Llamau response to Equalities, Local Government and Communities Committee Rough Sleeping Inquiry Report

We’re pleased to see the report from the Equalities, Local Government and Communities Committee, outlining the key results of their inquiry into rough sleeping.

Rough Sleeping has increased by 45% between 2015 and 2018 and is a very clear indication that a range of systems and services have failed some of the most vulnerable people in Wales.

We are pleased to see a number of the recommendations in the report, particularly the reference made to the negative impact of commissioning practices on both the quality of services and on a culture of best practice sharing across the sector, alongside recommendations to increase the use of harm reduction approaches to better support people who are rough sleeping.

Llamau has itself felt the full effect of commissioning practices, and while we have tried to continue to work in partnership with a range of stakeholders across Wales, commissioning practices can often create an unhealthy level of competition and discourage the sharing of best practice. We have also been significantly impacted by what the report refers to as the “race to the bottom”. With local authority and Welsh Government budgets being increasingly squeezed by austerity imposed by the UK Government, it has become increasingly commonplace for us to receive only around 85% of what it costs us to actually fund our services. While we have chosen not to reduce colleagues’ salaries in response to these cuts, it is inevitable that the quality of some other services has been severely impacted. It has been very clear to us for some time that, as the report says, “there is simply not enough money in the system” and while Welsh Government has stated that it is committed to ending homelessness and rough sleeping in Wales, the draft Welsh Government budget published earlier this week included no additional funding for the Housing Support Grant, which would be vital to ensure that no one in Wales has to experience homelessness.

Whilst we are pleased to see the recommendations in the report, we are disappointed that the report does not reference the need for longer-term prevention of rough sleeping and homelessness. Research clearly indicates that homelessness is preventable if earlier support is provided to those people at risk of becoming homeless, ensuring that they have the skills and means to avoid homelessness in the future. By continuing to focus only on solutions once someone has reached the crisis point of rough sleeping, we will never be able to reduce nor end homelessness and rough sleeping in Wales. As Desmond Tutu once said, “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”