Wales 'leading way' tackling homeless, expert says

Homeless man Image copyright BananaStock

Wales is leading the way on tackling homelessness with "more progressive" legislation than anywhere in the UK, an expert has said.

The comments come as an event to mark 50 years of work preventing homelessness is held in Cardiff.

Last year, the law in Wales changed, putting a duty on councils to prevent people losing their homes.

However Shelter Cymru said there was still a "huge amount of work" to do.

Cardiff University's School of Geography and Planning is holding a joint 50th anniversary celebration with homeless charity Shelter on Tuesday.

Housing and social policy professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, an authority on homelessness, has praised the work being done in Wales.

Ahead of her keynote speech at the event, she told BBC News: "Wales has instituted legislation which is more progressive than that seen anywhere else in the UK.

"Wales is really at the forefront of homelessness policy development. [It] does look to be leading the way."

However she acknowledged it was still early days, following the new law last April.

"We've only had a limited amount in the way of evidence from statistics of what's happening in practice since the new legislation was passed but it does look very promising," she said.

Image copyright Andrew McNeill
Image caption Images of homelessness are on exhibit to mark the anniversary at Cardiff University

"Certainly in England there's a lot of interest in different quarters including possibly in government to looking at the Welsh model with a view to drawing out what seems most appropriate and relevant to England."

Dr Peter Mackie, senior lecturer in housing at Cardiff University, said: "England is just lagging so far behind.

"It's very rare that we can say that. Wales totally outperforms England but it's something the Welsh government doesn't shout out about enough."

Shelter Cymru director John Pusey said the growth of housing services and the emphasis on trying to prevent homelessness was positive, but added: "There's still a huge amount of work to do.

"We're seeing growing numbers of people coming to us. We have still got a major problem."

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