Plenary 14th February 2018

12:12
Watch on Senedd TV
Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Right, thanks. We’ve had concerns raised by Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick that the Welsh Government appeared to have been overly influenced by the Finnish model of housing first and she thought that perhaps a dispersal or scattered-site approach might be more effective than a congregate model. How do you respond to those concerns?

Rebecca Evans AM

Rebecca Evans AM

Title: Minister for Housing and Regeneration Party: Welsh Labour

I suspect you might have received the evidence before our housing first principles were launched, because they were only launched last week. With our housing first principles, although we do look very closely at the Finnish model, we actually look at lots of other models that are being undertaken across the globe. So, our housing first principles do very much promote different models. So, we talk in the document about the pure model. So, that is in dispersed accommodation, but also communal settings, where appropriate for the individual as well.

The housing first project could also be based on rapid rehousing, after a short period in temporary accommodation as part of a wider, housing-led approach. So, we are actually looking at all forms of housing first and it’ll be for local authorities to determine what’s most appropriate, but the core principle, really, at housing first is that people should move into their own, self-contained accommodation and that they should have normal security of tenure, but it should be based on the individual’s choice as to where the right kind of accommodation is for them, because we know, if we put somebody into inappropriate accommodation, then there’s a chance that this housing first model is not going to live up to the expectations that we have for it. Equally, one of the reasons that the dispersed model is very good is that it does mean that we aren’t ghettoising people who have some quite severe chronic and complex problems and we wouldn’t want that to happen either. So, it’s really important for local authorities to take all of this into account, as I’m sure they will, when they’re developing their local approaches to housing first.

John Griffiths AM

John Griffiths AM

Party: Welsh Labour Constituency: Newport East

Okay. Gareth.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Thanks for that. That was quite wide-ranging. The rough-sleeping action plan states that the Welsh Government will encourage the application of housing first principles to enable rough-sleepers to find settled accommodation. Why does the Welsh Government believe that such an approach should be encouraged rather than mandated?

Rebecca Evans AM

Rebecca Evans AM

Title: Minister for Housing and Regeneration Party: Welsh Labour

I think local authorities do have responsibility for addressing their homelessness challenges and their rough-sleeping problems on a local level, and the housing Act very much gives them the power with which to do that.

I think that the housing first principles, which were published last week, are very clear that we do expect housing first to play an increasing role in local authorities’ approaches to tackling homelessness and rough-sleeping in particular. And we are very clear in the document that it should be considered in all local contexts. And we intend also to reflect that in the forthcoming statutory guidance that will be issued to local authorities as well. So, we’re very clear that this is very much something that local authorities need to be considering within their own responses to tackling rough-sleeping.

The housing first project could also be based on rapid rehousing, after a short period in temporary accommodation as part of a wider, housing-led approach. So, we are actually looking at all forms of housing first and it’ll be for local authorities to determine what’s most appropriate, but the core principle, really, at housing first is that people should move into their own, self-contained accommodation and that they should have normal security of tenure, but it should be based on the individual’s choice as to where the right kind of accommodation is for them, because we know, if we put somebody into inappropriate accommodation, then there’s a chance that this housing first model is not going to live up to the expectations that we have for it. Equally, one of the reasons that the dispersed model is very good is that it does mean that we aren’t ghettoising people who have some quite severe chronic and complex problems and we wouldn’t want that to happen either. So, it’s really important for local authorities to take all of this into account, as I’m sure they will, when they’re developing their local approaches to housing first.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

What is the Welsh Government doing to ensure that the local authorities are using assertive outreach services to engage with rough-sleepers?

Rebecca Evans AM

Rebecca Evans AM

Title: Minister for Housing and Regeneration Party: Welsh Labour

Again, this is something reflected in our action plan. Assertive approaches can take all kinds of forms. We’ve been having some examples, actually, of an individual who approaches somebody day after day after day and doesn’t have any kind of good response from the individual who’s rough-sleeping, but then, eventually, they take a cup of coffee, they start to have a chat, and building up that kind of relationship and that kind of trust eventually leads to a positive outcome as well. So, assertive responses are particularly important, and I’ve got an excellent example of one in Rhondda Cynon Taf where they have Step-by-Step, and that provides support with housing, health, and vocation, and it’s almost a hand-holding kind of exercise, which has received some really good feedback from people who have been involved in that. So, they’ll get support from an individual at every step, for example in terms of filling in their benefit claims and so on. So, again, they build up the trust, which is really important.

So, we’ll be looking very closely at the Step-by-Step model in RCT to see if it’s something that we can promote to other local authorities across Wales. And, again, there are excellent outreach workers within local authorities, but also within the wider third sector as well, doing great work, reaching out to rough-sleepers and homeless people every day.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Thanks for that. Settled accommodation is another issue. Some witnesses have raised concerns that only a relatively small number of homeless households in Wales are being rehoused in social housing compared to England and Scotland. Do you think that’s the case? And if so, why?

Rebecca Evans AM

Rebecca Evans AM

Title: Minister for Housing and Regeneration Party: Welsh Labour

I think Rob might be able to give us an idea of the picture in terms of the take-up of housing in various different sectors. But I think the important point, really, is getting the right tenancy for the individual, and we’re actually doing some really good work with the private rented sector in order to understand the barriers that they feel, or that they have, in terms of taking on people who have a history of rough-sleeping, who are homeless and so on. We provide bond schemes, for example; they’ve been very successful in terms of being able to at least tackle that initial reluctance of people to enter into the private rented sector. But it really is about using all of the sectors that we have to the best of the availability of the housing that’s out there. So, I don’t think that it’s wrong to be looking to the private rented sector to be playing its role in this arena.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

It—. Oh, sorry; go ahead, Rob.

Rob Owen

It’s just to expand. Since the Act came into being, back in April 2015, as I mentioned earlier, the Act is, essentially, compartmentalised, and the intervention duty helped to secure this final duty, all of which can be ended, these particular duties, with an offer of accommodation that’s likely to last for six months. I think it’s important, for the record, that, during those first two years, 8,000 social housing tenancies were used to either prevent or relieve homelessness. So, in terms of whether or not we are lower than England, Scotland et cetera, we have different outputs now from what maybe has been reported there. Local authorities are not only focused on using social housing. We’ve opened the market up and private sector housing is being used in equal measure to social housing across our statistical returns. So, I think people are getting good quality housing in both sectors.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Okay, thanks. There have been issues over police and PCSOs and how they deal with what they perceive as problems with rough-sleepers. Of course, the Welsh Government has been involved in funding the PCSOs, so do you see any opportunity there for the Government in trying to get a more co-ordinated approach with the police in dealing with this issue?

Rebecca Evans AM

Rebecca Evans AM

Title: Minister for Housing and Regeneration Party: Welsh Labour

I’m really keen that Welsh Government works very closely with the police in terms of—I say ‘tackling’ rough-sleeping, but really we need to be talking in terms of ‘supporting’ rough-sleepers into accommodation and into accessing the kind of help and support that they might need. One of my early meetings in post was with the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales and his deputy, and both of them were really keen to work very closely with Government in terms of the homelessness agenda.

A few pieces of work that are going on, for example, would be the work that the police are leading in terms of anti-social behaviour. This is particularly with regard to the social housing sector, but nonetheless I think it will be a useful and informative piece of work more widely in housing. We’re seeking to work with the police to roll out that trauma-informed training to PCSOs and people working on the front line there who might come into contact with people who are rough-sleeping so that there’s a better understanding of the kind of circumstances that might lead somebody to be rough-sleeping, and then obviously to have a better understanding of the things that can be done to help them.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Thanks.