Monday, 20 December 2010

Fears over homelessness in Wales as cuts bite

Following Wrecsam Council's decision to cease funding Shelter Cymru I thought it would be appropriate to reproduce this article from the BBC Wales website:
A perfect storm of job losses and housing benefit cuts will increase homelessness at a time of squeezed budgets, support groups say.

Shelter Cymru warns of "problems on all fronts", while other organisations fear the worst is yet to come.

Rough Sleepers Cymru said there was already a huge spike in the number of people coming forward.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it had worked to bring fairness to a system that was "ineffective".

However, there is concern the situation will get worse when cuts to housing benefits and public sector job losses kick in.

Joy Kent, director of Cymorth Cymru which is the umbrella body for organisations helping people to find and keep their homes, said the future was "scary".

"We're already seeing an increase in demand for services and a fall in income for those services to be provided so it's a double whammy," she added.

Other groups working at the sharp end say they are seeing a big rise in people getting into difficulties.

Tim Paddock, chairman of Rough Sleepers Cymru, said: "Already we're seeing a huge increase in homeless presentations - the numbers are up massively.

"Normally we would get a little spike as we go into the cold period. It's gone up more than I've ever seen since I've been working in the homeless sector [eight years]."

The number of households classed as homeless in Wales rose 10% between June 2009 and June this year.

That rise was partly driven by an increase in people who lost accommodation that was tied to a job, or occupants who were required by a landlord to leave a rented property.

But Mr Paddock added: "The first wave [of homeless people] in the recession was people on short-term contracts and part-time employees.

"As we move on into these benefit changes, what you will see is that many vulnerable individuals are affected - people with mental health issues, or a learning disability, or a personality disorder or people who came through the care system."

'Big concern'

Ceri Dunstan, of Shelter Cymru, said as well as redundancies, problems were also being caused by reduced working hours and people not being able to make rent or mortgage payments.

"I think we're going to see a lot more people falling into difficulties in the private rented sector - that's going to be the big concern for us," she said.

"Some of the changes being brought in [by the UK government]... if you've been on Jobseekers' Allowance for 12 months or more, your housing benefit will be cut by 10%.

"We're talking about people who are in poverty anyway and I think our opinion is that it's perverse and bizarre and we can't see what the reasoning behind that is."

Other benefit changes include an expected reduction in Local Housing Allowance payments and new limits on the amount paid according to the size of a property.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it had worked to bring fairness to a system that was "ineffective, wildly expensive and entirely unsustainable".

A spokesperson said: "Housing benefit has spiralled out of control over the last decade, costing taxpayers billions every year and plunging thousands of vulnerable people into an unbreakable cycle of benefit dependency.

"Working families should not have to pay to support a benefits system which allows people to live in properties they themselves could never afford.

"We know that many people will make up any shortfall in housing benefit, or renegotiate their rent with landlords. But we have also tripled the money available for discretionary payments, with £140m being made available over the next five years, to support those most vulnerable."

The assembly government said its new housing measure would enable local authorities to apply to suspend the right to buy council houses in areas of housing pressure.

Ministers in Wales also said they had exceeded their recent target in providing affordable homes, but admitted ambitious targets would be impossible in the current climate.

Earlier this year, Deputy Housing Minister Jocelyn Davies announced £1m of extra funding for a variety of projects to tackle homelessness.

It is my understanding that Wrecsam are the ONLY Local Authority in Wales to cease funding Shelter Cymru for provision of independent housing advice and it is ironic that the Lead Councillor on Housing for the Welsh Local Government Association is non other than the Leader of Wrecsam Council and Liberal Democrat Assembly candidate, Aled Roberts. Also prominent in ensuring that the Council ceased funding Shelter Cymru was Councillor Paul Rogers, the Conservative Assembly candidate for Clwyd South.

So much for the Con Dem's concern for the most vulnerable in our society...perhaps they can tell us where exactly the 'big society' plans for Wrecsam are?


Aelwyd said...

Plaid Gwersyllt paints a very misleading one sided story again.

It is my understanding the Council's executive board voted democratically to reduce the funding to shelter however would continue to fund the Housing Options service which would work to prevent homelessness in Wrexham. As they say prevention is better than cure and for Plaid to ignore the hard work of officers is a disgrace.

Is it not the Plaid housing Minister Jocelyn who actually cut £38k of funding for homelessness in Wrexham? If this was really of concern then why aren't Plaid challenging the minister on her decision?

Anonymous said...

Plaid spitting their dummy out again and showing how ineffective they are.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

For the previous 2 commentators:

The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be. - Socrates.

Shame they can't do that!

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Aelwyd is WRONG, Shelter Cymru was funded to provide Housing Advice under Section 179, Housing Act 1996 which stipulates that local authorities are required to provide, advice and assistance on homelessness AND prevention of homelessness. Housing Options cannot represent clients in County Court who challenge re-possession or eviction and therefore Wrecsam are not complying with Section 179. No evidence was provided why £44,000 was cut and whether it was cut by WAG initially (The Housing budget has after all been cut by 25% following the CSR). I think this was a decision made by Wrecsam without any influence by WAG. We have discussed this with Jocelyn Davies and as always she is very supportive of all homeless initiatives including inhouse services and Shelter Cymru. Shame Aelwyd wasn't at the Exec Board!! wasn't he?

Roger Williams said...

I'm amazed at the snide anonymous comments on this blog. People may have issues with the specifics and should address those issues in a reasoned manner rather than making unsubstantiated and often inaccurate claims. I'm no fan of Plaid Cymru (or at least didn't know much about them) but they were right to fight for the Shelter funding and they raise some interesting points on the Brymbo funding. Seems it's all about money these days and qui bono?

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Roger - We in Plaid Cymru very often vote for what is right rather than what is politically convenient, which is why we get the flak that we do. We are not however perfect but we do try our best.