Shadow Local Government Minister Mark Isherwood has called on the Welsh Government to increase funding for homelessness and housing-related support services that have reached ‘tipping point’, and warned of the consequences if they fail to spend better.
Responding to the statement this week in the Welsh Parliament by the Minister for Housing and Local Government on the Housing Support Grant – which delivers homelessness prevention and housing-related support services in Wales – Mr Isherwood spoke of his support for Cymorth Cymru’s Housing Matters campaign.
The North Wales Member is calling for an increase in the grant in the Welsh Government's budget for 2020-21, and also of the warnings by service providers in North Wales of the consequences of not increasing the funding.
Mr Isherwood said:
“I have worked with housing support providers before I came to this place, and throughout my time here, since 2003.
“I have worked on every campaign – this isn't the first one – for Housing Matters’ every year. Before that we had the ‘Let's Keep Supporting People’ campaign from Cymorth Cymru. Unfortunately, this has become a bit of an annual ritual. Usually, it's produced good news at the end, and I pray that that's the same in this instance.
“You say that we know it's not enough to provide funding, but we know that without enough funding, the new Grant will not build on the existing duty of local authorities to produce a homelessness strategy.
“Responding to the cash-flat settlement for the Grant in the Welsh Government's Draft Budget, a cut in real terms, Cymorth Cymru, Community Housing Cymru and Welsh Women's Aid warned that services preventing homelessness and supporting independent living have now reached a tipping point. And in North Wales a supported living service provider I recently visited told me the consequences would be increased pressure on the NHS, A & E and blue-light services.
“You stated that to put more money into this would mean money being taken away elsewhere, but why won't the Welsh Government do what it says in terms of the prevention and early intervention agenda and recognise this isn't about taking money from elsewhere, it's about saving multiples more money for elsewhere by taking pressure off statutory services? Smart budgeting in this area, protecting budgets in this area, will save hundreds of millions more for health, social care and other key services.”
Mr Isherwood also asked what plans the Welsh Government currently has for its planned redistribution of the Housing Support Grant, highlighting fears that Local Authorities in North Wales could lose a substantial chunk of their Housing Support Grant funding.
“Key providers in North Wales have told me that the plans that they understand are in place would see five local authorities in the north losing between 25 and 40 per cent of their Housing Support Grant funding. Is that still something under consideration by the Welsh Government? If not, what is its current position in terms of the redistribution previously referred to by it?”
Speaking outside the Chamber after the Minister’s response, Mr Isherwood commented that there is "... still no answer to these key questions for North Wales".