🏴Last month @WelshGovernment published its draft #WelshBudget for 2023/24 😞We are very disappointed the Housing Support Grant has not been increased 👉We support @CymorthCymru & @CHCymru #HousingMattersWales campaign
Why we are supporting this campaign?
We know that homelessness and housing support services have been facing immense pressures and are in desperate need of additional funding.
Over the last few months CymorthCymru and CHC Cymru have been providing evidence of this to the Welsh Government and Members of the Senedd. In November 2022, Cymorth Cymru and Community Housing Cymru wrote to the Minister for Climate Change and the Minister for Finance and Local Government about the upcoming Welsh Government Draft Budget. They highlighted the pressures facing services and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on staff, calling for an inflationary increase in the Housing Support Grant for 2023/24. Unfortunately, the Welsh Government’s Draft Budget, which was published on 13th December 2022, maintained the Housing Support Grant budget at £166m.
Taff is extremely disappointed by this and that a below-inflation settlement represents a real-terms cut to vital services that are already struggling.
What happens next?
The Draft Budget will be scrutinised by Members of the Senedd over the next few weeks, with Senedd Committees looking in detail at the budget and considering the impact it will have on the people of Wales. There will be a Senedd debate on the Draft Budget on 7th February 2023, during which Committee Chairs and other Members of the Senedd will express their views and pose questions to the Finance Minister. On 28th February 2023 the Welsh Government will publish its Final Budget for 2023/24.
We encourage other Housing Associations and Support Services to support the campaign.
Responses From Our Staff
We know that services funded through the Housing Support Grant deliver £300 million gross annual savings to public services in Wales by preventing homelessness, easing pressure on health and social care, and reducing interaction with the criminal justice system. Increasing investment in the Housing Support Grant will not only save lives, it will save money.
“Not increasing the Housing Support Grant means that our valued colleagues, working to reduce homelessness and support vulnerable tenants won’t receive any pay rise, at a time when inflation is at 10%. We risk losing skills and talent from services and that will inevitably have a massive impact on those that need them most. Investment in the Housing Support grant will allow us to continue to deliver great homes and service”
“Working in front line housing support services is challenging. The impact of trauma on people that access front line services is visible and upsetting; colleagues working in these services are stretched to capacity and are exposed to distressing accounts and events daily. It takes skills, compassion and resilience to return each day to continue to deliver this work. Providers need adequate funding to properly support frontline staff. We know that psychologically informed services are essential for communities to thrive; staff retention and wellbeing needs to be prioritised for these psychologically informed services to continue”
“I have worked as a support worker in housing for over 25 years supporting people within our local communities. It used to fill me with job satisfaction as we were able to help those experiencing hardship in which ever form it presented itself and ensure that people were provided with there fundamental right to adequate housing. Over the past several years due to lack of funding and the ever diminishing local resources and services it is now impossible to give the level of support that is required. There is no longer job satisfaction as we see daily the impact that cost cutting is having on the quality of life to those we are trying to help. Rather than coming home from work knowing I have made someone’s life better and more manageable I now regularly come home knowing that the best we can try to do is help them tread water. The housing crisis is so bad that people are being forced to live in inadequate housing, the knock on effect of this has massively increased poor mental and physical health. I do not go a week in work where at least one of my service users isn’t having a brake down and are talking about wanting to end there own lives. This is absolutely devastating. I feel my job now is not that of a housing support worker but that of a counsellor, a mental health specialist, a social worker, a drug and alcohol advisor, a suicide prevention worker, and while we do having training in all of these areas we are none of those things. The fact here are no specialist mental health support workers that work out in the community in our area is so shocking, around 90% of the people I support should have this service yet it fall to us as housing support workers. Budgets are so tight that not even the basics are being covered. Staff are under so much pressure to be all things to all people and that is not manageable. The cost of living crisis has added on more pressure as we see first hand the impact that this is having on the people we support again fuelling the downward spiral of anxiety, depression, stress, suicidal thought and poor physical wellbeing, but services are so stretched when we try and provide help and support we are blocked at ever corner. Knowing that some of our fellow staff can not afford to put there heating on and are going home from work and getting into bed straight away so they can stay warm is utterly heart braking. We are at the front line giving our all and doing to best we can but it is not good enough, the people we support and the people giving the support deserve more. Having read the draft budget forecast it fills me with fear knowing that figures presented for 20023/24 are staying that same, which is a real terms decrease in funding, at the time when things are already so broken. The impact on the housing crisis is going to be even greater and for me personally this means more misery for more people who are already struggling to get through each day.”
“Support work in homelessness services is a skilled job. It takes an immense amount of resilience, training, and reflective practice to continue to work in and deliver psychologically informed environments with increased stresses both in and outside of work.
We need to keep as many of the skilled workforce we must enable us to continue providing trauma informed services. This means more funding. Not just for pay rises, but to ensure services can be fully staffed to reduce burn out, to reduce staff absences and so that highly skilled professionals do not leave the sector. Consistent staffing provides better outcomes for our residents.
I am concerned that if the housing support grant is not increased the service we provide with the passion and quality in which it is delivered will cease to exist.”
Pressure on the system
The pressure on the homelessness and housing support system has never been greater. Following the incredible work to get people off the streets during the pandemic, official statistics show that we now have over 8,500 people in temporary accommodation. This figure is growing by approximately 500 people every month. Many of these people will need support to help them cope in temporary accommodation and move into a settled home. In addition, the cost-of-living crisis and sky-high rents are putting even more people at risk of losing their home and in need of housing-related support to avoid homelessness.
