HAVING somewhere to call home is a fundamental human need.

Yet in our country today, it is one that an increasing number of people can’t take for granted. We see more people sleeping rough, yet that is just the tip of the iceberg of housing insecurity. Far too many people are struggling to find or retain decent quality housing.

Last year in Torfaen alone, our Housing Solutions Service dealt with nearly 900 households experiencing difficulty with their housing, and we’ve got nearly 2500 people on the Homeseeker waiting list.

Care leavers, Armed Forces veterans and those with mental health problems are just three of the groups who deserve prioritisation, but the wider solution has to come from all levels of Government and needs to be delivered across all agencies and sectors in true partnership.

A recent study looking into homelessness found that the single most effective thing any government could do would be to cease any further welfare cuts. Universal Credit and the bedroom tax, to name just two, have greatly exacerbated the problem.

But there are things we can do at a local level too. That’s why we top up the money in the fund for Discretionary Housing Payments, to help keep people in their own homes.

It’s why we fund our financial inclusion team, to advise and support people and help prevent homelessness.

It’s why we’ve given priority to Armed Forces Veterans, by backdating their applications to the date they joined up.

And it’s why we’ve improved our adverse weather policy, so that rough sleepers in Torfaen no longer have to wait three consecutive days of below zero temperatures for emergency accommodation.

Of course, no-one can be forced to accept help, and there are many underlying factors affecting rough sleepers that may make them wary. Torfaen Council work with Cornerstone to support rough sleepers and help them back into more stable accommodation. The multi-agency Rough Sleeper Support Group also co-ordinate help and support.

None of this is easy, and we are not perfect. We can’t do everything and face imperfect choices, often thanks to a lack of resources. But if we weren’t in power at a council level, our best of intentions on tackling homelessness would be merely words. In charge, we have the chance to make a difference.

That is something I hope the national Labour Party reflects on in the coming weeks as it chooses a new leader. We could sit contentedly in the ideological comfort-zone of opposition, protected from the messy compromise of having to take decisions. But that would be an abdication of our duty towards those who need us most – in power, not just in protest.