Y Pwyllgor Llywodraeth Leol a Thai
Local Government and Housing Committee27/10/2022
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Altaf Hussain MS||Aelod o'r Pwyllgor Cydraddoldeb a Chyfiawnder Cymdeithasol|
|Member of the Equality and Social Justice Committee|
|Carolyn Thomas MS|
|Jayne Bryant MS|
|Joel James MS|
|John Griffiths MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Mabon ap Gwynfor MS|
|Sam Rowlands MS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Emma Williams||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Jane Hutt MS||Y Gweinidog Cyfiawnder Cymdeithasol|
|Minister for Social Justice|
|Jo Trott||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Joanna Valentine||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Ruth Meadows||Llywodraeth Cymru|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Catherine Hunt||Ail Glerc|
|Chloe Davies||Dirprwy Glerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 10:48.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 10:48.
May I welcome everyone to this meeting of the Local Government and Housing Committee? We're joined today in committee by Altaf Hussain, from the Equality and Social Justice Committee, given that committee's interest in the issues that we will get to at item 2 in terms of Ukrainian refugees here in Wales. So, welcome, Altaf, and thanks very much for joining us this morning.
Let me welcome Members generally and to point out that, as usual, this meeting is being held in a hybrid format, but, apart from the adaptations necessary for that, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. And the public items of this meeting will be broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and a Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. And also as usual, the meeting is bilingual, and simultaneous translation is available. Are there any declarations of interest? No.
Okay, we'll move on then to item 2, the housing of Ukrainian refugees here in Wales, and an evidence session with the Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt, and her officials. Jane, would you like to introduce your officials, or have your officials introduce themselves?
Okay. Actually, they'll introduce themselves. I think that's best. Emma.
Good morning. Emma Williams, director of housing and regeneration.
Ruth Meadows, temporary director, Ukraine response.
Okay, and joining us virtually.
Jo Valentine, deputy director, transitional accommodation.
Morning. Jo Trott, deputy director, strategic planning and engagement, Ukraine. Thank you.
Thank you all very much. Okay. Minister, perhaps I might begin, then, with some initial questions, and a general one, really, to begin with, with regard to the supersponsor scheme, and that is for your assessment, really, of the effectiveness of the Welsh Government's approach to supporting Ukrainian refugees, and what has worked well and what has been more problematic.
Well, thank you very much, Chair, and, if we go back to how we developed the supersponsor scheme, it was very soon after the war broke out and the terrible reports that we were getting, and wanting us all to play our part, meeting with UK Government Ministers, Welsh Government Ministers, to see what we could do and how we could work together across the UK, obviously, to provide support. And Wales and Scotland—the Welsh Government and Scottish Government—proposed this supersponsor route. Part of that was actually building on our experience of what we'd done as a result of the Afghan evacuation in the previous August, because, as you recall, we actually then, at that point, used the Urdd centre to help Afghan refugees fleeing as a result of that evacuation. So, we quickly moved to develop this supersponsor route.
I think the point that we made about supersponsor route, which has really proved to be successful, is that it was a quick, safe route for Ukrainians to escape the war and find sanctuary here in Wales. Because it is part of the UK Homes for Ukraine scheme; it's a wing of it. But the only other schemes were the Homes for Ukraine, where you had to have a host and be matched up, or, indeed, the very early scheme, the family scheme, where people just made arrangements and arrived. And that's something that we still haven't really got as much data, or any data, on, except when people reveal themselves as needing help. So, it was safety, sanctuary, that the supersponsor route would provide. We've now got—well, we've had the statistics, and I did my statement on Tuesday—over 2,900 Ukrainians who've arrived in Wales using this route, and they are in our initial accommodation, welcome centres. So, when they get here, of course, in that initial accommodation, welcome centres, wraparound support—that's assessments, benefits support, health service, education, translation, food—a very warm wraparound welcome to those who've experienced trauma and fled the war.
I think what's been so good about it, the supersponsor route, is it's very much a team Wales response, because local authorities are at the forefront of this. We're working very closely with them, but also with the health boards and third sector and communities. People have responded. Where there has been a welcome centre or initial accommodation, everyone's pulled together: statutory agencies, but also those who are in the community wanting to give their support as well—schools, jobs, employers, all on the doorstep. So, it's been very successful. I think what the challenges, if you like, have been is that we didn't know how long the war would be; we thought this might be a few months before people could then resettle. We anticipated, if you recall, and publicly said, 'Well, we think we could welcome 1,000'; we're now nearly 3,000, and likely to have more in terms of those who've got visas. And we are nine months—six months, sorry—into people arriving.
So, it is a challenge now, and I'm sure we'll have questions about the next stage for people moving on from our supersponsor route. But I think the accommodation, the wraparound support, the team Wales approach, and the fact that, actually, local authorities who haven't perhaps got a welcome centre or use of initial accommodation, which could be a university—there's been use of university buildings as well as hotels, in some circumstances—all local authorities recognising that they've all got to come together and support them.
Thank you very much, Minister. In terms of the statement that you refer to, the statement you made on Tuesday, you mentioned that Ukrainian refugees may be asked to make a contribution, Minister, towards the housing costs, and, I guess, food costs. So, with regard to the supersponsor scheme, are you able to provide any further detail around that in terms of when that might begin and whether it would be a request rather than a requirement, or anything on the sorts of amounts that might be involved?
Well, I did say in my statement on Tuesday—and I was just checking the words again—that we are 'revisiting' our wraparound support offer. I think many of the refugees who have come, they just want to get on, they want to be independent, and they want to move on. They're starting to earn money and also access benefits, and they're saying themselves, 'Can we contribute?' In moving on and revisiting the wraparound, this is about doing it with our guests. They are Ukrainian guests with us through the supersponsor route, and they want to play their part. And, also, recognising that there are others who need to come here; there are others who have got visas, and we need to move people on in order to enable us to be the nation of sanctuary and welcome others in. So, we are at very early stages. Obviously, our officials are working with local government and also with our Ukrainian colleagues as well to say—. It may be, in different circumstances, that people want to do it—. If they're in self-catering, for example, they don't necessarily want to have three meals a day and everything; they want to be more independent, and that's when you move into the transitional accommodation stage, which obviously is very much—. The Minister for Climate Change and Emma can speak more about it. But, it's early stages. Now, interestingly, Scotland is also doing the same thing; they've actually got—. They paused later than us in terms of the supersponsor route, so they have a huge challenge in terms of how they can support the Ukrainian guests moving on. So, it is a revisit; it's early days, but I think it's working with local authorities and Ukrainian guests to see what's the best route to this. And I, really, of course, will share, as we develop this, with the Senedd in my statements.
