After months of lobbying, homelessness agencies were breathing a collective sigh of relief on Monday when the Federal Government announced it would fund the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) for a further two years (until 2017).
The announcement came on the same day CHP had arranged a crisis meeting of 30 CEO’s in Melbourne, and just a week before agencies would have started making redundancies that would have resulted in thousands of job losses around Australia.
Social Services Minister Scott Morrison also revealed that the agreement, totalling $230 million, will have a focus on domestic violence and youth homelessness, with further details yet to be negotiated with the states. This is an important focus, given that people fleeing family violence is the single biggest cause of homelessness in Australia – in the last financial year, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data showed that over 33% of people who accessed homelessness services were escaping family violence. A growing body of evidence, including a 2012 literature review published by the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, also demonstrates how the earlier someone becomes homeless, the longer they are likely to experience homelessness. Given that, and the importance of early intervention, a focus on youth homelessness is also welcome. Services assisting these two groups have been at the centre of investment in Victoria.
Whilst there is a lot to celebrate in this announcement, the sector initially requested a four year extension to allow for long term planning and assessment of programs, as well as to provide job security for workers. There remains a need for an ongoing national commitment to end homelessness in Australia.
Another area CHP will be monitoring closely is the NPAH funding for programs like Street to Home, that address rough sleeping. It is hoped that these programs continue and won’t be sacrificed as a result of the government’s focus on domestic violence and youth homelessness. The sector is also waiting on the announcement of whether the $230 million will be indexed to allow for inflation and wage increases. Given it’s the same amount of money as last time, without indexation it will see a real effective cut to services.