Concerns raised about the loss of experienced local homelessness services

People facing homelessness across the state could be left with services lacking the necessary experience and connections to the community under the NSW Government’s recently announced funding packages, warns Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson on Housing.

“I’m alarmed by what I’m hearing from service providers and community organisations across NSW. Helping people who are homeless or at risk at homelessness requires the expertise and trust that can only come from close engagement with local communities.

“I’m concerned that the need to retain community connections and experience has been lost in the decision-making process, and that the service changes that are already beginning will leave some people without the same accessibility to specialised local supports,” Ms Barham said.

The NSW Government’s Going Home, Staying Home funding packages were announced last Friday, following a two-stage tender process. In making the announcement, the Minister for Family and Community Services reinstated some funding for Inner Sydney specialist services in response to expressions of concern by service providers, politicians and the public.

“Since the packages were announced I’ve heard concerns about the outcomes and the process. It appears that local knowledge wasn’t adequately utilised in the assessment of tenders, resulting in the loss of experienced specialist services. What I’m hearing is anxiety about the future of homelessness services throughout regional NSW, as well as in the city.

“In just a few days I’ve been presented with concerns that new services may lack much-needed local connections, that some organisations who weren’t successful with all their tender applications may not be viable, and that some service packages won’t meet the needs of local communities.

“I’ll be continuing to gather feedback from providers and communities, and have indicated to the Minister in a meeting this week that will forward those concerns and seek responses.”

Ms Barham also noted that the looming end of the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness risked leaving homelessness services underfunded into the future.

“The Federal Government has reduced the funding beyond 1 July 2014 and there is no ongoing agreement between the states and the Commonwealth. Despite the NSW Government’s claim that they’ve increased funding across the state, without a partnership we will see a decline in overall funding and reduced support to the vulnerable,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Budget falls short on investment to break the cycle of disadvantage

The NSW Budget has attempted to manage the crisis facing vulnerable people and families but lacks the vision to break the generational cycle, warns Greens MP and spokesperson on Family and Community Services and Housing, Jan Barham.

“If this Government trumpeted investments in support for disadvantaged people and families like it does for roads, we could secure long-term reductions in risk, harm and homelessness. Investing in prevention and early support services will deliver long-term savings and reduce the need for crisis services in the years and decades to come,” Ms Barham said.

“The Budget includes some new funding to address the crisis in child protection and homelessness services, but the Government’s own projections show they aren’t expecting reductions in the number of people who need those services.

“The Government has again failed to display the long-term vision required to deliver what the evidence shows is required – a major investment in prevention and early supports for vulnerable families, combined with secure and affordable housing to address the massive social housing waiting list.”

Ms Barham noted that despite announcements of additional support for Community Services caseworkers, the number of risk reports and number of children in out-of-home care are expected to remain high in 2014-15.

“Improvements to casework, record-keeping and data systems are much needed, but they help to manage the crisis and don’t ensure that the next generation won’t be exposed to risk of harm. The budget for targeted earlier interventions has only risen by a few per cent, and the Government doesn’t expect these services to be accessed by many more people in the coming year than they have currently served.

Ms Barham also noted the relatively small capital investment in generating new social housing.

“Social housing accounts for around 2.5% of the Government’s proposed capital expenditure, while tens of thousands wait for social housing. If we are serious about preventing homelessness and helping vulnerable people, who are already being hit hard by the Federal Budget, we need to make delivering shelter to people in need a priority for capital investment,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Background: NSW Budget 2014/15 Family and Community Services Cluster

NB: Real expenditure changes based on 2.25% 2014/15 CPI as forecast in the NSW Budget

Targeted Earlier Intervention

Changes in service measures 2013/14 Revised vs 2014/15 Forecast

  • Community Builders – unchanged at 224,000
  • Staying Home, Leaving Violence – increase from 4,660 to 4,700
  • Child, Youth & Families services – unchanged at 54,000
  • Calls to DV line – unchanged at 22,000
  • Families in Brighter Futures – increase from 2,700 to 2,800

Budget for Targeted Earlier Intervention:
2013/14 (revised): $246.2 million
2014/15 (budget): $257.7 million (real increase of 2.4%)

