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Criticism for ministers “failing to get to grips with” high levels of homelessness and rough-sleeping in Wales

a homeless person holding a sign 'homeless please help'
(Photo by Envato Elements licence)

Opposition MSs criticised ministers for “failing to get to grips with” high levels of homelessness and rough-sleeping in Wales.

Janet Finch-Saunders, who declared an interest due to property ownership, led the Conservative debate on homelessness. The Aberconwy MS said nearly 11,000 people are living in temporary accommodation, the highest level since the Welsh Government began its current monitoring programme.

She told MSs spending on temporary accommodation has soared, citing the example of Gwynedd which saw a 1,000% increase between 2018 and 2022. She said 3,350 dependent children aged under 16 are in temporary accommodation with 30% in hotels or B&Bs.

 Ms Finch-Saunders raised concerns about “massive” increases in rough-sleeping since 2021: “Pembrokeshire, 100%; Cardiff, 120%; and Gwynedd, 366%.

“That is morally wrong, as is the fact that local authorities are not even required to monitor the deaths of homeless individuals. Only 31% of local authorities record the deaths.”

Calling for more homes to be built, the shadow climate change minister also criticised “burdensome” requirements on landlords.

Mike Hedges described homelessness as an affront to any civilised society.

“Housing is one of the key issues facing Wales,” said the Labour MS for Swansea East. “After food and water, it’s the next need that people have. Far too many houses are empty and not enough council housing is being built.”

Tory MS James Evans, who represents Brecon and Radnorshire, raised the role of substance misuse, saying action to reduce addiction will help address homelessness. He stressed: “Let us remember that homelessness is not a personal failure of somebody, but a systemic problem that we must all work together to solve.”

Plaid Cymru’s Mabon ap Gwynfor accused the Tories of an “embarrassing and fundamental misunderstanding of the housing crisis”. He argued that homelessness has been driven by policies from successive Conservative UK Governments and building homes will not solve the crisis alone.

Julie James, responding on behalf of the Welsh Government, pointed to the bedroom tax and local housing allowance (LHA) as key drivers of the homelessness crisis. She told the Senedd: “People simply cannot afford their rent if they’re on any part of universal credit housing allowance. It’s pretty straightforward: there is nowhere in Wales where the LHA covers the rent.”

The climate change minister highlighted the white paper on ending homelessness published on October 10: “It is a long-term vision and one that requires radical, systemic and cultural change. It will not be easy to achieve, but it is a change that must happen and we must begin the process now.”

The Tory motion was defeated with 15 voting for and 39 against. Those numbers were reversed as the Senedd agreed to the motion as amended by the Welsh Government.

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Criticism for ministers “failing to get to grips with” high levels of homelessness and rough-sleeping in Wales