The Greens NSW submission to the Child Protection Legislative Reforms Discussion Paper

The NSW Government released a Discussion Paper on Child Protection Legislative Reforms in November 2012. In March 2013, Jan lodged a submission on behalf of The Greens NSW, responding to each of the 29 proposed reforms.

Download the Greens NSW submission [702kB PDF]

The Department of Community Services (Community Services) website has more information about the consultation process. Jan will continue to advocate for reforms that support vulnerable families and promote early interventions to prevent child abuse and neglect, and which encourage efforts to preserve and restore family relationships while ensuring the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children.

Strategies for affordable housing and homelessness prevention must be urgent priorities

Action to address the need for affordable housing and reduce homelessness across NSW must be a higher priority from the Government, says Jan Barham, Greens MP and Housing spokesperson.

“New South Wales needs urgent, innovative action and a strong commitment of funding and support. The Government must ensure we see a growth in affordable housing that meets the changing needs of our population, including those who are ageing and people with disabilities,” Ms Barham said.

“Housing stress is not just about the cost of buying or renting. Although affordability is obviously a key challenge, it’s also about ensuring people are in homes that meet their needs, that developments and redevelopments throughout the state provide an adequate range of housing options, and that maintain people’s connections to their community.”

Ms Barham warned that the levels of homelessness in NSW highlight the need to support the state’s most vulnerable individuals and families, and ensure there was an ongoing plan to reduce the risk of homelessness. Recently the NSW upper house supported a motion that addressed homelessness and identified the need to focus on local solutions.

“A one-year extension to the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness is a necessary stop-gap, not a solution. There needs to be an ongoing agreement. The NSW Government must commit to a long-term strategy for providing housing and services to those in need, and must also work with local government to ensure people have the best chance to find affordable, stable housing.”

“On Census night 2011, more than 28,000 people living in New South Wales were homeless, an increase of around 6,000 people since 2006, which is a more than 20% rise in the homelessness rate. But thousands more are living in marginal housing, including improvised dwellings, caravan parks and crowded homes, or couch surfing and are at risk of homelessness,” Ms Barham said.

“We must reverse the homelessness trend, address the factors that leave people vulnerable to homelessness and seek an ongoing funding agreement with the Commonwealth.”

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

Motion on Homelessness, as passed by NSW Legislative Council on 21 March 2013:
1. That, while taking into account the inherent difficulties in accurately measuring the rates of homelessness, this House notes that:

 (a) according to the 2006 National Census, at least 27,374 people were considered homeless in New South Wales,
 (b) according to a 2009 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing (AIHW) entitled “Counting the Homeless”, this figure can be broken down into the following categories:
  (i) primary homelessness: at least 3,715 people, or 13 per cent of respondents, were sleeping rough in improvised dwellings,
  (ii) secondary homelessness: at least 16,033 people, or 59% of respondents, were staying with friends or relatives, or in short term accommodation provided through formal assistance,
  (iii) tertiary homelessness: at least 7,626 people, or 28 per cent of respondents, were sleeping in facilities providing longer term accommodation such as boarding houses,
 (c) according to the same AIHW report, there is a significant incidence of homelessness among children and young people in New South Wales, with 10,587 of those counted aged under 24 (39 per cent),
 (d) according to the same AIHW report, the number of older homeless people is growing, with 30 per cent of the homeless in New South Wales aged 45 or older, up from 25 per cent in 2001,
 (e) it is widely estimated that over 7 per cent of the entire homeless population of New South Wales are Aboriginal, which is well above the 2.2 per cent of the total New South Wales Aboriginal population, and
 (f) documented rates of the prevalence of mental health issues in homeless people vary markedly but an extensive research paper published in 1998 by Hodder, Teeson and Burich entitled “Down and Out in Sydney” found that 75 per cent of participants in the study had at least one mental illness, compared to 20 per cent in the general population.

2. That this House further notes:

 (a) the report of the NSW Auditor General entitled “Responding to Homelessness”, dated May 2007,
 (b) the report of New South Wales Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues entitled “Homelessness and low-cost rental accommodation”, dated September 2009,
 (c) the Government’s subsequent response to the report of the Social Issues Committee’s inquiry, dated 2010, and
 (d) the revised National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness signed on 13 April 2012.

3. That this House welcomes:

 (a) the continuation of the Premier’s Advisory Council on Homelessness, and
 (b) the implementation of the revised Homeless Persons Protocol.

4. That this House encourages:

 (a) all local councils to have a nominated staff member tasked with the responsibility of ensuring their council adheres to the Homeless Persons Protocol, and
 (b) all local councils to report on local initiatives for addressing homelessness in their local government area in their annual report.

5. That this House calls for:

 (a) a review of the ten Regional Homeless Action Plans that were developed in July 2010, together with a progress report, and
 (b) consideration of a funding program to support local government to meet the needs of homeless people.

