Minister Urges States to Commit to Homelessness Deal
14 November 2012 at 3:38 pm
The Federal Government has committed to providing half the funding of a one-year extension of the current National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) while a new deal is renegotiated with the states and territories.
The announcement comes just two days after the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that homeless figures were up 8% since 2006 and follows strong pressure from the Not for Profit community.
The Minister for Housing and Homelessness Brendan O'Connor said that the government will approach the states and territories to negotiate the new partnership, which expires on June 30 next year.
Currently none of the State or Territories have committed to continuing funding.
On making the announcement, O’Connor called on the States and Territories to match the funding and to sit down and negotiate a longer term compact to be resolved next year.
"To provide certainty during these negotiations for the tireless and compassionate workers in this sector, and, most importantly, for their clients, we commit today to providing our half of the funding for next financial year while we finalise a longer term agreement.
O’Connor said that the new homelessness partnership would be based on matched funding and framed by the core principles of prevention, early intervention and breaking the cycle of homelessness.
Meanwhile, peak community sector Not for Profits have welcomed the announcement and called on the states and territories to negotiate an agreement with the federal government.
Chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service, Dr Cassandra Goldie, said that release of ABS figures makes it imperative that an agreement is reached as soon as possible.
“We simply must act if we are to prevent more people falling into poverty and onto the streets,” Goldie said.
“ACOSS welcomes Housing and Homelessness Minister Brendan O’Connor’s statement that a new partnership will be ‘based on matched funding and framed by the core principles of prevention, early intervention and breaking the cycle of homelessness’.
“We know that without a National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness the level of homelessness would be even worse. We also know that investment in areas such as the social housing initiative have made a positive impact on homelessness services. But there is still a long way to go.
“We must continue our efforts to expand the supply of affordable housing, and to ensure homelessness services are adequately funded,” Goldie said.
Chief executive of Hanover Tony Keenan said: “We hope that with goodwill, all governments will be able to reach a new agreement. History tells us that in Australia."
"The only way that progress is ever made on addressing complex social problems is when genuine cooperation between the Commonwealth and States occurs,” he said.
Mission Australia chief executive, Toby Hall, said that it was now up to the States and Territories to respond in kind and commit to funding their half of an extended agreement.
“Up until now both sides have danced around the negotiating table, supporting an agreement in principle but waiting for the other parties to show their hands,” Hall said.
“That’s left homeless agencies – and the individuals and families who depend on them – under a cloud of uncertainty given the current deal runs out in June 2013.
“It’s not a perfect situation. We’d prefer to hear that a new agreement had been sealed. We encourage federal and state governments to keep the need for a new agreement at the forefront of their minds,” he said.
Australians for Affordable Housing’s Joel Pringle said that solutions for reducing homelessness will not come from interim year-by-year arrangements, but through an ongoing commitment by all levels of government.
“The different levels of government now have the opportunity to step back and consider how the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness can facilitate links between families facing homelessness, support programs and affordable housing,” he said.
“Supply of affordable housing is necessary to ensuring these families are not squeezed out of their homes.”
State and Territory ministers will meet this Friday in Brisbane for the second last meeting before the agreement expires.
Only Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory have committed to sending a minister to the meeting.
O'Connor urged his counterparts to take the negotiations seriously.