Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Prevention And Early Intervention The Key To Reducing Family Homelessness

An independent report on the Family Homelessness Prevention Pilot shows that 90 per cent of families who were assisted by the targeted program stayed in their homes or were rehoused.

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, today released the findings of an independent report evaluating the effectiveness of the Family Homelessness Prevention Pilot designed to tackle the issue of family homelessness for families deemed to be at risk of homelessness.

Senator Patterson said the report reinforced the Australian Government’s view that the best approach to homelessness is early intervention and prevention.

“Homelessness programs need to be focussed on the causes of homelessness not just the resulting problems.

“The pilot also found that 86 per cent of families who have participated in the program improved their financial circumstances,” Senator Patterson said.

“Around 78 per cent achieved an improved outcome in one or more of the following areas: financial situation, health, family relationships, employment / education, and community participation.

“I’m also extremely pleased to see that more than 50 per cent of adults who identified achieving stable employment or enrolment in education/training as a goal were successful. These are significant outcomes for people who have multiple barriers to economic participation.

“This report demonstrates that the Australian Government had delivered a successful, cost-effective program which gives genuine assistance to Australian families at risk of homelessness.”

“I’d like to offer my congratulations to the local community agencies and Centrelink who have taken the lead role in supporting families. They have worked together to demonstrate the effectiveness of early intervention strategies in reducing family homelessness” Senator Patterson said.

The pilot services deliver and coordinate support to families, such as accommodation assistance, family counselling, parenting skills, financial assistance, domestic violence counselling, services for children, school and education support, health services, employment assistance and childcare. The services are very flexible and provide comprehensive support to all family members.

“We know that homelessness doesn’t happen overnight. It is an unfortunate fact that many families in the community experience a downward spiral before they become homeless,” Senator Patterson said.

“Many families at risk of homelessness have high levels of personal debt, rely on emergency relief assistance and move between temporary forms of accommodation. These factors often indicate a family is under stress and needs help.

“The successful approaches adopted by the pilot services reflects our view that it is far more effective, in terms of the costs to both families and the community, to try to prevent homelessness rather than fix the problems when things go wrong.

“I’m looking forward to receiving the final evaluation in 2004. This will provide us with a more substantial analysis about the effectiveness of the early intervention approaches which have been tested. These results will have the potential to change the way policy, planning and practice agencies address homelessness in the future.”