Have Your Say on Boarding House reform!

The NSW Greens spokesperson for Housing, Jan Barham MLC is calling on the public to lodge submissions as part of the Government’s consultation on reforms to the Boarding House Sector. In June, the Government released an Exposure Draft Boarding Houses Bill 2012 and a position paper.

The Bill proposes a new legislative framework that aims to protect vulnerable residents and comes after calls from the NSW Greens and advocacy groups for reform to the sector. The situation with boarding houses that accommodate people with disabilities is desperately in need of reform as there is a history of abuses. The lack of a state wide register of premises has made it difficult to monitor the performance of the premises and this is addressed in the new proposal.

A new scheme of occupancy rights for residents is provided and an increase in penalties for offences, criminal checks for staff and provisions that allow authorised advocates to enter premises.

Jan Barham welcomes the changes proposed by the Government but has raised some areas that could be strengthened.

“This Exposure Bill comes after numerous distressing reports from the Ombudsman about abuses and lack of regulation and oversight in the Boarding House Sector” said Jan Barham.

“The changes being proposed will tighten up the processes that oversee how the sector is run and will lead to improvements in the quality of life and rights for those in our community that live in boarding houses. There is however a need to strengthen the requirements for in the proposal to ensure coverage of premises that provide occupancy agreements and that greater oversight by government agencies to protect the rights of residents, particularly those with disabilities”

“The rights of vulnerable members of society are able to strengthened with this new legislation. It’s vital that the community respond to the draft document and make submissions to ensure the protection and well being of those who live in boarding houses is improved and the failings of the past are not repeated”

The Exposure Draft is on public exhibition with submissions to be lodged by Friday August 10th. Jan Barham has prepared a briefing paper and a submission guide and is encouraging the community to have their say.

• Briefing Paper and Submission Guide: http://www.janbarham.org.au/?p=1057

• Exposure Draft Boarding Houses Bill 2012:  http://www.ncoss.org.au/resources/120704-Exposure-Draft-Boarding-House-Bill-2012.pdf

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

Have Your Say on Boarding House Reform

The NSW Government has released an Exposure Draft Boarding Houses Bill 2012 for discussion. The Bill aims to protect vulnerable residents and comes after calls from the NSW Greens and advocacy groups for reform to the sector and distressing reports from the Ombudsman about abuses and lack of regulation and oversight.

The Bill proposes a new legislative framework that aims to protect vulnerable residents and comes after calls from the NSW Greens and advocacy groups for reform to the sector. The situation with boarding houses that accommodate people with disabilities is desperately in need of reform as there is a history of abuses. The lack of a state wide register of premises has made it difficult to monitor the performance of the premises and this is addressed in the new proposal. A new scheme of occupancy rights for residents is provided and an increase in penalties for offences, criminal checks for staff and provisions that allow authorised advocates to enter premises.

Below is a Briefing Paper that outlines some of the key aspects of the Bill. A Submission Guide is also provided for those who would like to formally respond to the Government.

Submissions are due by Friday August 10th.

Jan BARHAM_Boarding House Briefing Paper August 2012

Submission Guide – Boarding houses

FORSTER DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING UNIT FIRE QWN

Question

15th September 2011

 

The Hon. JAN BARHAM: My question is directed to the Minister for Finance and Services, representing the Minister for Family and Community Services. In light of the overnight tragedy that took place in a former Department of Housing unit block in Forster, will the Minister advise what action, if any, was taken by the department in response to concerns about the property raised by the Great Lakes Council over the past two years?

The Hon. GREG PEARCE: That is a difficult question.

[Interruption]

The reaction of members opposite to people being injured is to burst into laughter.

The Hon. Eric Roozendaal: Point of order: We are not laughing about the question; we are laughing at the Minister.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Hon. Eric Roozendaal to order for the first time.

The Hon. GREG PEARCE: Members opposite have asked me dozens of questions about Orica, but the Leader of the Opposition did not take up the offer yesterday to call WorkCover and he did not take the call from the chief executive officer.

The Hon. Luke Foley: Point of order: The Minister is once again misleading the House. It is simply not true to say that I did not take a call from the chief executive officer of WorkCover. I said that I did not receive the call. The Minister should withdraw that statement.

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.

The Hon. GREG PEARCE: You did not take the call.

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister will resume his seat.

The Hon. Luke Foley: I didn’t receive one you lying prick.

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Leader of the Opposition should withdraw those unparliamentary words.

The Hon. Luke Foley: I withdraw.

