The Welsh Conservatives will today change the dynamic of the homelessness debate in Wales with the launch of a 10-point action plan to tackle the issue.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Housing Minister - David Melding CBE AM - has launched the strategy on World Homeless Day, pledging to put the issue at the forefront of the agenda for a Welsh Conservative Government.
The Welsh Conservative 10-point plan includes:
- Legislating to make Housing a basic human right in Wales
- Committing to end rough sleeping in Wales by 2026
- Launching an ambitious house building programme to build 40,000 new social homes over 10 years
- Undertaking an extensive 12-month programme of data collection and analysis into the actual extent of rough sleeping across Wales
- Immediately bringing 150 empty social housing properties back into use specifically for military veterans who are at risk of homelessness
- Introducing statutory housing and homelessness awareness classes into all secondary schools in Wales
- Undertaking post legislative scrutiny of the Housing Act (Wales) 2014 in order to work with the sector to strengthen its implementation and to address homelessness
- Working with the UK Government to scrap the Vagrancy Act for England and Wales
- Ringfencing the funding for the Supported People Programme Grant for a period of 3 years
- Appointing a Homelessness Tsar, ideally someone with lived experience of homelessness.
The action plan was developed in response to research – commissioned by Crisis, and undertaken by the Heriot-Watt University – which found that between 2012 and 2017 the number of people sleeping rough in Wales increased by a shocking 75%, and the number of people sleeping in cars, tents and on public transport increased by 50%.
As part of the 10-point action plan the Welsh Conservatives would make housing a basic human right in law, a move supported by the Chartered institute of Housing Cymru, Shelter Cymru and Tai Pawb. A future Welsh Conservative Government would also ensure that voices of people who are sleeping rough or who are homeless are heard at the highest levels by introducing a “Homelessness Tsar”. The Tsar would be independent of Government, have direct experience of life rough sleeping or homelessness, and would be a significant position with real influence and authority in Welsh Government and wider Welsh Civil Society.
The proposals would also see an end to the demonisation of homeless people and those who are sleeping rough by working with the UK Government to scrap the Vagrancy Act 1824.
Lindsay Cordery-Bruce, chief executive at Wales’ leading homelessness and rough sleeping charity The Wallich, said:
“At the Wallich, we aim to achieve three things; to get people off the streets, keep people off the streets and create opportunities so that people can move on with their lives following a period of homelessness.
“We welcome any measures, initiatives and changes that support the achievement of these goals and we are fully behind recommendations that housing should be a human right in Wales. Plans to prevent homelessness earlier in people’s lives are encouraged as long as this works alongside focussed action to tackle underlying inequality and poverty.
“Rough sleeping has reached human disaster levels, with preventable deaths reaching an all-time high. The sooner we can bring this to an end the better and although housebuilding at scale will alleviate some issues in the long term, it is unacceptable to us that people are still sleeping on our streets in 2019. The emergency is now.”
Welsh Conservatives Shadow Housing Minister David Melding AM, added:
“By no means is this strategy the whole vision or solution, but it is a change of direction that would be undertaken by a Welsh Conservative Government, putting the issue of homelessness at the forefront of our administration.
“It is shocking that in the 21st Century more than 25,000 people experience still experience homelessness across Wales, and that in the last decade the number of people sleeping rough has increased by 75%.
“It is vital that everyone has a safe and supported home to call their own, enabling them to access the public services that we all rely on in a time of need.
“We will also be a government accountable to the people that we serve. The new Homelessness Tsar will be a champion for the vulnerable and will ensure that the voices of homeless people themselves - who all too often go unheard - will ring out loud. If the Government fails to improve their lives, we will be held to account.”
Welsh Conservative Leader, Paul Davies AM, concluded:
“A Welsh Conservative Government will be aspirational, which is why have committed to end homelessness in Wales. We want to make sure that we lead Wales to a brighter future where everyone can achieve and provide for themselves and their family.”
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