Okay, Minister. Thanks very much. Again, in terms of the supersponsor scheme and the pause that you mentioned, what is likely to happen from this point on in terms of numbers, then, Minister? Will there be further Ukrainian refugees coming to Wales under the supersponsor scheme, and, if so, do you have any number in mind in terms of any limit?
Well, we were just checking today, weren't we, Ruth, because every Thursday we get a public update on the figures. The UK Government publishes that. So, I think the figures that I've got are from 18 October, and they haven't actually changed very much, have they? So, 8,337 visas have been issued to those with a sponsor in Wales, of which 4,564 have Welsh Government as a supersponsor. So, I've just mentioned the 2,900 that we've got now with us. I think, in terms of the 5,929 people with sponsors in Wales having arrived in the UK, 2,921, as I've mentioned, have Welsh Government as a supersponsor. It hasn't changed. But, we know that there are 4,800 confirmed visa applications submitted. Ruth.
Yes, and there's around about 1,600 visas that are still in the system at the moment. We're currently working really closely with Home Office to find out how many of those are likely to travel to Wales. So, we're going through a process of looking at visas that, perhaps, haven't had all the information put into the application, ones that have been withdrawn, and the Home Office are contacting those individuals on our behalf as well, to find out their intention. But, currently, with our modelling, and we're looking there at when a visa is issued and people's likelihood of travel time, we're looking at potentially another 1,000 people possibly arriving by sometime next year.
I mean, this is where we work very closely with the Home Office, because it's about modelling, because we've got to plan for those arrivals. We are asking the questions so that they can clarify in terms of visa status whether people have moved, have travelled.
I do want to just mention the fact that part of our supersponsor response was setting up this 24/7 contact centre, and that is operating—. It's still operating; we were just recognising that it's full-time. It's people who are making calls, finding out what's happening to people, as well as receiving calls. Many more calls are actually made by the contact centre support staff just to clarify where people are, so that we can realistically prepare for their arrival.
With the numbers that your official has mentioned then, Minister, are you confident that you will be able to provide the level of support that's appropriate?
Well, we've committed ourselves to providing that support. In the summer, I would say, in August, we were in a very anxious time because there were large numbers of Ukrainian refugees arriving, and we were looking at—. That was a time when we had to look at new initial accommodation hotels all over Wales, which we were using, but, of course, that was also the summer season. So, we were modelling and considering that we'd have greater numbers, then, actually, it started to calm down at the end of August, beginning of September. And, I think, last week, we had 10—
Fourteen. So, this is very manageable, so it does go back to my earlier point that the point of the welcome centres and our initial accommodation was always the move on, because, of course, people have moved on. And, then, that means there's capacity to welcome new members, and also, with initial accommodation, we've had some closures, like the Urdd had to go back to do what they were doing. So, the real crunch for us with the move on is enabling people to get that intensive support and then move towards the independence, the transitional accommodation and move on, which is really the heart of our work at the moment.
Do we know how many have moved on in that way? Do you have figures?
Yes, we do have figures. I don't know whether we need to give you—. We could perhaps give you the latest figures on move on, but whether, Ruth, you can say anything at this point. The move on, for example, when we had to close the Urdd, which was over 200 guests, they'd all left the Urdd, but they moved on to different—. The point about it is they're moving: some are moving to become guests of hosts, because, as you know, we've been recruiting more hosts all the time; some have gone into other initial accommodation or welcome centres; and some have gone into the private rented sector. But it is a real challenge in terms of getting accommodation, the longer term accommodation in the private rented sector. So, the move on would have to be categorised a bit. I don't know if you want to give any examples.
Well, we've recently established a data platform for local authorities to use that's capturing all that data on move on, and we're going through a process at the moment of confirming and verifying that data. So, hopefully, we will have move-on figures that we'll be able to share with the committee in the next few weeks, we would hope. But, yes, move on is the challenge. I think local authorities are finding that difficult in terms of their own resources, and also in terms of where we move people on to as well.
Yes, okay. Thanks very much. Sam.
Thanks, Chair. Just briefly here, just going back to the numbers expected to require support and the numbers of refugees coming into Wales. I absolutely understand the logic of expecting perhaps a further 1,000 over the next year or into the new year, but I'm just interested to know how well prepared you feel for what I see as a couple of risks with those numbers. The first is an escalation of the war and how predictable Putin is in terms of his movements over there. I think we're all aware of the risks there, so if there is a significant escalation, you'd expect to see more refugees. And the second area, I guess, is the seasons changing. So, the winter will be upon us very quickly, and the risks there, again in terms of how that will impact families and people in Ukraine with the war. So, I understand why you have an expectation around the numbers that may be coming through, but if there's a significant escalation, how prepared do you feel to be able to accommodate that significant escalation?
Well, those are very important points, and on Tuesday I said in my statement that the event—. We're very mindful that the events in Ukraine will have an impact on our modelling, our preparations, our anticipation, even though we have those visa approvals in the system, which guides us with that extra 1,000. The war and also where the war is, the fact that now there are attacks on Kyiv and western Ukraine, which for a large part of last year, after the initial fear when those tanks were driving to Kyiv and then they were pushed back—. The Ukrainian defence has just been incredible, hasn't it? I have to say that people have gone back to Ukraine. There have been people who came, who were hosted, and who came through our welcome centres, who went back, or members of families have gone back, but that's not happening now. And there are people who have come, many of whom cannot foresee when they will go back. I think this is a really important point. These are Ukrainian guests who will remain and become citizens of Wales. As we know, they're coming with the most amazing range of skills and want to contribute.
And also, with the winter coming forward and the fact that there is such fear and pressure and uncertainty, we can't underestimate the risks that we've got here, and we want to keep the welcome that we've already been able to establish. It's a global situation. We're very keen to get now around the table again with the UK Government. We have had a bit of time, but nothing much has been happening at that level. Officials have been working together, but, for example, I wrote last week or the week before with the Scottish Minister to the Home Secretary, and the then Secretary of State for levelling up and housing. I was just saying that I want to write to Michael Gove today, because we've got a new Secretary of State who was very involved in the initial launch of the—. It was his Homes for Ukraine scheme, in fact. We've worked very well trilaterally, and with Northern Ireland, but Scotland, Wales and UK Government. But this goes beyond. This is a Europe-wide issue in terms of the numbers that might come, so it's a really important point.
All right, Sam?
