In 2021, the Ombudsman published the findings of its first ever ‘Own Initiative’ Investigation*, Homelessness Reviewed: an open door to positive change.
The report examined whether local authorities in Wales were meeting their statutory duties to ensure that homelessness assessments were carried out appropriately. Local authorities in Wales have a duty to assess a person who presents themselves as homeless to see if the person is eligible for help. However, the Ombudsman became aware that a large proportion of these assessments were being challenged and overturned at review.
The 2021 report identified some systemic issues relating to the administration of these assessments at the three Investigated Authorities: Cardiff Council, Carmarthenshire County Council and Wrexham County Borough Council.
As a result, the Ombudsman made several recommendations to these Authorities. For wider learning, the Ombudsman invited the Welsh Government and the other 19 non-investigated authorities in Wales to consider the impact of the findings on homelessness services locally and to take action to improve homelessness services across Wales.
Two years on, the Ombudsman publishes a follow-up report on the progress made.
The Report shows that
Positively, Welsh local authorities were able to demonstrate to the Ombudsman many improvements – for example, that
However, it is disappointing that not all of the 19 non-investigated authorities have considered potential service improvements in light of our first Own Initiative report.
Commenting on the Report, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Michelle Morris, said:
“Homelessness affects every member of society in some way; but the greatest impact is on the people, and their families, who are facing homelessness.
We welcome the positive action taken by the Investigated Authorities since 2021 which has improved homelessness service provision, its accessibility and communication with homelessness service users in these areas. As a result, relevant staff in the Investigated Authorities have received training in equality and human rights, which is central to homelessness decision making.
Although we acknowledge that homelessness services continue to operate under significant pressure and sustained demands, there continues to be opportunities for some local authorities to improve their provision of homelessness services”.
The following have been identified by the Ombudsman as opportunities to improve homelessness services in Wales:
* The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Act 2019 empowers the Ombudsman Wales to undertake ‘Own Initiative’ investigations where evidence suggests that there may be systemic service failure or maladministration. This means the office can investigate a matter beyond its impact on an individual and without having to wait for a complaint.