Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

New report finds SAAP services working hard to help families in need

Joint Media Release with:

  • Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for Housing and the Status of Women

The latest annual report into the Australian Government’s Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) has found that SAAP agencies are providing more assistance to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The SAAP National Data Collection 2006-07 Annual Report, released today, says the number of occasions of assistance increased 20.4 per cent between 2005-06 and 2006-07, from a daily average of 26,900 in July 2006 to 32,400 in June 2007.

The Minister for Housing , Tanya Plibersek, said this report highlights that more action is needed to help those at risk of homelessness.

“I am particularly concerned by the sharp rise in the number of children needing to access homelessness services and the fact that families are being evicted from stable housing,” Ms Plibersek said.

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs , Jenny Macklin, said Indigenous people were significantly overrepresented in the SAAP Annual Report.

“It is deeply concerning that while Indigenous Australians make up only 2 per cent of the general population, this report shows that they make up 18 per cent of people seeking assistance through SAAP,” Ms Macklin said.

SAAP services have seen a marked increase in the reported number of accompanying children in SAAP services – up 26 per cent since 2005-06, with accompanying Indigenous children using SAAP services at five times the rate of non-Indigenous children.

“Without secure, safe accommodation we will never improve Indigenous health, education and workforce participation. Children won’t have a future if they can’t sleep securely at night,” Ms Macklin said.

Family groups, particularly couples with children, were more likely to need longer-term support with accommodation. During 2006-07, almost 19,000 occasions of support for couples with children lasted longer than six months.

The main reason these families gave for seeking assistance was that they were being ‘asked to leave’ or eviction (22 per cent). The report also shows there were more than 4,000 incidents of people living in public or community housing needing help from SAAP agencies to obtain or retain independent housing.

“The Australian Government has made delivering long-term solutions to homelessness a major priority and is developing a White Paper to set the agenda for tackling homelessness to 2020. The White Paper will be released in September 2008,” Ms Plibersek said.

“Submissions to the discussion paper from homelessness organisations and frontline workers have provided excellent suggestions to improve SAAP services. The needs of children are a high priority in the development of the White Paper.

“The Rudd Government has already announced the allocation of $150 million to build 600 new homes for the homeless across the nation over the next five years.

A Place to Call Home is an immediate response to tackle homelessness and successfully reintegrate people with the broader community and stop them from cycling in and out of homelessness services.”