Yes. I appreciate the comments made, Minister, but do you feel that you've got the contingency plans ready if that escalation does go significantly beyond what you might expect?
Well, I suppose we feel confident at the moment that in the numbers that are coming that we can accommodate them. We've got capacity, and I think that's the most important thing, that we can reassure the committee we've got capacity in our welcome centres and initial accommodation.
I mean, clearly, we are funding this. It's a priority and a pressure as well, a challenge for us, but we have got the capacity. But also, we have gone out to actually try and recruit more hosts, because as well as our welcome centres and initial accommodation, we have always been supportive, as local authorities have, of the wonderful response from families and individuals and households.
I think I said in my written evidence that we've got 3,000 individuals that we know are being supported under the individual Homes for Ukraine scheme, and we went out and tried to recruit more. We've got advertising campaigns, publicity campaigns, and we've got another 220. That's across the whole of Wales. Those are only expressions of interest, so an expression of interest has to be then checked, 'Do you want to follow it up?', then you have to have all the safeguarding checks, property checks. So, the initial response hasn't—. It hasn't been maintained at the huge levels we saw when the war broke out.
So, it's capacity in our welcome centres, capacity also with new hosts coming forward. But, we have got a real challenge, I have to say, with the fact that we're coming to the end of the six months that, initially, those hosts had offered. And, although some are prepared to and want to carry on, there are many who can't or who have made what they feel is their contribution, and there are some who are very concerned about the fact that they need more support because of the cost-of-living crisis, on which you'll know I've made those representations to the UK Government, that we should increase the £350 'thank you' payment to at lest £500. In fact, the former Minister for refugees, Richard Harrington, who was a very independent Minister, was publicly calling for it to be doubled, if not increased further. So, all of those factors come into play. We have the capacity, but we need to work on a UK Government-wide basis and we need to up the support for our hosts.
And just to add to that, we are doing contingency planning with UK Government colleagues across the four nations. So, if we do see a significant influx—. At the moment, the numbers that we're seeing arriving have been on that steady decline. So, what we've been seeing going on in the region hasn't had an impact on people's plans to travel, but you're absolutely right, that could change, so we are looking at what our contingency plans are. And with our initial accommodation estate, we've been able to stand things up quite quickly in that situation. So, hopefully, we'll be able to do the same if we did see a change in our arrival numbers.
Okay. Thank you very much. Carolyn Thomas.
Thank you. The Welsh Government policy is that Ukrainian refugees should be housed across Wales and not just in those areas where there are welcome centres. So, what do you consider to be a fair and proportionate distribution of the welcome centres and how are they settling in across all areas? I read in the report that maybe they're choosing to be in more urban areas. I know that housing is more popular in urban areas as well because of access to facilities, very often. So, just regarding that please.
Thank you very much, Carolyn. I think when we went out to look for welcome centres, obviously there wasn't appropriate accommodation in every authority or every part of Wales, but there was a very clear understanding from the start with local authorities that this would mean all local authorities taking responsibility and supporting those who particularly had welcome centres in their authority areas. So, it's crucial that we work this through with local government from the outset. We've got a Homes for Ukraine framework for accommodation, and that was agreed by all local authorities in May. I'll bring Emma in here about population shares, because this is about how we make sure that all authorities are working together and recognising that move-on, for example, can't always be into the authority where you happen to have a welcome centre. But, the first offer is for the welcome centre, and local authorities then are working together to ensure that they can help support those in—. They're actually supporting them also, perhaps, in a welcome centre that isn't their area. They're working sub-regionally and regionally together to support them, and of course there are cross-border issues. But, do you want to go back to May, when that was developed with the housing authorities particularly, Emma?
Thank you, Minister. So, yes, as the Minister has said, the welcome centres are where we could find suitable accommodation and in agreement with the host local authority, but the principle was always that that initial accommodation and people arriving there would not mean that that local authority took responsibility for onward accommodation for everybody housed there. The principles on which we agreed the framework for move-on, if you like, was based around a team Wales approach, everybody taking an equal share, and the original figures were based around looking at the number of people who had arrived into the area through the main Homes for Ukraine scheme, recognising that there was pressure put on local services through that route, and a population share.
Now, obviously, as the Minister has said, we were originally looking at how do 1,000 people arriving through supersponsor look when you share it out; we're now working with local authorities to revisit those figures and recalibrate on the basis of how things have changed since May, so we'll look back at other factors and other arrivals, but also the number of arrivals that we've actually seen. But you're right: move-on is very challenging—there are lots and lots of factors. It isn't a simple case of saying to people, 'Here you are, off you go, you are being sent to here or there'. It's a dialogue, really, between the people who are working with people in the welcome centres or initial accommodation and individuals, and trying to find the best match. It's impossible to expect perfect matches, but trying to find the best match, because if people feel happy and comfortable with where they're going next, then they are most likely to make a success of that next step, and that is better for everyone concerned, whether it be a host, the authority that they're moving to or the individuals themselves.
Just one point. You make the point about where people want to be and there's no question that, in some rural areas, people—and I've been to welcome centres in rural areas—are keen to get to a city, but also recognising that a city is going to also have people with a lot of housing needs, but there may be jobs there. But it is about creating this understanding as well between local authorities and the guests themselves about what's practical. Transport is an issue, that's why we introduced our free transport offer, which has helped people see that they can perhaps get jobs and move on and housing and be more independent.
Okay, thank you. My second question you've mostly answered, really. It's about people who came forward as hosts and sponsors originally. You've done a call-out for more to come forward, so that seems quite successful. And proportionally really, of those who did come forward initially, how many still want to continue being hosts and sponsors?
Well, this is a real challenge—not just here in Wales, but also, obviously, in England and Scotland as well. I've given you the figures—the 3,000 already with hosts and then 200-odd who are new possibilities. But the UK Government, with us, wrote to everyone, as they were reaching the end of their six months to say, 'Would you be prepared to carry on?' So, this is where we're working very closely with the UK Government to get the feedback. I think the fact is—I can't remember the latest figures—
The majority are looking to extend.
—but the majority want to extend.
Yes. They do want to extend and, obviously, for those who don't, there's a range of options in terms of going to their local authority to try and find a rematch with another host—they have lists of people who've come forward that they can use for that—or speaking to their local authority about potential other options. But, yes, hosting is certainly an area that we're focusing on at the moment.
It seems to work quite well then—that's good.
