I have been Director at Cymorth Cymru since 2016, and the passion, dedication and creativity of our members has never failed to amaze me. It’s an understatement to say that times have been challenging for the homelessness and housing support sector in the last decade, but services have always responded with grit, courage and determination, finding a way to ensure that people get the high-quality support they need.
But passion, grit, courage and determination can only get you so far. I speak to people every day who have worked in the housing support sector for ten, twenty, sometimes thirty years and they are all saying the same thing – what they’re currently trying to navigate is more difficult than anything they have previously faced. Years of austerity have stripped services to the bone and the COVID-19 pandemic plus huge rises in inflation and the recent cost of living crisis has compounded this further. There is simply nothing left to give.
In the summer, First Minister Mark Drakeford said that Wales is facing its worst financial situation since the start of devolution. Climate Change Minister Julie James has told us that she is arguing passionately around the Cabinet table for investment in homelessness services, but Ministers are facing incredibly difficult decisions. Our message is that failure to invest in the Housing Support Grant will lead to service collapse, and this will not only be felt by housing, but also health, social care and criminal justice.
This isn’t rhetoric, this is reality. In September we collected data from our members about the impact of this year’s cash-flat Housing Support Grant budget and what this has meant for their services. The results are stark.
The challenges facing services
The data shows that along with a rise in demand for services and greater complexity of support needs, costs have increased by an average of 11%. This has resulted in 75% of providers reporting that they are running services at a deficit and 52% are subsidising services this using their own reserves. Given the limited reserves that charities have, this is without question completely unsustainable.
Our survey of members also looked at the likely impact of two scenarios:
- What would be the impact of a cash flat settlement in the Housing Support Grant in the next Welsh Government budget?
- What would be the impact of a cash cut to the Housing Support Grant in the next Welsh Government budget?
Members have shared some startling insights.
If the HSG is not increased next year, services will begin to fold and we will lose life-changing, and sometimes life-saving, support for the increasing number of people and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
77% of respondents said they were extremely likely or likely to have to reduce service capacity.
40% would be extremely likely or likely to have to hand back existing contracts, leaving people without vital support and accommodation.
67% would be extremely likely or likely to not bid for new or re-tendered contracts, meaning that local authorities may not be able to award contracts for desperately needed services.
These figures only get worse if there is a cash cut, with the proportion of organisations answering ‘extremely likely’ growing significantly.
What can be done?
There is no denying the numbers; if the HSG is not increased, services will collapse and there won’t be the high quality, compassionate services which Wales prides itself on delivering. More people will experience homelessness, people’s health and wellbeing will deteriorate, and there will be a risk to people’s lives.
That’s why Cymorth and our colleagues at Community Housing Cymru are calling on the Welsh Government to increase the Housing Support Grant in their budget for 2024/25.
We have already provided a briefing for Welsh Government officials and held a roundtable to help them understand the very real challenges facing services on the ground. We have raised the issue at the cross-party group on housing and sent a comprehensive report to all Members of the Senedd.
On Friday 1st December we’re holding a briefing event for Members of the Senedd and local councillors, to outline the risks to services in advance of the Welsh Government’s Draft Budget, which will be published on 19th December.
Make your voices heard – join us in the campaign
We are also asking people to make their voices heard on 1st December as part of a day of action, and over the coming three weeks. You can do this by:
- Sending our Housing Matters report to your Members of the Senedd.
- Inviting your Members of the Senedd to visit your services
- Making your voice heard on social media. Download our social media graphics here and use the hashtag #HousingMattersWales
Please join us in showing how important support services are in meeting the Welsh Government’s ambitions of ending homelessness in Wales.
Ps. You can download the report, campaign pack and social media graphics from our website.