Homelessness No Priority for Coalition – Opposition
Thursday, 7th November 2013 at 10:05 am
Federal Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews’ abolition of the Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness has been described as “simplistic” by the Opposition spokesperson for Housing and Homelessness, Senator Jan McLucas.
Andrews made the announcement last week that the Coalition Government would be “winding down” the council and was considering what forum or engagement model would be best to replace it.
Senator McLucas said the announcement demonstrated that homelessness was not a priority for the Coalition Government.
“On one hand the Minister has said there is a national housing problem in Australia, but then he dismisses the Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness, widely regarded as an authoritative and valuable source of independent advice to government,” Senator McLucas said.
“It would seem from the Minister’s comments that he is looking to establish a body with a much larger remit to advise on ‘social and welfare issues’. This will substantially water down the focus on housing and homelessness.”
She said that Minister Andrews’ excuse to disband the Council because “homelessness has increased on its watch” exposed his lack of understanding of the complexity of housing and homelessness policy.
“The fact is that the initial objective of the White Paper strategy was to address the numbers of people living rough and that between 2006 and 2011 there was a reduction of 6 per cent in actual numbers and 13 per cent when overall population is taken into account,” she said.
“In addition, there was a 23 per cent increase in the number of people in supported accommodation – people who would otherwise have been without shelter.
“Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data also indicates that for those receiving services, on average, the length of their period of homelessness has reduced.”
Senator McLucas said the independent advice provided by the Council had been a key part of ensuring government was focussed on its targets and addressing emerging issues and risks in the sector.
“The decision to disband the Council appears to be purely political and will be a significant disappointment to the sector which respected and valued the work that was done by the Council,” she said.
“There are some real challenges in the housing and homelessness sector and we can’t underestimate the importance of having this policy area firmly on the Prime Minister’s agenda.”