Yes, it's worked well, but people do need more support, that's why the 'thank you' payment needs to be—. And also, I'll just say, and I think I gave this information in a written statement, we have done a lot. As well as our supersponsor scheme, we're helping hosts, we're putting money into Housing Justice Cymru, because we recognise that for local authorities, and, indeed, for all the services that are devolved—. Whether it's access to English for speakers of other languages or health services, education, we want to support those families who've arrived and are being hosted.
You will all know the most incredible support people have given in your constituencies. You will all know people who've come forward to be hosts, and the dedication that they've provided and the support, well over and above what one would even anticipate. The friendships and relationships that have developed have been absolutely incredible. But people's circumstances change and they won't all be able to carry on being hosts, but where they will, we want to do everything. And I think that would be my strong message, hopefully when I meet and talk to the Secretary of State—with Michael Gove, is that we can make this work if we can give it a bit more certainty and support.
I have met some lovely Ukrainians right across north Wales—in rural areas as well as the urban—and they've been part of the community, and people have been enveloping them as well, which has been lovely to see.
I certainly think we'd all echo that, Carolyn, in our local areas. It's great to see the way that they've integrated into the wider community and are playing a full role, as well as benefiting from that engagement themselves. Altaf Hussain.
Thank you very much. Good morning, Minister, it's good to see you here. There is a lot of overlap about the questions, really.
I need to know, really, what data the Welsh Government collates on the number of Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in Wales and are homeless or in temporary accommodation. In addition, can you confirm that all those who have arrived so far under the sponsor scheme are housed?
Yes, I think I absolutely can assure you of that, and our objective from the outset is that none of our supersponsor guests should become homeless. So, that's it. We're working to make sure that—. The supersponsor scheme, of course, we know them all; they're all in our welcome centres and hotels. And then, the local authorities' resettlement officers are working with them to help with the move-on options. We would be concerned if there were people who came through other routes like the family scheme, who we may not know about them, because local authorities don't know who the families are until they come and ask for help. But we haven't got any indication, actually, so far from local authorities that they've had people presenting as homeless in Wales through that route. And equally, local authorities are very engaged and know the hosting arrangements. But I think, Emma, you talked about the Ukraine data platform as well, so we should be absolutely clear about those who need support.
Thank you, Minister. Yes, we're developing a data platform at the moment that will help to provide better quality data about people whose hosting situations have broken down, where we rematch, where people change their location. But to go back to the Minister's point about people not becoming homeless, of course, if people present at their local authority perhaps because of a host breakdown, family situation breakdown, or an individual host breakdown, then local authorities will be looking to ensure that they are provided with accommodation, because we've maintained a 'nobody left out' approach throughout the pandemic that continues. So, one way or another, people would be provided with accommodation. It may not be the accommodation that ideally we would like—it might be hotel or B&B—but one way or another, there is a safety net there for anybody who finds themselves in housing need, and local authorities are working incredibly hard to make sure that they meet that commitment.
Perhaps I could just add also that we've had a very good partnership with Airbnb and Housing Justice Cymru, which is the organisation we fund to help if there is a breakdown. So, I think they are prepared to provide up to 30 days' accommodation. So, that Airbnb partnership—I think it's not just in Wales; it's further afield—it's been a very valuable contribution to help prevent homelessness.
Thank you, Minister. And what action is the Welsh Government taking to ensure that Ukrainian refugees who want to continue to live in Wales can access appropriate good-quality, long-term accommodation? What impact will the transitional accommodation capital programme have on these programmes?
We've touched on this a lot already, haven't we, Altaf? The move on to quality accommodation, which could be transitional as well as, obviously, ultimately, longer term, is very much under the Minister for Climate Change, Julie James, and Emma, as the director of housing and regeneration leading on this. But local authorities now have got the opportunity to work together and to actually apply for funding under the transitional accommodation capital programme, which they are doing to help move this forward, and I think this is something that is going to be very important. I have to say this point that this is actually for everyone in housing need, because yes, we have got a huge commitment, an absolute clear commitment to our Ukrainian guests, but we also, of course, have got Afghan refugees and Syrians who have settled in Wales, and we also have 8,000 people in temporary accommodation due to homelessness.
At this point, in terms of your questions and inquiry, this is about how we can meet all of that housing need in a fair way, and it's a very challenging time. You've also got the commitment in terms of transitional accommodation. We've got this £65 million transitional accommodation capital programme that Julie James launched early this year, and we think that should provide 1,000 homes over 18 months. There are some very interesting projects coming through, some unused or empty property coming back in, remodelling existing accommodation, and also some modular options as well on sites. But I think this is the point where we can say that, if we can move forward on this, it's going to be helping all those in housing need, and I think that's one of your big tasks at the moment, isn't it, Emma? The bids have come in, and we're hoping that that's going to result in that next-step housing.
Absolutely. As the Minister says, we recognise, and this committee knows very well, the challenges that we face generally in terms of making sure that everybody has a decent place to call home. I think what the Minister recognised earlier on this year was that, actually, we needed to do something additional. We have a drive for 20,000 new homes, and there are lots of challenges in that area, as the committee knows very well, but, actually, we're then looking at what can we do in terms of much better quality accommodation than hotels and bed and breakfasts. There are a couple of core principles at play here, not least, as you say, Minister, the equality of access. It's very important, once we move beyond initial accommodation, that anything we do to grow the sector is put in the hands of local authorities for them to meet local housing need in the best and most appropriate way within their areas. Their role is absolutely vital in that. Alongside that equality of access, then it's about dignity and providing people with a home that allows them to put down roots and get on with their lives, if you'll forgive the phrase, so that they are part of a community, that it's not transient, that it feels solid, that they can get a job and feel that the children can go to school.
The transitional accommodation is about homes. It is a big step away from a hotel room or B&B room, but it may not be permanent. It's quite interesting, the innovation that we've seen from our local authorities in this space. As the Minister said, there's a range of things. We have been able to find some properties that previously were long-term empty, perhaps needed a lot of work to bring them back into play, bringing those back in, refurbishments, as you say, Minister, but also looking in the modern methods of construction space, the modular construction, which can be much faster than building a traditional home, but still provides something that meets our design and quality standards in terms of space, insulation and things like that, but can be moved around. So, we can use a site, perhaps, on an interim basis, that's going to be built up with permanent housing. So, you're almost pre-creating your community, and then able to use those units on another site in another area. There's some really innovative thinking that I think will give us a really positive legacy for all people in housing need in Wales.
Thank you very much. Minister, it is reassuring that you are prepared and ready in your assessment and preparedness for the next six to 12 months. Moving on, to what extent are Ukrainian refugees looking for accommodation in the private rental market? Are there any issues, barriers, and if so, what action are you taking to work on those?
