Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Addressing the Needs of Homeless Children

The Australian Government has a range of programs to tackle domestic violence and provide support for mothers with children escaping domestic violence, the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released the report, Children Accompanying Homeless Clients, using data from the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) during 2002-03.

“This report provides a wealth of valuable information to inform us better about the circumstances and needs of children accompanying an adult or guardian to SAAP services,” Senator Patterson said.

“SAAP is the Australian Government’s primary response to homelessness. It is delivered and funded in partnership with the States and Territories. The Australian Government contributes about 60% of the funding on average across Australia.

“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.

“The Australian Government has shown its commitment to the program by contributing more than $830 million to the work of SAAP under the current five-year agreement, which is an increase of 18 percent, or $115 million, over the previous agreement.

“In 2002-03 alone SAAP provided funding to 1,282 services across Australia and 286 of these focussed specifically on the needs of victims of domestic violence and their children.”

The AIHW report found that children were a large proportion of people accessing accommodation and other support services for the homeless, with a significant number escaping domestic violence with their mothers and other female guardians.

Senator Patterson said there are a range of programs in place which complement SAAP and are aimed at addressing the varied problems of people in crisis, their children and the many wide-ranging issues they face.

“Programs such as the Partnerships Against Domestic Violence (PADV) Initiative and the Stronger Families and Communities Strategies and the Family Relationships Support Program are perfect examples of what my Government has already done in this area,” she said.

“The Howard Government takes the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault very seriously and since 1997 it has allocated more than $73 million to this area.

“On June 6 the Prime Minister and I launched a new $20 million national campaign – Violence Against Women. Australia Says NO.

“This comprehensive campaign sends a clear message that violence against women is totally unacceptable and provides practical support 24-hours-a-day for those who are experiencing violence or at risk of violence and advice or information for anyone concerned with this important issue.”

In addition $37.3 million was allocated in the 2004-05 Budget for the Family Violence Partnership Program which builds on the Governments commitment to tackling family violence in Indigenous communities.

Senator Patterson said the most recent SAAP initiative, included in the 2004-05 Budget, involved the commitment of $10.4 million in new funding for the Household Organisational Management Expenses (HOME) Advice Program.

“The HOME program will help families through early intervention to assist them with financial advice, access to community services, education support, services for children, labour market programs and health services,” she said.

“Although the AIHW’s report clearly shows that SAAP and its associated services are well targeted, the Australian Government is not complacent about the numbers of accompanying children in SAAP services.

“While the Australian Government has introduced a wide range of services and strategies targeting support for the homeless, State and Territory governments must also take note of these findings in line with their responsibility for child protection and welfare matters,” Senator Patterson said.