Who are Homes For All Cymru

Homes For All Cymru (HFAC) is the voice of the Welsh housing and homelessness sector. We are a broad group of charities (our formal members) and organisations across Wales.

Collectively we believe that home is the foundation for everything in our lives. It’s core to our health, wellbeing, life chances and the support within our communities.

Ensuring everyone has access to a home that meets their needs is central to solving the housing emergency. And realising an ambition to give everyone access to such a home will also help improve health, tackle poverty and reduce inequality, both now and for future generations.

Housing in Wales at this General Election

This General Election comes at a time when increasing numbers of people are facing housing insecurity and Wales is in the grips of a severe housing emergency. For thousands of people across Wales right now homelessness and/or inadequate housing is the reality they are forced to live with every day.

This includes 11,692 people in Wales who are homeless and trapped living in temporary accommodation, 3,143 of whom are children. It includes thousands of people living in homes that are unaffordable or of poor quality. And it includes 140,000 people who are already on waiting lists for social housing.

We know housing is a devolved issue, and many of the actions needed to effect change, and to end the housing emergency, are the responsibility of the Welsh Government. However, we also know that there is a significant role for the next UK Government to play.

That is why HFAC is calling on parliamentary candidates in Wales to commit to working at Westminster to secure specific changes to reserved policy areas that currently negatively impact housing outcomes in Wales, including:

  • Delivering a welfare system that prevents homelessness.
  • Bringing down high essential household costs and protect people from fuel poverty
  • Reviewing policies that are known to exacerbate homelessness for people seeking sanctuary.
  • Scrapping the outdated Vagrancy Act that continues to criminalise people who sleep rough.

However, the impact the UK Government can have on housing in Wales does not stop here. Even where policy areas are devolved to Wales – such as affordable housing supply – decisions taken in Westminster can have a significant impact on the amount of investment that Wales can make. As we face a housing emergency across Great Britain, now, more than ever, we need a UK Government that recognises the urgent action that is needed. A UK Government that makes clear ending the housing emergency is a shared mission, and that takes steps to unlock the investment needed to build the homes that will ultimately be central to ending the emergency once and for all.

Our Asks

The Homes For All Cymru coalition is calling for:

1. A welfare system that prevents homelessness

  • Secure long-term investment in Local Housing Allowance to ensure it reflects the true cost of renting and covers at least the bottom third of rents.
  • Reduce the Housing Benefit taper rate for young people living in supported accommodation to bring it in line with Universal Credit.
  • Scrap the benefit cap and the two-child limit on benefits.
  • Implement an independent review of the entire benefits system to ensure it is fit for purpose in preventing homelessness.

Local Housing Allowance

As the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite, people across Wales are on the brink of homelessness as they struggle to bridge the gap between benefits and rental costs. Others are simply priced out of renting a home altogether. Indeed, data analysis showed that in 2022/23, only 2% of rental homes on the market in Wales are advertised within housing benefit rates.1 The current 12-month uplift in Local Housing Allowance is welcome, but the new UK Government must commit to vital longer-term investment to help  make homes affordable.

Housing Benefit taper rate

Young people who face homelessness often rely on supported housing, which provides care and support to help them live independently. But the Housing Benefit taper rate means these young people struggle to afford their rents if they take up a job.

Young people living in supported accommodation are able to claim both Universal Credit and Housing Benefit, but when they start working their Universal Credit is tapered at 55% and when they earn a certain amount, to nil. Following that, their Housing Benefit is tapered at a higher rate of 65%.

Ultimately, this makes it harder for young people, including many care leavers, who live in supported housing to build their independence and working career. It also places young people at risk of rent arrears.

Benefit cap

The benefit cap means that individuals and families who are already living on the poverty line are denied the levels of financial support that they need, placing them at greater risk of homelessness. The new UK Government must ensure people get the financial support they truly need to ensure they have an affordable and stable place to call home.