I think the committee will be very aware of the challenges with the private rented sector market, long-term, but particularly challenging at the moment, just in terms of supply and affordability. This is, again, a conversation I have with our colleagues in Scotland and from the UK Government trying to get that private rented sector support and response. We have got Rent Smart Wales, of course, so direct appeals to landlords through Rent Smart Wales. Local authorities work very closely with their private rented sector landlords. Local authorities have got discretion to help and support people moving into private rented accommodation, but, again, it's got to be proportionate. They're dealing with homeless people, they're dealing with refugees, who are all seeking to get into the private rented sector. So, they've got to be able to provide that support.
One of the points I would make—and I hope the committee would recognise this—is that we have called on the UK Government to increase local housing allowance rates. I think you'll be aware that myself and Julie James have written again, and we'll probably be rewriting—that'll be in our letter to Michael Gove. Because local authorities need discretion in the prevention of homelessness and then in the move-on that we need. The private rented sector, ultimately, is the permanent accommodation.
We know that there are Ukrainians who are coming who've got huge skills, and they want to be independent, they want to pay their way, they want their accommodation, but it is very difficult in terms of supply and affordability. Local authorities have got the ability to help. There are issues around bonds, around being able to provide guarantors. These are what they're using with all their people in housing need, and they are using those with our private rented sector colleagues as well. But they do need support on this.
It's interesting that we were discussing this with the former Minister for refugees, because there had been some flexibility with the Afghan resettlement scheme in terms of access to local housing allowances, et cetera. We just need to have a level playing field to enable the people we're supporting across the UK, Ukrainian refugees, alongside all those who are in housing need, to get some capacity in the private rented sector. But it is a challenging time.
So, Minister, how are we helping local authorities with these schemes, to act as a guarantor? I know in the UK they have many organisations that are looking into it.
We do provide quite a bit of finance through the housing prevention route. I think that, in a sense, through what Emma's just been telling us about, the capital route, which is getting our own sources of accommodation, but also in terms of the way local authorities have helped with homeless prevention, there is a substantial amount of money supporting them. But for the local housing allowance and discretionary housing payments, we do need that backing from the UK Government.
As you say, alongside the discretionary housing payments, which, unfortunately, took quite a drop in the amount of money provided to local authorities this year—that's a UK Government-provided fund to help authorities where there is a need to provide additional assistance—the Minister for Climate Change has provided an additional £6 million this year, via the homelessness prevention route, because it enables us to give greater flexibility for how that funding can be used. The discretionary housing payment comes with some rules and strictures that we were able to be more relaxed on on the homeless prevention side. So, that's one route, but money is tight. And one of the things, going back to your question about the private rented sector, is that it's important that local authorities weigh up the pros and cons, if you like, of individual interventions, not least the exit strategy—will a family be able to afford the rent on a sustainable basis, or is the authority comfortable that they are putting in place a long-term arrangement and a financial support package for a long time?
We also have Leasing Scheme Wales, which we're looking to extend, which provides funding to local authorities to be able to bring landlords into play in the social sector. Landlords sign up to a long lease, between five and 20 years, and there's a little bit of investment to make sure the properties are up to standard. The landlord receives a guaranteed monthly rent at the local housing allowance rate, and is able to step away, if you like, from the responsibilities of being a landlord, so it's win-win. And we're seeing an increasing number of landlords—it's not a big scheme yet—coming into that scheme, which extends the options available locally. So, I would say that those are two of the key ways that we're trying to support sensible intervention in the private rented sector without inadvertently distorting the market.
Thank you very much. Thank you, Minister; thank you, Chair.
Thank you, Altaf. Now, Sam Rowlands.
Thanks, Chair. Just broadening the points around the role of local authorities, I'm just interested to know what they're telling you at the moment are their areas of pressure in helping to deliver these schemes. What are they telling you in terms of their capacity today and anticipated capacity to support the delivery of this? Just for the sake of time, perhaps within that as well you could just talk about the conflict, or potential conflict, local authorities have in rightfully supporting our Ukrainian refugees whilst also making sure they are fulfilling duties to support local residents as well. What are they saying to you about some of that challenge? Thanks.
Thank you very much. They are interrelated questions, as you say, Sam. We've worked very closely with the local authorities from day one—the team Wales approach. What's been very interesting is that we had such close working relationships through the pandemic with local authorities. As you'll recall, we used to meet virtually weekly, if not more often, with the leaders to make sure that there was a partnership approach to responding to the pandemic; that, really, has now been followed through.
In the summer, when we saw the numbers coming through, we agreed with the Welsh Local Government Association and the leaders that we needed to make this, now, a regular meeting. We actually meet fortnightly—I meet fortnightly with the leaders of local government. I am joined by Julie James and by Rebecca Evans. Obviously, this is very much a cross-Government issue, in how we support our local authorities and hear from them what the pressures are and what the issues are. I can reflect that back to the UK Government—our officials can as well with their counterparts.
They do get the £10,500 tariff per person for the Ukrainian guests. Actually, we've only got the funding for this year. One of the other things is that we've been asking regularly that we need to know what the funding is going to be for the next two years. For the Afghan scheme, I think it got funding for three years—a set three years—whereas we don't have any information about next year or the following year. There is no money for English for speakers of other languages from the UK Government and there's no money for health. The Afghan scheme had money for both of those service areas. So, they are using their tariffs very productively, supporting resettlement and, also, all of the services around all of the Ukrainian guests.
I think we probably almost answered the second question in saying—particularly, this is a cross-Government responsibility—that we need to see our support with local authorities for Ukrainian guests alongside the needs of all of those who are in housing need that local authorities are supporting. We want to make sure there's parity of support and response in terms of discretion and the guidance that they've got. The thing about the Ukrainian scheme is that there is this hosting option, which isn't available for the Afghans and other refugees. We had a very good community sponsorship scheme for the Syrian families, which has been very successful.
So, we need to get parity of esteem for all of those in housing need, but we do need to get clarity from the UK Government, because there hasn't been parity in terms of funding. I'm sure you'll need to move on to further questions, but I think this is where it's really helpful if the committee can see that this, now, needs to be something where the UK Government has to help play its part. But, local authorities are absolutely engaged with us at every level.
Yes, thanks, Chair.
Thank you very much. Jayne Bryant.
Diolch. Minister, good morning. I'm just wanting to ask some questions around the numbers of unaccompanied minors coming through the scheme. Do you have any latest figures on that?
