Homelessness Audit Criticises Govt Departments
7 February 2013 at 9:35 am
A new report by Victoria’s Auditor-General into recent initiatives to tackle homelessness has criticised a number of government departments over their administration of the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) but praised Not for Profits delivering the programs.
The report, Addressing homelessness; partnerships and plans, was tabled in State Parliament.
The report evaluates the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH), a joint Commonwealth/State program agreed to and implemented by the former Labor State Government in 2008, and the Victorian Coalition Government initiative, the Victorian Homelessness Action Plan 2011-15.
“The Auditor-General’s report acknowledges Victoria has met or exceeded performance targets for service levels across the 22 initiatives as set out in the NPAH – Victorian Implementation Plan,” the Minister for Housing, Wendy Lovell said.
“It also says that two initiatives funded through the NPAH and examined in detail by the Auditor-General’s Office, the Assertive Outreach for Rough Sleepers and A Place to Call Home, have demonstrated very encouraging results in getting good housing outcomes for people and reducing homelessness.
“But at the same time, it makes clear that a number of state government departments, including the Department of Human Services (DHS), did not effectively measure whether initiatives under the NPAH have had a sustained impact across Victoria and have only evaluated three of the initiatives to date.
“It is unacceptable and I have written today to the Secretary of the Department asking her as a matter of urgency to ensure that all DHS administrative structures for the NPAH are in place and working as they should, asking her to report back to me on a regular basis,” Lovell said.
The Minister says the Department has already taken a number of actions to tackle the issues raised in the report, including:
- a major restructure of the entire Department undertaken in December last year, which will improve provision of services, accountability and responsiveness across the board;
- establishing a dedicated Performance, Regulation and Reporting Unit to improve the Department’s reporting processes; and
- an independent evaluation of the remaining NPAH initiatives, to be completed by June this year.
Not for Profit Homeground agrees with the Victorian Auditor General's report that investment is needed in programs and services that are properly evaluated and proven to work.
The report was critical of the shortfalls in research and reporting which make it very hard to draw clear conclusions about what works for people who are homeless. However, the two initiatives found to have effectively contributed to reducing homelessness are partnership programs led by HomeGround
“Both programs combine the two essential ingredients for ending homelessness: good quality permanent housing backed up by tailored support services,” HomeGround CEO, Heather Holst said.
“HomeGround agrees with the Auditor-General that we need to invest in the things that work. That is, we need to fund services that reliably deliver long-term housing outcomes and end homelessness permanently for individuals and families in crisis.
“Better evaluation is important, as is increasing the overall supply of public, community and other affordable housing options.
“HomeGround joins the call for the Victorian Government to commit $31.2 million in the 2013-2014 Budget to secure funding for the one year extension of the NPA-H, and for both the Federal Government and Opposition to commit to future funding of the NPA-H.”
Also responding to the report, Brotherhood of St Laurence executive director Tony Nicholson noted the call for better governance arrangements but said he feared the path recommended would add further to the administrative burden faced by service providers in Victoria.
Nicholson, who also chairs the Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness, said: ‘’What we don’t need is SWAT teams of public servants being dispatched to look over the shoulders of homeless service providers in the community.’’
‘’Service providers already carry a significant administrative burden with a comprehensive file covering all aspects of help to each homeless person being submitted to the Australian institute of Health and Welfare, based in Canberra.’’
“Further, they are required to comply with accreditation standards maintained by a third party.’’
“The charitable and community organisations delivering homeless services on behalf of the government have an enviable track record of sound governance. This should give government funding bodies the confidence to take a minimalist risk-management approach to accountability for the delivery of services and expenditure of public funds.”