Two-Child Cap

The two-child benefit cap introduced in 2017 restricts child tax credits and universal credit to the first two children and means most households cannot claim means tested benefits or tax credits for any additional children born after this date. It currently affects more than 100,000 households in the UK. The majority of households receiving universal credit are in work and are struggling financially due to circumstances beyond their control such as family break up or death, or loss of paid work or working hours during the cost-of-living crisis.

The policy is one of the biggest policy drivers of child poverty in the UK and must be reversed.

Review of Benefits to Prevent Homelessness

Our welfare system should support those of us who are struggling to make ends meet. But more of us are unable to afford rising rents and homelessness presentations are increasing. We must ensure that our welfare system supports those at risk of homelessness.”

 

2. Decrease high essential household costs and protect people from fuel poverty:

  • Implement a social tariff for energy bills, to ensure they are affordable for all households.

Social Energy Tariff

Despite falls in the energy price cap, for households across Wales, the energy crisis is far from over with energy debt at unaffordable levels:

Figures from Ofgem show that total energy debt and arrears have increased from around £2bn to £3bn in the last 12 months,[1] whilst the amount of individual debt has increased at an even faster rate. The entrenched nature of energy debt calls for long-term solutions instead of temporary ‘sticking plaster schemes’.

Whilst support packages such as the Energy Bill Support Scheme were a lifeline for many households, they are an unsustainable ‘solution’ that have now come to an end despite households still being unable to make their energy payments. Such schemes have also been beset with delivery failures resulting in £200 million of energy bill support not reaching households[2].

The introduction of a social tariff for energy, which the last UK Government committed to consulting on in the autumn statement of 2022, is critical to tackling both energy affordability and debt. Research shows that introduction of a social tariff for energy would have lifted 2.2 million homes out of fuel poverty, including vulnerable households, such as older people and those living with disabilities[3].

 

3. Review policies that are known to exacerbate homelessness for people seeking sanctuary

  • Scrap the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) condition, and until it is completely removed, provide accommodation as well as immigration advice and employment support for people with NRPF who will otherwise face homelessness and destitution.
  • Reform the asylum accommodation model to ensure funding so local authorities can deliver suitable housing.
  • Increase the move on period for newly granted refugees to at least 56 days.

No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF)

The condition of NRPF affects a varied group of people, including, but not limited to, visa overstayers, Appeal Rights Exhausted (ARE) asylum seekers, victims of modern slavery, , international students, people on work visas, people on spouse visas, etc. Because of their status, people with NRPF cannot access a number of devolved and non-devolved benefits and support. This includes social housing waiting lists, generic local authority homelessness assistance, or other housing-related benefits. Due to a lack of support mechanisms, those with NRPF are pushed into extreme homelessness and destitution. A humanitarian, people-centred approach, highlighting health and well-being, should guide policy changes.

Asylum Accommodation

Asylum accommodation needs to be of a good quality and enable integration within communities. The current approach is failing to deliver this, and it is vital that the UK Government reforms the approach and provides local authorities with the funding necessary to deliver the homes and outcomes needed.

Move On Periods for Refugees

Under the current system, newly granted refugees are given a 28-day move on period from their Home Office accommodation and funds. With the challenging housing climate, this period is devastatingly insufficient. The current 28-day move on period pushes people into homelessness and prevents them from accessing the support they are entitled to in a timely manner. It is imperative that the new UK Government addresses this issue.

 

4. Scrap the outdated Vagrancy Act that continues to criminalise rough sleeping

  • Commit to repealing the outdated Vagrancy Act so that no one is criminalised for being homeless. The Act remains in force despite parliament’s vote to scrap it.

The Vagrancy Act

The Vagrancy Act 1824 is a long-outdated law that criminalises people in England and Wales who are facing street homelessness and have nowhere else to turn.

In 2022, a vote to scrap the Act was supported across political parties. We now need the new UK Government to follow through and put an end to this outdated and cruel law.