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Neath Port Talbot Politics South Wales

Council to begin charges for temporary accommodation amid ‘demographic shift’

Neath Port Talbot Council

NEATH Port Talbot Council has agreed to a charging policy for certain residents accessing temporary accommodation, due to what it said was a shift in demographics.

The decision came after talks were held at a monthly social services, housing and community safety board, where members were told of an increase in figures for those needing temporary accommodation.

It means those accessing temporary accommodation in the borough will now have to pay towards the service moving forward if they are in receipt of an income that “places them outside of the eligibility criteria for welfare benefits.”

It followed a report published earlier in 2024, which showed the demand for housing in the area was currently outstripping supply, as well as revealing that there had been a 108% increase in households accessing temporary accommodation since 2019.

As part of this increase, they heard how a number of people who were requesting the service in Neath Port Talbot were currently receiving an income and were not entitled to any housing benefits as was traditionally the case.

Figures as of January, 2024, showed that there were 10 households in council-operated sites which had partial, or no entitlement to housing benefit, which would usually be paid to the council to go towards the cost.

The report read: “Over the last 24 months, the council has seen a significant increase in people requiring TA (temporary accommodation) in order to elevate their homelessness situation.

“This is due to multiple national and system-wide factors that impact on people’s ability to access and retain affordable housing, alongside new legislative and strategic requirements from Welsh Government (WG) that have increased the range of people owed a statutory homelessness duty.

“Traditionally, those that required TA would be low income households in receipt of including Housing Benefit, which would be paid to the council as a contribution towards the costs of providing TA. However, alongside an increase in the number of people becoming homeless, there has also been a notable change in the demographics of those presenting to Housing Options.

“Historically, it was rare for Housing Options to support people in receipt of an income that placed them outside of the eligibility criteria for welfare benefits, but this is now becoming more frequent.”

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It means in order to keep growing costs under control, the council will now implement a charging policy which is in line with the local housing allowance rate, to those who would otherwise have paid rent before requesting temporary accommodation.

Officers noted that the move could benefit those who were eligible for housing benefits who had failed to claim, adding that if a person thought they were in exceptional circumstances and were unable to pay, the fee would be assessed on a case by case basis.

The proposal for the charge was approved by members, and comes just weeks after the announcement of a new strategic plan designed to help tackle growing issues with homelessness in the area.

These will focus on a number of priorities, which include preventing homelessness with the council’s rapid re-housing programme, establishing a new model of short-term triages, as well as implementing a more strategic approach with third sector partners.

The council’s homeless budget for 2023/24 is currently expected to overspend by £1.3 million due to high demands on the services.