Thank you very much, Jayne. Good morning. This is something that was a great breakthrough, and I have to say Richard Harrington was key to this when the UK Government changed the Homes for Ukraine eligibility rules to provide a route for unaccompanied children and young people under 18 to come to the UK from Ukraine. That was back in the summer. It did mean that a child or young person could apply for a visa if they had proof of parental consent or an authority approved by the Ukrainian Government to enable them to come. They are very exceptional circumstances in terms of sponsors and arrangements that need to be delivered. It was really interesting that this week, we just heard that the first young person has been able to come to Wales through this route. We're anticipating about 1,000 coming through across the UK, and obviously, it does take time, their individual circumstances are very complex, and we anticipate that, probably in Wales, we were thinking that perhaps 15 might come, but the first one has arrived.
Thank you, Minister, that's really helpful. Obviously, safeguarding is such an important aspect of this, and obviously, there's one person, but what is in place to ensure the safety of that child and other children who are not coming through the supersponsor route?
On the safeguarding, there's very detailed guidance about this. It was published back in August, on 8 August, when this scheme was announced. So, it is very detailed. It is separate guidance from the supersponsor route, because obviously the circumstances of these children are very particular. So I think you can be assured that the safeguarding—. We have our first child who's arrived, and what's interesting, just knowing some of those circumstances for the sponsor family, there's third sector engagement, all the services and the local authority, all wrap around that child and their sponsors. So I think that guidance is working.
Thank you. Thank you, Chair. Diolch, Cadeirydd.
Diolch yn fawr. Joel James.
Thank you, Chair, and thanks, everyone, for coming this morning for this. I think it's been actually a very invaluable evidence session at the moment; I'm really finding it very interesting. I just wanted to touch upon the support for refugees and sponsors. I know that it's come up in responses before to Carolyn and Sam, but I just wanted to touch upon the evidence that we've heard—and it was anecdotal—is that where they believe that the host or the refugee hasn't had that support when the system has broken down for them, really, and I know that you've mentioned Housing Justice Cymru, and then there's the housing support service that's been launched specifically to look at refugees, and I just wanted to know how the effectiveness of those is monitored, if that makes sense. One of the things I found quite surprising reading the evidence we've received is that where the refugee has left the initial host to go into temporary accommodation, then, the figures aren't kept, so we don't know how many then have left host accommodation to go into other accommodation. I was just wondering why we weren't recording that information as well.
Well, I think we are recording—it's back to that Ukraine data platform, but perhaps you haven't had evidence of that before. That's something that we set up with local authorities and our contact centre in order to ensure that we did have that information. So, I don't know if there's anything more that we can do to reassure you of that point. Clearly, in the very early days, there was some breakdown, and there were also, as you remember, in terms of safeguarding, some pretty horrific stories of the wrong kind of people coming forward to host, and that's why we had to have some strict safeguarding checks—DSB checks—that local authorities had to undertake. That has all worked itself through so that the safeguarding is absolutely clear, but I think we can assure you that we have got that data.
Yes. So, the Ukraine data platform has just only recently been rolled out across all local authorities, and as Emma previously said, that will be there to capture where people are in the system—so, where they've potentially moved on from hosting arrangements and where they've moved around from the supersponsor scheme as well. So, I think at some point, we'll be able to report back on that. Like I said, at the moment, it's just been rolled out and we're just working through that with local authorities.
Does that record the data from now going forward, or does it look back?
Retrospectively as well.
Okay. Perfect. Thank you.
I don't know how many of you have—. I'm sure you have had events or been to events where Ukrainian refugee guests have come together. Many of them have formed WhatsApp groups, and there's a lot of support between the families, the guests. Language, obviously, is—. And just being able to be together with people who've been through the trauma, and also to think of their links back home, and the menfolk back home who are fighting and defending Ukraine. There's a whole third sector developed—in fact, I'm meeting with them next week—it has developed over the months, where we've got—Housing Justice Cymru is just one third sector organisation; I know that Mark Isherwood often talks about Link International—you might be aware of them—in north Wales, Sam. There are lots of expert organisations: British Red Cross—. I've listed all the ones that we fund.
So, actually, hosts are taking a great part in this as well. I visited recently the Ukraine centre in Cardiff, which was set up by volunteers, by hosts, and it's just an amazing gathering and a place for people to gather. But, you need definite support for—. We've got a phone helpline, e-mail helpline, the contact centre, the Sanctuary website, which I hope you've seen. There are workshops, discussions about trauma and also managing expectations. Those host support services, I think, are really delivering well, and it does mean, hopefully, that more hosts will continue when they've got that support around them.
Great. Thank you, Minister. I know in your earlier answer to the evidence, you mentioned that with the hosts now, a lot of them coming up to six months, you've written off to them and you said that the majority of them look like they're going to continue. How concrete is that, because I know, again, from the evidence that there's a concern that's been expressed about the lack of move-on accommodation? Are we going to find ourselves in a situation where, suddenly, because of maybe the changing financial situation or the current cost-of-living issues, that we'll suddenly find hosts then saying, 'I can't do this anymore', some of them?
Well, we will certainly—. We're in contact, us and the UK Government, with all the hosts, and I think you'll be aware that there was a public survey done by the Office for National Statistics for Homes for Ukraine, and the UK Government initiated that, which suggested—and this is UK-wide—that 26 per cent wanted to end their sponsorship after six months. Six out of 10 sponsors said they were happy to accommodate guests for more than that time, and, indeed, to move towards a year. We're actually, interestingly—because it took so long to get the visas through—only just reaching the first number of the six-month period in Wales who have got that break point of whether they continue or not. But, we can assure the committee that we know about the people, and if they can't continue, then the local authority will come in in terms of trying to rematch with another host, or look to this transitional or permanent accommodation.
I heard only just a couple of weeks ago in my constituency of someone who had nearly come to the end of the six months, and then had been able to find accommodation locally. It was such a great—. Everyone was celebrating. But, there are many who would like to continue, which is really encouraging. But, I do think, again, we need to uplift that £350 'thank you' payment, because it would cost less in the end. If we can support those families, it's a really important way of integrating into Wales, getting jobs, going to the local school, and then moving forward to permanent accommodation. We really want to thank the hosts again for everything that they've done in Wales.
Right. Thank you, Minister. Just one final question, Chair. I know that, when we've taken evidence from third sector organisations, they've mentioned that they are feeling quite stretched now in terms of helping to deliver services. But I know that the Welsh Government has also provided additional funding to try and help them, and I was just wondering what sort of messages you're getting from third sector organisations, and what the longevity of it is; is it something that they can maintain long term?