North Coast Single Parents Rally

Here’s Echonetdaily’s video from the Brunswick Heads rally against changes to single parent payments, including Jan’s comments about the importance of reversing these changes to reduce the risk of poverty and for the sake of children’s welfare and wellbeing, along with comments from Dawn Walker and some single parents and supporters who attended the rally:

At this rally and others around NSW, people collected signatures for Jan’s petition to NSW Parliament. If you haven’t signed it, please download a copy of the petition, collect some signatures and send them in.

Jan Barham and Dawn Walker at Brunswick Heads Single Parents RallyJan Barham and Dawn Walker at Brunswick Heads Single Parents Rally

It’s time to speak up: Secure a digital future for community radio

Greens MP and spokesperson for the arts, Jan Barham, is calling for public support to secure community radio’s future in the digital era. Her call comes after the NSW upper house supported the Greens’ motion on funding for digital community radio.

“Community radio stations are a vital service across the state, and eight stations have commenced digital community radio services in Sydney. But the Federal Government needs to add another $1.4 million in next month’s budget or those services may be forced off the air,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham has urged people to join the Commit to Community Radio campaign, an initiative of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, ahead of the Federal Budget.

“Community radio stations fill the gaps that commercial and public broadcasters fail to cover. Community radio is largely supported by thousands of volunteers and actually helps the industry by providing a fertile training ground,” Ms Barham said.

“Community radio services local communities with vital information and news, provides a platform for new and emerging Australian musicians, and supports a wide variety of community interest groups, including culturally and linguistically diverse groups.”

“As listeners move across to digital radio, community stations need adequate funding to ensure the important services they provide can continue.”

“The NSW upper house backed my motion supporting community radio, but now the Federal Government needs to hear a groundswell of public support,” Ms Barham said.

“We need the community to shout loud and clear that they want community radio to continue, and not to be lost from the digital radio landscape. Almost 40,000 people have already joined the Commit to Community Radio campaign, but the time to speak up is right now. Sign the petition online, write to your Federal MP, support your local community radio station and those that are at risk from the funding shortfall.”

Support the Commit to Community Radio campaign at http://committocommunityradio.org.au/

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

The full motion supporting community radio stations is available here: http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LC20130327010?open&refNavID=undefined

Government’s Welfare Rights Centre funding cuts risk leaving our most vulnerable without support

Sydney’s Welfare Rights Centre performs an important advocacy role and the NSW Government should act to reinstate secure funding for the sake of its clients, says Greens MP and spokesperson for Family and Community Services, Jan Barham.

The Centre was informed last Thursday that its funding from the NSW Department of Family and Community Services would cease at the end of the current financial year, as reported at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/welfare-groups-funding-cut-to-hit-poor/story-fn59niix-1226620669841

“It’s especially troubling that the NSW government is pulling support for advocacy services, right as the Commonwealth payment system is failing individuals and families,” Ms Barham said.

“We know that tens of thousands of single parents are being placed under greater pressure with changes to parenting payments, and that the low rate of Newstart and other allowances risks entrenching poverty and long-term unemployment. The NSW Government should be supporting a service that helps vulnerable households with advice and advocacy to ensure they get the payments they are entitled to and they know their rights.”

Ms Barham warned that local advocacy services shouldn’t be lost in a dispute over Commonwealth versus state responsibilities. “Community Services might say the Welfare Rights Centre isn’t part of their primary focus on child protection, but we can’t let already vulnerable households fall through the cracks between different governments and departments.”

“It is in the interests of New South Wales to ensure that disadvantaged groups have access to support that addresses financial hardship and other stresses on their households. I call on the Premier to ensure that this funding finds a place in his Government’s budget, even if it no longer falls under Community Services,” Ms Barham said.

“The Welfare Rights Centre keeps NSW residents from incurring debt and penalties as a result of wrongful social security decisions. Those results help to keep households afloat and able to contribute to the NSW economy.”

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

Petition – Reverse the Cuts to Single Parent Payments

URGENT: Funding cuts to the Welfare Rights Centre – contact the Premier and Minister for Family and Community Services

TAKE ACTION – DOWNLOAD THE PETITION

From 1 January 2013, the Commonwealth Government has made changes that will reduce the payments of more than 80,000 single parents. These families will be transferred from Parenting Payment to Newstart as soon as their youngest child turns 8, leaving them with a lower rate of support, and driving many single parents into the stressful situation of needing to do more hours of work around the time they spend caring for their children.

Jan Barham supporting single parents at a Martin Place rally

You can take action to let the Federal Government know they should reverse these unfair cuts.

Download this petition, print it out and send your signatures through to Jan’s office. Jan will present the petition to call on the NSW Government to back single parents and tell the Commonwealth they should reverse the cuts.

And to stay informed about the campaign to improve the support for single parents:

UPDATE: Cate Faehrmann is calling for people to send a message to Premier O’Farrell and Minister Goward calling for the Welfare Rights Centre’s funding to be reinstated. This service provides vital support to single parents and others about their rights in social security matters.

Send your message here.