Cost of living crisis and frontline staff wages
In September 2022, Cymorth published a report that exposed the financial challenges facing frontline homelessness and housing support workers. This research shows that even before the energy bill increases this autumn, 79% of frontline workers were not putting on the heating in order to save money, 44% were struggling to pay bills, 11% were struggling to pay their rent, 7% were using food banks and many others were skipping meals and taking on additional jobs. Many were considering leaving careers they love because they can no longer make ends meet, highlighting better paid jobs in retail and delivery services which came with much less stress. The increased cost of running services Homelessness and housing support providers are increasingly concerned about the cost of running services. Accommodation-based services such as supported accommodation are particularly affected by the increase in energy bills.
Our Support Project- START
How will increased costs in services affect a support project like START?
Reduction in funding would put additional pressure on services who are already overwhelmed supporting this client group. There will always be prison leavers and with the rising cost of living more will be forced to return into custody, live on the streets and access temporary accommodation as a means of housing if it is available. Support projects are funded by the housing support grant, but the cost of living has seen a significant rise in homelessness following COVID, rents are unaffordable and for ex-offenders who only receive Universal credit almost impossible to afford. For many ex-offenders, homelessness is one of many complex issues they face. Less support and funding will without doubt result in many feeling they have no choice but to return to custody where they will have a bed and three meals a day. This in turn will lead to further overcrowding in our prisons and does not address the root problems of homelessness and the lack of safe and secure housing. There are so many possibilities open to individuals who are given the right support. Ex-offenders can be resilient and determined when given hope and support.
Supporting homeless ex-offenders in the long term- will this be possible with lack of funding?
In terms of supporting ex-offenders in the long-term, the lack of funding will have massive consequences on the levels of support that can be provided. For many of our clients START support has been a lifeline for not only those who have managed to secure some form of accommodation but for those who are of NFA and just need to believe there is someone there to listen and give support and hope. I8 fear the loss of additional funding may see closure or limited access to specialist support and this client group will be more likely to return to offending. This client group can be complex, and it takes time and patience from support staff to build on what is often a fragile starting point with services. Many ex-offenders have a negative view of services, they have been let down in the past and have no trust in a system they see as broken. The local authority also mirrors these struggles as they are also at capacity with clients that face homelessness and there is a shortage of temporary accommodation. They often rely on funding to be able to subcontract out for additional support to be able to alleviate pressures that they are under. START is a prime example of this.
As a support worker, do you believe that the work you do with ex-offenders and the level of support, engagement and needs outweighs the funds available?
As support workers working on the START project, we believe that our engagement and the level of support we provide would outweigh funds available. This has been proven in the support we provide as we have had many prison leavers who have broken the cycle, they have Engaged with all the relevant agencies regarding any issue they might face, not returned to custody, found accommodation and maintained accommodation. these people are managing to lead independent lives with the support from START There is a stigma attached to ex-offenders which unfortunately leaves many barriers, in my experience, most are desperate to break the cycle and are reaching out for the right support to meet their needs. Going back into custody and starting the conveyor belt again should not be the answer. Not only is it expensive to the Government in the long run but it does not serve the communities these individuals return to. These are individuals that if given the right support could give back to others, gain employment and lead law abiding lives.
Reductions in funding- how this will affect how you support homeless ex-offender
If additional funding is not available to support those with complex needs and offending pasts there is likely to be more street homelessness and continued offending behaviour. As a team we not only try and support through housing but are there to listen and advise on many aspects of life. We liaise and refer to other organizations who may be better suited to fit an individual’s specific needs and we remain a constant point of contact for when that person needs to reach out. Reductions in funding lead to less working hours, staff and additional pressure to perform to the high standard we expect from ourselves with less recourses. Most of our clients have complex issues relating to mental health and drug or alcohol use which has fuelled offending and anti-social behaviour. This leads to problems in gaining temporary accommodation as a starting point. Many have been given chances before but have not been stable enough or willing at that point in time to follow the rules of temp and for whatever reason have been evicted which results in housing duty’s being closed. Unless priority need is given, and this is not given to all ex-offenders, there is no duty from the council to the house in temporary accommodation. Private renting is now out of reach for most individuals on universal credit and only those who receive additional payments like PIP stand a chance of affording accommodation. It is looking less and less likely that ex-offenders will be able to meet the requirements of being able to afford and access accommodation in the future due to the additional rising costs of living if the LHA rate or additional funding is not put in place. Ex-offenders generally do not have the relevant ID documents needed for private renting criteria or a guarantor which is often asked for. Bridgend council offer a spend to save package which generally covers a bond and rent in advance, but this is usually three times the cost of one month’s rent. The average 1 bed property in Bridgend is now around £550 PCM. This will no doubt put added pressure on their budgets to help those get over the first initial step if the council feels the property is affordable. All this grouped together with the lack of increased funding will result in prolonged homelessness in many of our towns and cities across the country and the government incurring additional costs to keeps people in prison
If the Welsh Gov increased funding- how will this benefit START, and the support provided there?
Staff at START deal with complex and often difficult individuals. It is not only housing support but support around so many other barriers / mental health, lack of trust, financial / family breakdowns. If staff at START had more funding provided which resulted in an uplift in wages this would encourage staff to remain in their positions which they not only enjoy but pride themselves on. Staff feel like they are undervalued and their skills and knowledge and the quality of support they provide is not recognized or valued on the current budget. With additional funding and wage increases this may help to retain employees with a long-term view of working in support and delivering the high standard of support they do, rather than leave for employment opportunities in less stressful settings and better often better paid.