Minister: (Inaudible)…Glenda Stevens, the CEO of Homelessness Australia and other guests and members of the Salvation Army. It is a privilege to be at this Crisis Accommodation Centre here in Melbourne.
Homelessness is a major issue in Australia and over 100,000 people we know each night and each day are homeless and that is a real social problem and its organisations like the Salvation Army and other service organisations in our community and Homelessness Australia, as a national organisation, that bears the (inaudible) of not only providing the services but also the discussion which is important in our community about these services.
This morning I’m able to announce that the Federal Government will provide in this financial year $115 million towards continuation of homelessness services in Australia. That means that if the State and Territory Governments add their equal share of $115 million it will be some $230 million for homelessness services in Australia for the next financial year. What that means is that each of the 180 services such as this across Australia will be able to continue to provide the services that they do today throughout the next financial year.
The background for this was that despite the fact that the previous Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, promised to reduce homelessness, to halve it. The fact is that we found out prior to the last election that there was no ongoing funding beyond June 30 of this year.
So we’re going to provide the funding for service delivery for the next twelve months and during that time it’s my intention to work with services like the Salvation Army, with Homelessness Australia and importantly with the states and territories so that we can look at the long term future not just of homelessness but housing more broadly.
The Commonwealth provide millions of dollars a year largely through the states and territories for housing and homelessness, and we want to ensure that what money is provided on behalf of the Australian taxpayer is done so in the most efficient and effective manner.
So this will continue the services. So places like this will be able to continue with the assurance of funding to have their doors open to provide for, I think, 64 people on a regular daily or nightly basis in a service like this and the 100,000 or so people who are homeless across Australia, yet at the same time give us some time and opportunity to work with all those who are involved over the next few weeks and months to try and ensure that what we have in place in the future can be a long-term commitment and one that does actually meet the needs of Australian people. Particularly those who are in most need of services like this, the most vulnerable members of our society.
So it is a great pleasure to be here this morning, I look forward to looking around this service after these short speeches and I think I can now call upon Glenda to say a few words on behalf of Homelessness Australia.
Glenda Stevens: CEO of Homelessness Australia: Members of the Homelessness Sector welcome today’s announcement that the Federal Government has allocated $115 million to homelessness services for the next twelve months. The continuation of this funding, provided it is matched by state and territory governments at the level it has been previously, gives certainty and delivery of vital services to those most in need in our community.
The NPAH (National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness) funding has enabled 180 highly effective, innovative programs throughout the country. Many of these programs focus on prevention and early intervention, these programs have supported women and children who have been the victims of domestic violence. The funding has enabled A Place to Call Home and Street to Home programs which have reconnected people, particularly young people, back into the community.
The NPAH funding has also improved the outcomes for people needing care or who are suffering health and mental health issues. Although this is a short term solution our members are relieved the uncertainty has ended and they can get back to focusing on the needs of their clients. This is a significant first step.
Homelessness Australia, ACOSS, Salvation Army and National Shelter together with the service providers look forward to collaborating with the Federal, State and Territory governments to develop long-term, sustainable funding arrangements that meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of our society. Arrangements that will enable these ordinary Australians; women, men, young people and children to re-engage with society and to lead healthy, productive and happy lives.
Question: The current National Agreement on Homelessness provides about $159 million in Commonwealth money for the current year, why are you reducing that amount?
Minister: What we are doing with this announcement is to ensure that the service delivery component of the funding continues. There’s a service delivery and a capital component and what we’re ensuring is that each of these 180 services across Australia will be able to operate at the same level by the same services over the next twelve months, and that will give us time to work with the sector and with the state and territories to look at the longer term future.
Question: How many people do you think will be worse off because of the reduction?
Minister: None because what we’re doing is providing the full 100% service delivery component. So services like this will continue with the assurance that the Commonwealth funding will be there and provided the states and territories match that funding then there’ll be $230 million available for these services and that’s important for not just putting a shelter over people’s heads at night but, as Glenda indicated, a lot of these services are for people who have a range of issues in their lives. It might be family or domestic violence; it might be mental health problems. So this is important for not just for the roof over a person’s head but for those linked up services as well.
Question: The PM previously said the funding would be revealed on Budget night, why have you brought that forward?
Minister: Well I’ve been discussing this with the PM for some weeks now, and it came to our attention that contracts were starting to run out and people needed some time in order to be forward in terms of employment of staff on an ongoing basis and, even in some instances, the rental of property. So in order to be able to provide that assurance as soon as possible I’m making this announcement today.
Question: How’s the review of the welfare payments progressing and any indications of recommendations?
Minister: That’s continuing we have the assistance of Patrick McClure, the former head of Mission Australia, together with two other consultants. They are working on their report and I hope to have their report sometime in the next few weeks and then the Government will give some consideration to it in the weeks leading up to the Federal Budget.