The Welsh Labour Government is making £10 million available to councils in Wales to help them to take immediate and direct action to protect the homeless and rough sleepers in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
The additional funding will enable local authorities to secure the accommodation needed to ensure those without a home can be protected, supported, and isolated if necessary.
This could include the block purchase of B&B or hotel rooms, empty student accommodation and other premises to operate alongside existing provision. This provision will need to be managed and supported by the professionals working in this sector to ensure high-quality support, hygiene standards and appropriate monitoring for symptoms and illness.
In addition, Ministers are also taking action to ensure those who have no recourse to public funds, such as victims of domestic abuse and asylum seekers, are supported during the outbreak.
The law currently prevents Ministers from offering these individuals certain types of support, including housing support. Local authorities have been directed to utilise alternative powers and funding to assist those who require shelter and other forms of support during the pandemic. This will ensure they are supported to stay safe and well.
Housing Minister Julie James said:
“The coming weeks and months will be extremely difficult for us all, but for those who do not have the security of a place to call home and for those who work tirelessly to support them, this will be a particularly testing time. Many may not have access to the facilities that enable them to adhere to public health guidance on hygiene or isolation.
The £10 million in financial support I am announcing today will ensure people who are, or are at risk of, sleeping rough, and those who are in inadequate temporary accommodation, have the support and resources needed to protect themselves during the outbreak.
We are also taking action to ensure everyone in Wales, regardless of their immigration status, can be supported to remain safe and well during this time.
I will do everything in my power to ensure that artificial barriers to doing the right thing are removed so that collectively we can respond swiftly and flexibly to this unprecedented situation.”
Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt said:
“Coronavirus and the need for social isolation is putting real pressure on all of us in Wales, but especially the most vulnerable, including victims and survivors of domestic abuse, those with no recourse to public funds, and those who are homeless.
At times like these our strong community, public services, and third sector partners across Wales are a huge asset. It is vital that our vulnerable citizens are wholly supported during these unprecedented times.
One size doesn’t fit all where benefits and provision is concerned, so I’m delighted that this new financial support will enable local authorities to provide the secure and supported shelter needed by those who don’t have a safe place to call home.”
This funding will form part of a wider support package for local authorities. Ministers will announce further details on this in the coming days.
The Welsh Labour Government is also ensuring existing funding can be used flexibly and effectively to support important work at a local level to meet the COVID-19 challenge. Officials will be writing today to local authorities setting out how they can maximise the Housing Support Grant and Children and Communities Grants to best meet local needs.
Further information on how the Welsh Government is dealing with the outbreak can be found at www.gov.wales/coronavirus