Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Helping Australia’s homeless

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, said today’s release of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report on the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) gave a 12-month snapshot of the Program’s effectiveness in the community.

“The report shows that during 2001-02, on any one day 20,000 Australians, who were homeless or at risk of homelessness, were helped in some way by one or more of 1286 SAAP services around the country. Over the year, SAAP agencies provided over 1.04 million distinct services to 95,000 different clients,” she said.

The report confirms that the joint Commonwealth-State funded SAAP program provides substantial assistance to meet the needs of the homeless. However, there are some groups in the community, which are not able to get immediate SAAP accommodation.

The Australian Government has a multifaceted approach to assisting people with their accommodation needs:

  • Under the 2003 Commonwealth State Housing Agreement, the Australian Government will provide $4.85 billion over five years. This is an increase of $210 million over the 1999 CSHA.
  • 940,000 income support recipients and low-income families receive Rent Assistance, at a cost of around $1.85 billion in 2003-04.
  • Combined Commonwealth rent Assistance and CSHA Outlays have increased in real terms by $184 million, from $2.69 billion in 1997-98 to $2.87 billion in 2002-03.

Senator Patterson said the Australian Government had recognised that more needed to be done to address the shortages of accommodation assistance.

She said the Government had recognised the need for more funding to help meet unmet demand for services by allocating $843 million over five years to SAAP.

“This represents a real increase of 18% or $115 million at the start of the current agreement between the Australian Government, State and Territory governments,” Senator Patterson said.

“SAAP is the Australian Governments major response to homelessness. The overall aim of the Program is to provide transitional supported accommodation and a range of support services for people who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness.

“It helps to achieve self-reliance and independence for some of Australia’s most vulnerable people.”

These services are funded nationally under the SAAP IV Agreement, with Australian Government and State and Territory contributions totalling around $1.4 billion over five years.

Senator Patterson said: “According to the report SAAP agencies provided accommodation or other substantial support such as advice and information, financial assistance and referrals to over 95,000 clients in 2001-02.

“A range of other support and assistance provided included meals, laundry and shower facilities, information and emotional support.

“This increased funding has already resulted in a rise in the number of funded agencies from 1238 in 2000-01 to 1286 in 2001-02.

“The Australian Government is fully committed to providing help to homeless people, or people at risk of becoming homeless.

“Under the National Homelessness Strategy funding has been provided for specialist homelessness initiatives like the Family Homelessness Pilots in which $5 million has been allocated over three years to find better ways to prevent family homelessness.

“Under the Australian Government’s Personal Support Program, there are around 640 outlets that provide assistance to people who have multiple non-vocational barriers to employment. This can include homelessness, substance abuse, mental health or domestic violence issues.”

“In addition, through the Reconnect Program, 98 Reconnect services have opened throughout Australia in the past few years to help young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and their families.”