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Homelessness in Wales: the importance of leadership, business remodeling and new models of shared accountability

Updated: Apr 16

It is widely accepted that to put an end to homelessness, certain ‘big-ticket’ issues need to be addressed. A larger emphasis on prevention and early intervention are crucial for there to be meaningful and lasting change, whilst anti-poverty strategies need to be developed alongside more suitable accommodation provision to properly front up to this issue. 

These resolutions are widely recognised. Why then, are we still lacking significant progress in tackling homelessness? Limited resources, cuts and the absence of joined-up, strategic approaches are largely to blame. However this is not the whole picture. HICO’s ongoing work in this area and the strategic and operational reviews conducted by associates have brought to light some of the perennial issues excluding resourcing which can and do act as a barrier to successfully addressing the issue of homelessness.

Transitioning towards better access to accommodation 

Issue: local elected members need help to become honest brokers when facing NIMBYism

When it comes to the issue of housing provision, local elected members must be honest brokers with their constituents in relation to housing people with support needs. Better governance and accountability arrangements need to be in place to challenge the age-old issue of NIMBYism.  Some of this is about skilling up and building confidence in local members in order to navigate through these challenges and build support from residents who genuinely want to help.  

Local development plans (LDPs) commonly use broad, ‘beige’ data from the census and other large datasets to inform supply requirements for homelessness accommodation. There needs to be a direct link between the demand outlined in future housing support programme strategies and LDPs.This will provide a more nuanced, local approach.  Landlords need to become more comfortable with developing one-bed accommodation, historically a hard sell due to fears relating to tenancy management and sustainability of letting. This can be mitigated if there is a firm commitment to develop one bed accommodation as part of a balanced community which avoids ghettoising areas.

Issue: the third sector requires business support to transition to a new model

Supported Housing providers need significant help with business remodeling in a move towards rapid rehousing. A future which involves allocation of general accommodation with wrap-around support, threatens many organisations who will struggle to map such seismic change onto their current business model. Welsh Government and local authorities should provide help for the sector through proactive, targeted business support.  Organisations will understandably fear change in relation to what it means for their survival, staff retention and relevance.

Complex challenges require complex responses 

Issue: rapid rehousing won’t work without rapid, responsive and flexible cross sector support for homeless people

Rapid Rehousing will not work successfully without rapid access to multi-agency (or in the case of local authorities interdepartmental) support. This relies on a different model of shared risk taking between statutory and third sector partners.

Those presenting as homeless often have complex challenges in their lives and commonly struggle with co-occurring challenges around mental health and drug use. Supporting them properly to maintain tenancies and live successful lives requires a combination of planned and rapid reactive multi agency responses, above what a supported housing provider can provide. There is a key role for the NHS here. 

The dominant primary care model does not work for homeless people. A bespoke model for homeless people that is designed to work with people with multiple challenges, is required across all seven health boards. Access to rapid step-up and step-down arrangements for people in crisis is key to preventing tenancy failure.

Relationships, Leadership and Accountability 

Good practice and innovation is not just about good strategies, it’s about people and their willingness to take on shared risks and step outside of their immediate remits. This is the case across sectors but also within local authorities in relation to corporate parenting. We are good at telling our commissioned services to focus on rapport building when working with traumatised people as this allows for more successful co-productive planning, but organisations consistently forget to invest in the same between themselves.

Issue: harnessing and maintaining Relationships, Leadership and Accountability needs to be more visible in strategies

Strengthening multi-agency and corporate parenting approaches requires strategies to have distinct sections that highlight commitments and actions to enhance and invest in relationships. A lack of investment in relationships reduces trust which in turn leads to a fear of healthy adult debate around shared endeavours, resulting in commitment ambiguity and avoidance of accountability (Lencioni 2002). 

The focus for Housing Support Programme going forward: 

Issue: there is no spare capacity in the system for unnecessary bureaucracy. We must focus on really important and high level outcomes.

HICO is of the view that in these challenging times with scarce resources, it is crucial to keep things simple. Those working in the sector should consider the following when assessing the efficacy of the services being provided. These should be considered when creating strategies or commissioning services.

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