Statutory Child Protection

Changes in service measures 2013/14 Revised vs 2014/15 Forecast

  • Child & young person concern reports – increase from 267,800 to 284,300
  • Children & young people involved in a concern report – increase from 111,800 to 116,400
  • Children & young people reported at ROSH – increase from 70,400 to 75,000
  • Children & young people with ROSH reports receiving face-to-face assessment – increase from 36.9% to 37.5%

Budget for Statutory Child Protection:
2013/14 (revised): $444.0 million
2014/15 (budget): $451.1 million (real decrease of 0.6%)

Out-of-Home Care

Changes in service measures 2013/14 Revised vs 2014/15 Forecast

  • Children in OOHC – unchanged at 18,900 (NB: revised figure up from forecast 18,400)
  • NGO placements – increase from 52% to 61%
  • Average cost, all children – increase from $43,000 to $45,000

Budget for Out-of-Home Care:
2013/14 (revised): $817.3 million
2014/15 (budget): $852.0 million (real increase of 2.0%)

Social Housing Assistance and Tenancy Support

Changes in service measures 2013/14 Revised vs 2014/15 Forecast

  • Households assisted in social housing – unchanged at 140,500
  • Households assisted to rent privately – increase from 19,000 to 20,000

Budget for Social Housing Assistance and Tenancy Support:
2013/14 (revised): $810.0 million
2014/15 (budget): $811.1 million (real decrease of 2.1%)

Homelessness Services

Changes in service measures 2013/14 Revised vs 2014/15 Forecast

  • Households assisted with temporary accommodation – unchanged at 14,300
  • People receiving assistance from a Specialist Homelessness Service – increase from 52,000 to 54,000

Budget for Homelessness Services:
2013/14 (revised): $250.0 million
2014/15 (budget): $265.4 million (real increase of 3.8%)

Going Home, Staying Home announcement

The Minister for Family and Community Services has this afternoon released the list of tender outcomes for the new specialist homelessness service packages across NSW. She has also announced the reinstatement of funding to inner city services, including specialist women’s services, which were set to lose funding.

You can read the Minister’s media release and download the PDF fact sheet listing the full set of tender results.

I will be reviewing the information and continuing to work to ensure that there are adequate specialist homelessness services across the state. Please feel free to contact my office if you have any queries, comments or issues you would like to raise relating to this announcement.

Greens call for an urgent review of parks legislation to safeguard residents

Greens MP and Housing spokesperson Jan Barham has called on communities to lobby the NSW Government to suspend the implementation of new laws affecting the affordability of residential parks and manufactured home estates, and to make public details about the process involved in developing the controversial laws that passed Parliament in late 2013.

“Recent evidence presented at the ICAC and our Parliamentary inquiry into housing gives cause for serious concern that affordable residential park living is under threat, while park operators who contributed funds to the Liberal Party are given the opportunity for windfall earnings,” Ms Barham said.

“The Government needs to act in the interests of the park home owners. Many of them are older people whose retirement nest eggs may have been lost in the Global Financial Crisis. I’m calling on the new Minister for Fair Trading, Matthew Mason-Cox, to fix the legislation and ensure the affordability of their homes is protected.”

Ms Barham’s comments follow evidence from the Independent Park Residents Action Group (IPRAG) to the NSW Parliament’s housing inquiry, providing case studies of home owners whose ongoing site fees have increased well above the CPI, and highlighting the continued loss of permanent homes as large corporations take over parks and redevelop them into tourism resorts.

“Our inquiry into housing has heard about the loss of low-cost housing in residential parks and villages, especially in coastal areas. It’s essential that affordable housing in parks is preserved.

“The new legislation allows park operators to increase site fees on questionable grounds including claims about future expenses, and it also introduces a new form of capital gain sharing that would see home owners lose a share of the value of their home when they sell it,” Ms Barham said.

“Many home owners and residents were concerned about the proposed legislation last year and in the Parliament I attempted to move amendments that would have fixed many of the biggest risks. The Government didn’t listen at the time, but the community can ask them to act on this new evidence.

“It’s time for people to help protect the wellbeing of people who live in residential parks. Write to the Minister for Fair Trading and let him know that the Government must protect parks and villages as an affordable housing option for older people and others who want to live in those communities,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891