Agreement on Homelessness in Limbo
Monday, 25th February 2013 at 1:51 pm
National welfare Not for Profit Mission Australia has warned that vital support to thousands of vulnerable and homeless Australians is in limbo, while a crucial funding agreement between the Federal and State governments remains unsigned.
Mission Australia says that as the deadline for the new National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness looms, a number of key service deliveries are at stake if the agreement is not continued in June.
According to internal research, the organisation says that 180 services would lose funding, more than 80,000 disadvantaged Australians would be left with nowhere to turn for help while 3,400 community service jobs would be on the line if an agreement is not reached.
Mission Australia chief executive Toby Hall said uncertainty surrounding the end of the existing $1.1 billion five-year funding agreement in June this year is already doing damage.
“The ongoing doubt about funding for individual services is causing untold anxiety for people seeking assistance and the staff working to help them,” Hall said.
“Experienced workers have also started looking for new jobs amid the uncertainty, creating the potential for important programs to lose valuable employees.
“The deadline has been a long time coming and there has been a lot of talk between governments around the country – now we need action.”
The organisation says the services at risk range from early intervention and tenancy support services aimed at stemming the flow of people entering into the cycle of homelessness – whether they are escaping domestic violence, exiting detention or simply struggling to make ends meet in their current housing – through to crisis accommodation for rough sleepers.
Hall said the Federal Government announced in November that they had reached an in-principle agreement with the States to provide another 12 months of transitional funding while a new long-term deal is negotiated.
“Despite this positive announcement last year no dollar figures have been released by Federal or State Governments and the transitional agreement has not been finalised,” he said.
“The new Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Mark Butler, has reaffirmed the Federal Government’s commitment to seal a one-year deal and to provide 50% of the ongoing funding if the States commit to providing the other half,” Mr Hall said.
“This is an important opportunity for the State and Federal Governments to come together and provide the resources to continue the fight to reduce homelessness in this country.”
“The services funded under the existing agreement are making a real difference in communities across Australia, despite the continuing challenges.
Mission Australia says it calculated the impact if the NPAH lapsed using a combination of publicly available data and research as well as Mission Australia’s own internal service information.
“With the most recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics last year showing that 105,237 Australians were homeless on Census night in 2011, we can’t afford to lose momentum or lose sight of the national goal to halve homelessness by 2020,” Hall said.
“We need the Governments of Australia to stay the course, to sign up and provide the dollars for another year.
“That way our services can get on with the job of assisting Australians who are struggling, and the decision makers can get on with negotiations over a long-term agreement.
“We can’t afford to delay this process until the 11th hour, and find ourselves facing the same uncertainty over service closures in another 12 months’ time.”