Local Authorities in Wales are ‘reactive’ and not focussed enough on the root causes of homelessness, according to a report issued by the Wales Audit Office.
The report, commissioned to measure progress of new housing legislation which came into force in 2015, says local authorities are reacting to problems caused by homelessness with varying degrees of success, but there is ‘limited focus on preventing the fundamental causes of homelessness.”
Powys has statistically one of the lowest rates of homelessness in the country, with a rate of 288 households assessed as homeless compared to the highest scoring area of Cardiff with 2,163 in 2016/17.
But the report shows that funding for homelessness and housing advice in the county has dropped by over 27% since 2010, despite the provision of transitional funding by the Welsh Government to support the introduction of the Housing(Wales) Act 2014, which places extra statutory duties on all local authorities in Wales to prevent homelessness and provide housing support.
Over the past two years, the number of households defined as ‘unintentionally homeless and in priority need’ has more than doubled in Powys, rising from 33 in 2015/16 to 69 in 2016/17.
However the findings also reflected that many of the factors affecting the root causes of homelessness are outside the control of the local authorities expected to deliver front line support, with factors such as welfare benefits in the hands of the UK Government in Westminster.
“People become and stay homeless for a whole range of complex and overlapping reasons, and solving homelessness is about much more than putting a roof over people's heads. Many homeless people face a number of issues in addition to, but often compounded by, their homelessness,” the report reads.
Auditor General, Huw Vaughan-Thomas said: “My report today highlights that despite the positive intentions of the Welsh Government to prevent homelessness, Local Authorities continue to focus on managing people in crisis rather than stopping them getting into crisis in the first place. To truly prevent homelessness public bodies need to take a long-term view and work with other organisations to really tackle the issues that cause homelessness. This requires a focus on, for example, better educational attainment, access to employment, well planned transition when leaving care and access to welfare benefits.”