The slashing of public provisions and benefits by consecutive Conservative Governments in Westminster, together with a policy of ‘managed decline’ by the Welsh Labour Government, has led to huge increases in homelessness. Across Britain, more than 12,300 people sleep on the streets each night, with a further 12,000 spending the night in cars, trains, buses or tents.
Homelessness increased by 63% in Wales between 2012 and 2017, with 10,373 households threatened by homelessness between 2018 and 2019. Plaid Cymru believe that no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a person must sleep on the street. Above all, tackling this problem is a question of political will.
We support the comprehensive and detailed plan produced by the homelessness charity Crisis which, if implemented would end homelessness and bring overall savings to UK public services of around £34.6 billion by 2041. In Wales it would entail savings of about £70 million a year.
Plaid Cymru will adopt a ‘housing first’ philosophy - as implemented in countries like Finland – to support those that are homeless. Recovery programmes are more successful after an individual has been housed. Being asked to be abstinent and/or sober whilst homeless prior to receiving housing is impractical.
We are committed to abolishing the archaic Vagrancy Act of 1824, a pre-Victorian law that makes homelessness a crime. Not only is fining or imprisoning those on the streets cruel, it leads to them being actively discouraged from engaging with the police for fear of enforcement measures being taken. This does not help anyone.
We support an approach based on Centrepoint’s key principles to tackle youth homelessness. There should be a ‘single front door’ for young people to have a consistent and reliable place to access help. We will ensure that agencies coordinate their activities to respond to young people at risk. Too often young people fall between the gaps of different services and agencies.
Plaid Cymru is fighting for a fairer benefit system that will take the cost of housing into account.