The Hon. Amanda Fazio: To the point of order: My point of order relates to relevance. The Hon. Jan Barham’s question was very serious; she asked about the tragic fire that occurred yesterday in a former Department of Housing dwelling. The Minister should be asked to answer that question and not to talk about questions he was asked earlier in question time.

The PRESIDENT: Order! If the Minister has no information relevant to the Hon. Jan Barham’s question, he should conclude his answer as quickly as possible.

The Hon. GREG PEARCE: As I was going to indicate, I will come back with a detailed answer.

 

ANSWER

15th September 2011

The Hon. GREG PEARCE: Earlier today the Hon. Jan Barham asked me a question about a tragic incident overnight in Forster.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I ask members to reduce the level of audible conversation in the Chamber.

The Hon. GREG PEARCE: The Government and, I am sure, all honourable members extend our condolences to the victims of the incident overnight in Forster. The property in Little Street, Forster, is owned by Housing NSW and had been managed by Community Housing Ltd for a number of years. Housing NSW plans to sell the property and the tenants had been relocated. There was only one remaining tenant in the complex and she was not injured in the incident. Housing NSW is arranging temporary accommodation prior to finalising her relocation. All the windows of the vacant units on the ground floor had been boarded up and the doors screwed shut to deter squatters. The stairwells to the upstairs units had also been boarded to prevent access to those units. I am advised that staff from Community Housing Ltd had been on the site late last week. At that time the boarding was intact and there was no sign of squatters. Housing NSW is assisting police with their inquiries.

COMPLAINTS UNDER THE COMMUNITY SERVICES (COMPLAINTS, REVIEW AND MONITORING) ACT 1993 QoN

Ms Barham to the Minister for Finance and Services, and Minister for the Illawarra representing the Minister for Ageing, and Minister for Disability Services—

  1. How many people or service providers have been found guilty of an offence under Section 47 of the Community Services (Complaints, Review and Monitoring) Act 1993?
  2. What action has Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC), under the Department of Family and Community Services, taken to make clients of ADHC and non-government service providers aware of their right to be free from threats of retribution?
    1. Has ADHC through its internal complaints handling mechanism received allegations of threats of retaliation?
    2. If so, what course of action is ADHC required to take?

 

Answer—

  1. Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC) is not aware of any people or service providers who have been found guilty of an offence under Section 47 of the Community Services (Complaints, Review and Monitoring) Act 1993.
  2. ADHC’s current Feedback and Complaint Handling Principles and Guidelines (2005) indicates that “all parties to a complaint should have the opportunity to have his or her say, without fear of a negative reaction or victimisation”. 
    In addition, ADHC’s publication, ‘Standards in Action – Practice requirements and Guidelines for services funded under the Disability Service Act’ provides in its minimum practice requirements a similar standard for practice. 
    ADHC’s revised Community Complaints Policy will strengthen the principles regarding threats and retribution such that: 
    “ADHC will treat complainants with respect and will ensure that complainants (and other parties to the complaint) are not subject to harassment or discrimination, are free from threats of retribution or disadvantaged as a result of having made a complaint.” 
    The policy statement and principles will be included on the complaints section of ADHC’s internet site, within revised brochures for clients, non–government service providers and other stakeholders. A communication strategy will be developed to promulgate the revised policy in the second half of 2011.
  3.  
    1. No
    2. Allegations of threats of retaliation would be treated as a breach of policy ⁄ Code of Conduct under Chapter 9 of the ‘Public Sector Employment and Management Act’ 2002 and action would be taken in accordance with ADHC’s processes for dealing with these matters. In addition if may be referred to the Law and Justice Directorate for prosecutorial consideration as an offence under the Act.

Homelessness Week

National Homelessness Week provides an opportunity to raise awareness across the community of issues surrounding homelessness and to provide activities and services for those working in the homelessness sector and those affected by homelessness. We are all aware of the public and tragic face of homelessness. We all pass the huddled figures in our streets every day—almost literally on our doorstep of Parliament House—curled up in sleeping bags in Martin Place or huddled on the steps of the State Library. They are just some of the estimated 3,559 people of New South Wales who sleep rough each night. National Homelessness Week is a chance for us to think about the less visible aspects of homelessness: the 10,950 people in our State who are forced to rely on family and friends for a bed each night, the 5,201 using crisis accommodation and refuges, and the 7,665 living in boarding houses on a medium-term to long-term basis

They are the harsh figures of homelessness in our State—in total at the last census in 2006, nearly 28,000 people in New South Wales were classified as homeless. But even that figure is probably an underestimate as one of the consistent challenges facing those working in the homelessness sector is the lack of reliable data. Accurate and credible figures are integral to understanding homelessness not only so we can measure the extent of the problem but also so we can also evaluate the effectiveness of services. I note this week that the Minister for Family and Community Services launched the Platform 70 Program in Woolloomooloo. I commend the Government for supporting that program which aims to provide housing and support services to 70 chronically homeless people in this area of Sydney. This concept of combining accommodation with essential support services is exactly what non-government organisations such as Mission Australia have been calling for.

