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Co-producing research priorities: Wales results

This is the fourth in a series of blogs that sets out the results from CaCHE’s approach to co-producing research priorities across the UK. It draws together the priorities emerging from the first meeting of the Wales Knowledge Exchange (KE) Hub and a separate Residents Voice Focus Group to summarise the results and key issues emerging from Wales.

Results of an initial prioritisation survey

Prior to the Wales Hub meeting, we undertook a small-scale online survey of housing stakeholders across Wales to gather views on priority housing issues in Wales. The survey asked: ‘What do you believe are the priority housing issues in Wales’ and allowed respondents to identify up to 5 priorities. A total of 35 responses were received and analysed and the findings grouped under the themes identified in the table below:

Table 1: Priority housing issues identified by online survey respondents in Wales, April 2018

Whilst these results are not based on a representative sample, it is perhaps not surprising that the issues of supply, affordability and homelessness dominated. In relation to supply the issues identified were about the overall need to increase supply, the needs of particular groups (e.g. older people, singles etc.) and the suitability of supply across different tenures. Under affordability, respondents identified the lack of housing options for those on low incomes and the impacts of welfare reform on affordability. Concerns about homelessness in Wales reflected the need for both greater prevention and to end it.

Prioritisation Workshop

The Wales prioritisation event took place in Cardiff at the end of May 2018 and was attended by 21 Wales KE Hub members representing a broad range of stakeholders across the public, private and third sectors, as well as academia. Following a short discussion of the survey results hub members formed into 4 groups. Within these groups, each member championed their own top three priorities before engaging in a deliberative and iterative process to reduce these to just 3 or 4 high priority issues per group. The collectively agreed priorities identified by each group were as follows:

Table 2: Wales prioritisation workshop priorities

Following feedback from each of the groups, further discussion ensued. During the final session, there were a number of other comments from participants. These included:

  • Possible need for more emphasis on the private rented sector.
  • Should we tailor existing priorities to give more emphasis to meeting the needs of an ageing population?
  • The importance of the links between housing and health.
  • Rural housing issues should not be lost in planning for future housing needs (or in prioritising research).
  • Importance of raising the profile of housing as a Welsh Government policy area.
  • Concern was expressed that the Welsh perspective may get lost in drawing together the findings from the different national/regional prioritisation events. A need for comparative aspects of future research (e.g. cross-national/regional approaches in relation to specific issues).
  • Agreed that it was the role of researchers to identify evidence gaps and to link priority issues to researchable questions. However, this needs to be done in ways which both address priority issues and in ways that are time sensitive (so that research has influence/impact).
  • Need to raise awareness of what research has been (or is being) done which is relevant to Wales.

There are many high-level housing priorities across Wales and probably not as much overlap between the groups as might have been expected. Nevertheless, participants were able to identify the following multi-dimensional housing issues as the top priorities for Wales:

  • Housing affordability
  • Housing quality
  • Issues of housing delivery
  • Homelessness
  • Space and planning and the role of the community

The Residents’ Voice Focus Group

The Wales Residents’ Voice Focus Group was organised and delivered in collaboration with TPAS Cymru (the Tenant Participation Advisory Service for Wales).

The group met in Cardiff in September 2018. Discussions were facilitated by staff from TPAS Cymru and CaCHE. Fourteen people attended the event; predominantly council and housing association tenants from across South Wales (including residents of Cardiff, Swansea and the South Wales Valleys). There was a good gender balance and a wide age range of participants, though relatively few younger people.

The aim of the event was to identify the main housing issues and problems in Wales, from a tenant perspective. There were three main parts to the session; an initial open discussion (the initial question posed was: “What are the main housing issues and problems in Wales?” An open discussion followed in which the following issues and problems were identified:

  • Overall lack of housing supply – insufficient to meet needs.
  • Quite a lot of the existing housing stock is not suitable for an ageing and changing population.
  • Much of what is available is not affordable (particularly in the private rented sector), especially for young people and those on relatively low incomes.
  • Issues with the (often poor) quality of housing in Wales, across different tenures.
  • Concerns about parts of the private rented sector.
  • Concerns around the priority for allocating social housing. Homeless households often given little choice (or support to maintain independent tenancies).
  • In the last 15-20 years TPAS Cymru has done a fantastic job, but not enough resources at either the national or local level to support tenant engagement.
  • A need for more social rented housing, and thus to reduce the need for private rented housing, which at the bottom end of the market is often very poor quality.

Table Sessions

Following the open discussion, tenants formed two similar sized groups. Within each group individuals were asked to identify their own top 3 priorities. Each group then held further discussions (similar to those conducted during the May prioritisation exercise) to identify agreed priorities. The following top 3 priorities were identified:

Resident voice focus group top priorities

Table 3: Wales RVFG group priorities

Following feedback from each table, there was a discussion to try to achieve a degree of overall consensus around a top three priorities. It was agreed that the following four (in no particular order) represented the group’s top priority issues:

  • The need for more affordable housing for life
  • Addressing issues of welfare reform
  • Putting tenants at the heart of housing
  • Raising standards of housing services and accountability.

Summary

In comparing the priorities emerging from the 1st Wales Hub meeting and the Residents’ Voice Focus Group there are both similarities and differences. Both identified the need for additional housing supply as well as issues of affordability (recognising the impact of current welfare policies on affordability, homelessness and households’ housing options). Hub members placed a great emphasis on issues of addressing poor housing quality, whilst tenants placed more emphasis on improving the quality and consistency of housing services, the need for greater landlord accountability and for the voice of tenants to be heard in policy development and decision-making.

The results from the prioritisation events in Wales are well reflected in the 10 new research priorities recently published by CaCHE.

The next objective will be to ensure that future CaCHE research projects not only reflect the priorities of the different UK countries and regions but also their particular circumstances and challenges.

Dr Bob Smith is a Knowledge Exchange Broker in the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence. 

his blog is part of a series which outlines our approach the co-producing the CaCHE research priorities. It follows a blog by Dr Gareth James on the results from the Scotland meetings, the South and South West England meetings by Dr Chris Foye, and Northern Ireland meetings by Prof Joe Frey. 

 
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Date: December 4, 2018 5:38 pm

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