Avoiding a return to rough sleeping after the pandemic

Avoiding a return to rough sleeping after the pandemic
09 November 2020

Our research shows that the public sector was spending up to £210 million reacting to, rather than preventing, rough sleeping – this is a waste of money

The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity for public bodies to start addressing weaknesses in partnership working to help tackle rough sleeping.

Our report found that in recent years whilst many public bodies work with people sleeping rough, services were not always joined up and helping people when they needed it. We found many examples of people being assisted off the streets and into temporary accommodation, but they did not get the support they needed to address the root causes of their homelessness and often ended up back where they started. 

The true extent of people sleeping rough in Wales each year is unknown. Drawing on information from specialist charities who work with people sleeping rough, there are roughly 3,000 incidences of rough sleeping every year. The most recent data published by Welsh Government shows the number of people sleeping rough was continuing to rise before the pandemic, increasing by 17% between November 2018 and November 2019.

Our research shows that people sleeping rough in later life have often experienced domestic or sexual abuse, substance misuse, been abused at home, had difficulties in school, or lived in poverty from a young age.

To end rough sleeping, solutions need to address both accommodation and support needs and requires many public bodies – including, councils, the Police, health bodies, housing associations, and others – to change how they work and what they do to tackle rough sleeping.

We believe that the key to tackling this problem is for public bodies to deliver a single public service response targeted at people sleeping rough. To support this, we have included in our report a self-reflection tool for public bodies to use to improve how they can jointly address complex needs in the future.

There has been a real change and emphasis on rough sleeping since the pandemic hit, with public services stepping up to help people off the streets into accommodation. Public services now need to capitalise on this work and deliver longer-term solutions to end people sleeping on our streets.

I believe that for the first time in a generation, eliminating rough sleeping in Wales is a possibility. Our report sets out how we can all work towards this goal. Public bodies must not just focus on giving people a roof over their head, it needs all partners to work together to address the root causes of homelessness.

Notes to Editors:

  • This report looks at how public bodies can help to end people sleeping rough in Wales. This is the phase two work of our review of partnership working and follows on from our report looking at Public Service Boards published in October 2019.
  • We have produced two blogs prior to the publication of this report – Part 1: More than just a housing problem [opens in new window]; and Part 2: The impact of Coronavirus on people sleeping rough [opens in new window].
  • As part of this work we have produced a data tool [opens in new window] with detailed research of rough sleeping.
  • The Auditor General is the independent statutory external auditor of the devolved Welsh public sector. He is responsible for the annual audit of the majority of the public money spent in Wales, including the £15 billion of funds that are voted on annually by the Welsh Parliament. Elements of this funding are passed by the Welsh Government to the NHS in Wales (over £7 billion) and to local government (over £4 billion).
  • The audit independence of the Auditor General is of paramount importance. He is appointed by the Queen, and his audit work is not subject to direction or control by the Welsh Parliament or government. 
  • The Wales Audit Office (WAO) is a corporate body consisting of a nine member statutory Board which employs staff and provides other resources to the Auditor General, who is also the Board’s Chief Executive and Accounting Officer. The Board monitors and advises the Auditor General, regarding the exercise of his functions.
  • Audit Wales is the umbrella name for the Auditor General for Wales and the Wales Audit Office. Audit Wales is a registered trademark, but it is not a legal entity in itself.