Volunteers from across Wales who are members of the *Shelter Cymru Take Notice Project* and all of whom have personal experience of homelessness, undertook a review of Conwy Housing Solutions frontline delivery services earlier this year.
Conwy County Borough Council was eager to achieve the *Equal Ground Standard* devised by Shelter Cymru, Cymorth and the Welsh Local Government Association as a guide for all Welsh local authority homelessness services, and called in the Take Notice project to see how they had done.
This meant that in March 2019 project volunteers undertook their biggest piece of work to date having been asked by Conwy Housing Solutions to assess how welcoming the service is to people presenting themselves as homeless.
This included the physical environment of Conwy Housing Solutions new home in Coed Pella in Colwyn Bay, the way that the staff team worked with people presenting themselves as homeless, and the initial support they provided.
Janet Loudon, Head of Housing Services, North Wales, for Shelter Cymru said: “Asking for help when facing homelessness is a daunting experience for anyone, the friendliness of the environment and the way in which people are helped and supported is of vital importance. People need to be treated with compassion and understanding but with a non-judgemental attitude. They need to be listened to, and helped in these difficult circumstances”.
One of the volunteers who took part in the evaluation from Shelter Cymru’s Take Notice team noted: “The housing services team at Conwy Housing Solutions is a highly motivated professional team who have embraced whole heartedly the holistic and person centred approach encouraged by the Equal Ground Standard. It was a real opportunity for service users and professionals to work together to evaluate and improve homelessness services”
As a result of the review carried out by Shelter Cymru volunteers, examples of really good practice were reported back to Conwy County Borough Council along with some recommendations for further improvement, and the Equal Ground Standard was found to be well embedded at both frontline and management level. Conwy Housing Solutions are the first local authority homelessness team in Wales to have worked towards this.
Conwy County Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Liz Roberts, responded: “Conwy Housing Solutions is a partnership between Conwy County Borough Council and Cartrefi Conwy. I’m very proud of the team, and how focussed they all are on delivering quality services with empathy, respect and professionalism. The Equal Ground Standard recognises Conwy Housing Solutions’ commitment to putting people at the heart of what they do. It’s a real achievement to be the first local authority team to reach this Standard, and we’re delighted with the feedback we’ve received. Of course there’s always room for improvement and that’ll be our challenge - to build upon and improve further for people who are in housing need, homeless, or at risk of homelessness.”
This is a great achievement for Conwy and sets the bench mark for other local authorities who, hopefully, will follow suit in the not too distant future.