The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales is launching a consultation on a proposed ‘own initiative’ investigation into homelessness in Wales.

The consultation will be launched at the Tai Cymru 2020 conference today (Wednesday).

It will be the first investigation of its kind since the Ombudsman was given new powers via the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Act 2019.

The proposed investigation is backed by actor and social campaigner Michael Sheen who said that a mixture of austerity and the effects of the pandemic has meant greater risk of people losing their homes.

The Ombudsman’s proposed investigation will focus on the administration of the homelessness assessment and review process by local authorities in Wales.

It will also consider any improvements and good practice in service delivery that have arisen during the COVID-19 pandemic that can be taken forward to drive change in this work in the longer term.

Nick Bennett, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, said:

“Homeless people are always vulnerable – but in the midst of a pandemic – where a home is the first line of defence they are particularly at risk. The powers voted to me by the Senedd were intended to give a voice to the voiceless. It is difficult to think of a more marginal and voiceless group at the current time.

“The Welsh Government’s phased plan to end homelessness in Wales, together with the commitment shown by Local Authorities to seek to resolve the issues associated with homelessness represents a real opportunity to create a more equal Wales for future generations.

“Following a long wait to acquire own initiative investigation powers, I am eager to use them in a ‘real time’ situation to drive service improvement.”

In a video message to the conference, Michael Sheen will say:

“The detrimental impact of a long period of austerity followed by financial strain caused by the current pandemic has meant that a greater number of people are at risk of losing their jobs or receiving a lower income and, with this, potentially losing their homes.

“I am therefore pleased to support the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales’ choice of homelessness issues as the topic for its first ‘Own Initiative’ investigation.  I await the findings and trust that the Welsh Government’s aim of ending homelessness in Wales will become a reality.”