NFP ‘Relief’ Over Homelessness Funding
31 March 2014 at 12:28 pm
Not for Profit peak bodies and homelessness service provider organisations across Australia have expressed relief at the Coalition Government’s decision to re-commit to the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) for another 12 months.
However, the sector says while the $115 million stopgap arrangement allows service providers to continue to deliver homelessness programs, they agree they need to work with the Federal Government on a long-term sustainable funding program.
The eleventh hour agreement, announced by the Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews, on Sunday will be shared by hundreds of national homelessness service organisations just as their program and staff funding was about to run out on June 30.
Welfare peak body, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) says the funding move now makes it important for all the states to come on board to develop sustainable future funding.
“We also need to make sure that the supply of affordable housing is now on the national agenda,” ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
“Long term we need to look at five-year funding arrangements to allow the excellent work of the NPAH, which has so far been flexible and innovative, to continue.”
Homelessness Australia CEO Glenda Stevens said the Government had been pressured from services providers as well as the States to make an early announcement before the budget.
“The 12-month funding announcement means homeless services can go back to focussing on their programs and not worrying about where the money is coming from,” Stevens said.
“Now we can work together with the Federal Government to develop and strong and sustainable funding scheme to deliver effective and innovative programs to address homelessness.”
Brisbane-based service provider, National Shelter also expressed relief but said there was still a need to work on long-term certainty.
National Shelter CEO Adrian Pisarski said it had been a wasted year in which the reform process around the National Partnership Agreement on Housing had driven the way homelessness services were delivered.
He said the worrying aspect was following on from the NPAH and how the Federal Government would approach the funding of the critical National Rental Assistance Scheme.
Commonwealth Housing Federation of Australia Executive Officer Carmel Rosier said the funding announcement meant the jobs of many people working with service providers had been saved.
Rosier said there was great relief for these workers especially in areas such as Victoria and South Australia where there were big job losses in the car industry
Brisbane's Micah Projects has welcomed the re-commitment to the National Partnership Agreement on Housing (NPAH) for another 12 months.
“We are relieved that the uncertainty is over despite funding once again only being extended for one more year,” coordinator Karyn Walsh said.
“We urge governments to make this funding permanent so homelessness services can operate in a secure investment environment.”
Walsh said that previous funding under the NPAH had enabled Micah Projects, and other homelessness services throughout Queensland, to develop many innovative programs that had proven remarkably effective in helping the most vulnerable members of society make the transition to secure, permanent housing.
ACOSS also said that while the funding announcement was a relief, there was concern that the National Rental Assistance Scheme may now be on the chopping block in the May Budget.
Dr Goldie said it was vitally important to continue to mobilise private investment in the social housing arena to provide much needed housing stock which had a big impact on homelessness.
Dr Goldie is also the chair of the infrastructure working group for the C20.
“The most important message for Government is how vital it is to get the right mix of funding and infrastructure around the affordable housing issue,” she said.
“Bridges, roads and ports are important but so is social housing.”
The National Welfare Rights Network has also reported that its latest research shows that the Federal Government’s Rent Assistance scheme is failing the people who need it the most.
NWRN recently released its report on the impact and effectiveness of the Rent Assistance scheme, which provided assistance to 1,267,979 people at June 2013, with a fifth of recipients on the Disability Support Pension, 21 per cent on Newstart and 17.5 per cent receiving the Age Pension.
Key findings included people on lower allowance payments were more likely to be in “severe housing stress”, with a quarter of unemployed people on Newstart are paying more than 50 per cent of income in rent and the effectiveness of Rent Assistance was being reduced as it failed to keep pace with increases in rent.