I have given quite a lot of detail in the written evidence about the organisations that we're supporting and how, over the past few months, we've responded to bids and applications, and third sector organisations who are in this field, like Housing Justice Cymru, the Wales Sanctuary service, for example, coming up with a proposal and understanding what's needed. But, obviously, the funding is uncertain until we know whether there's going to be funding into the next two years, and that's why we await the UK Government for that information. But also, our county voluntary councils are very important, and we've got them in all of our county areas.
Finally, I'd say that that group that I've mentioned is really important when we bring third sector organisations together—the Welsh Refugee Council, all of the organisations I've mentioned, and now some Ukrainian Facebook groups, and also Ukrainian support groups that have been set up. So, I think we know that this is something that is working on a team Wales basis. But obviously, also, this is funding that we weren't anticipating in this financial year. So, the Welsh Government has had to put a lot of money into our welcome centres, into supporting the third sector organisations and supporting local authorities as well.
Can I just mention, briefly, the Nation of Sanctuary Croeso fund that has been set up by Community Foundation Wales? And we put £1 million in to help it get going. They've had lots of donations. It's not just for Ukrainian refugee support schemes; it's for many other refugee support schemes. But they've already allocated—they have allocated—£500,000 to projects across the voluntary sector. So, there are other sources of funding for the voluntary sector that are coming through, and I think the croeso sanctuary fund is a really important example of innovation in Wales.
Okay. Jayne Bryant.
Thank you, Chair. Minister, you've been really clear this morning just around the lengths you've gone to in terms of the UK Government, with your Scottish counterpart, about increasing the 'thank you' payment, and having certainty for the scheme in year 2, and you also mentioned that, obviously, in your statement this week. In terms of the £350 'thank you' payment at the moment, obviously the Welsh Government's committed to matching that payment to sponsors. How long do you think that the Welsh Government would fund this, and are you considering increasing the payment, if the UK Government increases that current 'thank you' payment as well?
Well, we obviously await to hear whether the UK Government is going to uplift the 'thank you' payment, Jayne, to at least £500. We did agree, yes, it's for those who are on the family scheme that we would commit to matching that £350, and I think we'd want to continue, if we can; if it was uplifted, then we would obviously want to do that as well. Because, also, supporting those hosts is actually all about homelessness prevention and it's about integration, so, it's a really good investment.
Diolch. Thank you, Minister. Diolch, Cadeirydd.
Diolch yn fawr. Okay, and finally, then, in terms of committee members' questions, Mabon ap Gwynfor. Mabon.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Gadeirydd, a diolch i chi am ddod i mewn. Ymddiheuriadau am ymuno'n hwyr y bore yma. Roedd amgylchiadau personol yn golygu fy mod i wedi methu ag ymuno ynghynt. Diolch am y dystiolaeth. A gaf i fynd yn ôl i un pwynt cychwynnol, os gwelwch yn dda, Weinidog? Roeddech chi'n sôn ynghynt am ddatblygiadau modwlar er mwyn cartrefu ffoaduriaid. A fedrwch chi ymhelaethu ychydig ar hwnna? Lle maen nhw'n cael eu creu? Pwy sy'n creu nhw? Faint sy'n cael eu creu? Sut maen nhw'n dod i'r safle? Pa awdurdodau sydd yn eu cael nhw? O ba safle i ble maen nhw'n mynd i fynd? Dwi eisiau jest cael darlun cliriach ar hwnna, os gwelwch yn dda.
Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you for coming in. Apologies for joining the meeting a bit late. Personal circumstances meant that I was unable to join earlier. But, thank you for the evidence. May I return to one initial point, please, Minister? You talked earlier about modular development for homes for refugees. Could you expand on those modular developments? Where are they being constructed? How many are being created? Who's constructing them? How do they decide on a site? Which authorities have had those sites? I just want a clearer picture of that, please.
Emma is key to this, because she's managing the scheme. So, I'll hand over to Emma.
Diolch yn fawr. When we talk about modular, it can come in many forms. So, just to be clear, the kinds of projects that we're supporting are good-quality homes; they're not the very small things that could be described as 'pods' sometimes in loose talk. We've had a number of projects put forward to us at the moment. I believe that we have some projects proceeding in Cardiff, one that's being looked at in the Vale, but these are ones that are further advanced. Other authorities will be looking at sites and may be in earlier stages of considering if they have a suitable site that they would bring forward. The units will be made by a range of manufacturers across the UK, some based in Wales, and all would be assessed for how close they come to our normal standards for permanent housing. So, that's our aspiration, that these should be at our Welsh development quality requirements standards, or very, very close to, and we'll be working with the relevant local authorities and/or registered social landlords to ensure that the developments are appropriate before they're awarded any funding.
Perhaps if I could just add, Mabon, that one of the opportunities here with the modular building is that we know exactly what you're going to get; you know how quickly it can be done once it's procured; and we know that it can provide a really good, safe home. So, that's why authorities all across Wales are considering these bids, and I'm sure that more information can come from local authorities themselves, but we'll update on them.
Diolch. A beth ydy'r gost o bob un o'r unedau yma? A fyddwn ni'n gweld hyn yn parhau, hwyrach, y tu hwnt i anghenion ffoaduriaid, i ddarparu ar gyfer anghenion digartrefedd yng Nghymru? Beth ydy'r feddylfryd hirdymor?
Thank you for that. What is the cost of each one of these units, and will we see these continuing, perhaps, beyond the needs of refugees, to provide for the needs of the homeless in Wales? What's the long-term thinking on this?
I will pass to Emma, but, absolutely—. I don't know if you would have heard earlier on, Mabon, that all of these developments—this is under the transitional capital programme—are very much geared to meeting everyone in housing need, which can include homeless families in Wales as well as other refugees. We still have refugees, not just Afghan refugees, and now all local authorities are part of the dispersal scheme. So, this is about a transitional capital programme to meet all housing need. I can't answer the question about cost, but perhaps we could give some more information in writing to you, Chair, because I think it's really exciting. I happen to know that there is a scheme in my constituency—I'm being a bit parochial—which, actually, the Vale of Glamorgan developed for people in local housing need. I think the Minister might have been to see them, and you might have, Emma, as well. So, there's some good projects developing all over Wales.