On Monday Mission Australia detailed that its frontline staff spent more time helping people with mental health issues than helping people with homelessness issues. This has prompted calls for the model for shelters to be modified to incorporate the provision of essential services. This move towards shelters providing easy access to services is not new to me. I will give an example from my home Byron Bay area. In Byron Bay a house is used as a drop-in centre for homeless people. It is a joint venture of the Byron Bay Community Centre, the Salvation Army, St Vincent’s de Paul and Byron Shire Council. The cottage provides a shelter, the safe storage of personal belongings and access to a variety of services. It is a case of the service providers coming to those in need rather than the expectation that those people make their way to the disbursed services in the area. This example could be replicated across the State, and I would welcome the opportunity to speak with other members about how it can be implemented while we await the long-term program of trying to provide housing for all people in New South Wales.

This move towards a coordinated and person-centred approach to homelessness is completely consistent with priority 6 of the New South Wales Homelessness Action Plan to streamline access to crisis accommodation and specialist homelessness services. This State Action Plan, named “A Way Home”, was released by the State Government in 2009 and lays out some ambitious targets, namely a reduction of 7 per cent in the overall level of homelessness in New South Wales by 2013, a reduction of 25 per cent in the number of people sleeping rough in New South Wales by 2013 and a reduction of one-third in the number of Aboriginal people that are homeless in New South Wales by 2013. These targets are commendable and the strategies outlined to meet them centre around three key approaches: preventing people from being at risk, responding quickly and effectively to homelessness when it occurs, and ensuring people who have been homeless do not become homeless again.

There are many reasons why people find themselves in a position of homelessness—domestic violence, family violence, financial hardship, mental illness or sometimes an unfortunate run of hard luck. For those who find themselves in such a position it is more than just having no bed or food for the night; it is a lack of security and privacy, and a profound sense of isolation and disengagement. In conclusion, I wish to mark this National Week of Homelessness by thanking the hundreds of workers across our State—both paid and volunteers—who do their best every day to assist the homeless. Their patience, compassion and dedication are to be commended.

Housing NSW Availability of Occupational Therapist

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST AVAILABILITY
24 May 2011
Page: 16

The Hon. JAN BARHAM: My question is directed to the Minister for Finance and Services. Will the Minister advise how many occupational therapists are available to assess home modifications for Housing New South Wales? How many are available in the Mount Druitt area? Is the Minister confident that Housing New South Wales residents have sufficient access to occupational therapists to enable reasonable requests for home modifications? Will the Minister advise how many occupational therapist plans for home modifications in Housing New South Wales properties have not been actioned or installed? Will the Minister advise of the average time between initial requests for occupational therapist assessment and actual home modification?

The Hon. GREG PEARCE: As the honourable member’s question is detailed, I will take it on notice. I will get an appropriate answer from the responsible Minister or from any of the agencies that report to me.

Universal Access in Social Housing

SOCIAL HOUSING
27 May 2011
Page: 45

The Hon. JAN BARHAM: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Finance and Services, representing the Minister for Family and Community Services. Will the Minister advise what percentage of social housing homes in New South Wales meet universal design principles? What percentage of social housing homes are being constructed or have been modified to meet the needs of people with a disability?

The Hon. GREG PEARCE: I thank the honourable member for this important question. I will be interested to see the information when I receive it from the Minister in the other place. I will get an answer for the honourable member.

The Hon. Greg Pearce: On 27 May 2011 the Hon. Jan Barham asked me, representing the Minister for Family and Community Services, a question without notice regarding social housing. The Minister for Family and Community Services has provided the following response:

  •  
      Housing NSW requires at least 50 per cent of all new dwellings on suitable sites to meet universal design principles. Suitable sites are those near public transport and shops, and are not too steep to provide wheelchair access from the street to the front entrance of dwellings on the site.

      To meet the needs of people with a disability approximately ten per cent of all new dwellings constructed on suitable sites have adaptable housing features and approximately two per cent of the existing dwellings have some level of disability modification.

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