down wages simply to win that contract. We're also looking at support for staff. So, a sub-group that's chaired by the chief executive of the Wallich is looking at how we build things like reflective practice and clinical support into commissioning. And there are some other sub-groups that are looking at recruitment, retention, training and qualifications, and then a final one that will look at commissioning, which hasn't been established yet, because it is likely that the other sub-groups will have significant recommendations related to how we commission services.

So, although we aren't finding solutions overnight, and this will take some time, I hope that gives the committee assurance that there is lots of work happening at pace, and there is lots of civil servant resource going into this. But, as I said, this is an incredibly challenging area, and—broken record again—the one thing that could happen quickly to help is an increase to the housing support grant budget, because that will enable people to have the resource to pay staff more, commission new services and make sure that we can meet that need.

Just going back to rapid rehousing—apologies for jumping around a little bit here—I think the things that the committee need to be aware of that are absolutely critical to the delivery of rapid rehousing—. So, the investment in both capital and housing support, but not separately; in conjunction. So, we need those functions within local authorities to be working hand in hand. We cannot have a development programme that exists in one area of the local authority, building the wrong houses of the wrong sizes in the wrong places, when we have all this information about the people in the homelessness system at the moment. That needs to be joined together, and they need to be working hand in hand. We need corporate leadership within local authorities. So, as I said, this is not just a housing issue; this is across local authorities. And that means all of the departments playing their part, but also political leadership from elected members, and that goes for local councillors and cabinet members, and also yourselves, who often comment on developments within your constituencies and regions. We can have no more 'not in my backyard'. We have to build more social housing. We need to accept that this is part of