Diolch. Dwi'n mynd i newid tac rhyw ychydig gyda'r cwestiwn yma, os caf i, Gadeirydd. Rydych chi wedi cyffwrdd yn fanna ar anghenion ffoaduriaid o Afghanistan hefyd. Mae'r dystiolaeth rydyn ni wedi'i dderbyn yn y pwyllgor yma yn dangos fod yna ychydig o anniddigrwydd yn cychwyn bodoli yn sgil y ffaith ei fod o'n ymddangos bod ffoaduriaid o Wcráin yn cael triniaeth arbennig, a bod ffoaduriaid eraill, hwyrach o Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan a gwledydd eraill, ddim yn cael yr un lefel o driniaeth. Ydych chi'n meddwl bod hwnna'n feirniadaeth deg, a pha gamau ydych chi'n eu cymryd fel Llywodraeth i sicrhau fod yna gydraddoldeb yn y ffordd y mae ffoaduriaid i Gymru'n cael eu trin, o lle bynnag maen nhw'n dod?
Thank you. I'll change tack a little bit with this question, if I may, Chair. You've touched on the needs of Afghan refugees too. The evidence that we've received in this committee shows that there is some discontent expressed or starting to develop as a result of the fact that it appears that refugees from Ukraine are receiving special treatment, and that other refugees, perhaps from Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan and other countries, aren't receiving the same level of treatment and support. Do you think that that's a fair criticism? What steps are you taking as a Government to ensure that there is equality in terms of the way that refugees arriving in Wales are being treated, wherever they come from?
Diolch yn fawr, Mabon. This is something that I did touch on at the start of questions this afternoon, because I reflected on some points after some questions on the statement that I made on Tuesday, which you will have heard—that, actually, we are responding to the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Ukraine, the horrors of the Putin invasion, and then, the thousands of refugees who came. Fifty years ago, Wales responded when Idi Amin expelled Ugandan Asians. Actually, it's the fiftieth anniversary this month, and I've just been speaking to some of those who came here 50 years ago and are now part of our community.
So, we had that response to the Ukrainian crisis, with our welcome centres, as we did for the Afghan refugees in the Urdd last August, and the evacuation, as you recall. But now we are looking at ways in which we can revisit the wraparound support offer, and look at—as I said on Tuesday—encouraging guests to contribute via earnings or universal credit, wherever possible, after a short period. We're discussing this with local authorities and Ukrainian guests themselves, to make sure that we are offering the same sort of support we offer others in temporary accommodation. And that could be Welsh families, and other refugees as well.
Ukrainians want their independence. They want to be able to cook their own meals and be independent; they want to move on. So, I think we're doing everything we can to make sure there's parity and equality in the way we treat those in housing need in Wales, but taking into account, as is your inquiry, the very specific and particular response that we've all had to make to the war in Ukraine—which sadly is continuing—and making sure that we can offer that bespoke support.
One thing we haven't mentioned this morning is the fantastic contribution that Ukrainians are already making in the economy; so many of them are working now. I think, in one of our welcome centres, something like 60 per cent were already in work. I met yesterday with the higher education health Wales organisation to talk about the fact we've got 20 Ukrainian doctors in Wales, and dentists as well, who want to work in the NHS. We've got skilled people; we've got lawyers, but we've also got people who are skilled who are working in social care. This is a huge opportunity if we can support them, as we do all our refugees, into work, accommodation, after that initial supersponsor support.
Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Mabon appears frozen on my screen. Mabon, are you content at this stage, or did you want to ask anything further?
Os ydych chi'n fy nghlywed i, yr un cwestiwn pellach buaswn i'n dymuno ei ofyn—a dwi'n dallt bod amser yn brin—ydy, yn sydyn, Weinidog: mae yna bwysau anferthol ychwanegol ar awdurdodau lleol yn sgil y gofynion yma i gartrefu pobl sydd yn ffoaduriaid, ac efo anghenion fel yna; o ble ddaw'r pres i gynorthwyo'r awdurdodau lleol i gyrraedd y targedau a sicrhau eu bod nhw yn cyflawni'r anghenion yna?
If you can hear me, the other question I would like to ask—and I understand that time is tight—is, very quickly, Minister: there is huge additional pressure on local authorities as a result of the requirements to house refugees, and those with such needs; from where will the funding come to support local authorities to meet the targets and ensure that they do respond to these needs?
These are questions that we have been discussing together this morning. It's a huge challenge. We've had to take money out of our reserves to meet the challenge of the Ukrainian response here in Wales. It's also important that we're investing more that £197 million this year in homelessness. We've talked about ways in which we're trying to reach out and prevent homelessness, and support those who are homeless and in our housing services. We've put a record £310 million into social housing, and we're committed, of course, as Emma Williams has said, to developing those 20,000 new low-carbon homes.
There's a huge pressure on our budgets. We don't know what's going to come from the 17 November fiscal statement, as it will be now. And I do, also, as I said on Tuesday, want to meet with the UK Government, with my colleague from Scotland, to ask again can we have some support for the funding of the Ukraine scheme, as it moves into the next two years, for those hosts in terms of uplifting the £350 to £500. But also in terms of everyone in housing need—and I know that you're aware of this, Mabon—we need an uplift in local housing allowances and discretionary housing payments, which have been cut, and that cut has come from the UK Government budget. So, that's where we need your help and support to have this message, which I think is shared across the UK.
Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Thank you very much.
Diolch yn fawr, Mabon. Carolyn.
That discretionary housing payment cut, was it £140 million to £100 million?
I can't recall the figure exactly off hand, so I'd rather drop a note, if that's okay, and get an accurate number.
Yes, we could share the letter that the Minister for Climate Change and I wrote to the UK Government about local housing allowances.
Great. Thanks. And the DHP as well.
That would be fine, Minister. You've kindly offered to provide some other further information to committee, which we would be very grateful for. I think Emma was going to come in on the cost of modular housing, and I'm sure you can include that in the letter. Thank you very much indeed. Thank you, Minister, and all your officials here in person and remotely for being available to give evidence to committee today. You will be sent a transcript to check for factual accuracy in the usual way. Diolch yn fawr.
Diolch yn fawr.
The next item on our agenda today, item 3, is papers to note. We have a letter from the Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution in relation to modernising electoral administration; correspondence from the Welsh Cladiators in relation to building safety; and a letter from the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales and Trefnydd to the Llywydd in relation to the UK Energy Prices Bill. Are Members willing to note those papers and also note that there will be an opportunity to discuss them in more detail during our private session if, indeed, we resolve to revert to private later on? Yes, I see that you are. Thank you very much.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Item 4 is indeed a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting. Is the committee content to do so? Yes. Thank you very much. We will then move to private session.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 12:08.
The public part of the meeting ended at 12:08.