Youth Homelessness Prevention Funding Saved
22 February 2017 at 3:04 pm
The federal government has extended funding for its youth homelessness prevention program, providing relief for community service organisations who feared it would shut down.
Reconnect is the only national, federally-funded program working to keep at-risk young people off the streets.
Minister for Social Services Christian Porter announced on Tuesday that the government would provide $23 million to allow Reconnect providers to continue delivering services.
“This extension will give certainty to 74 service providers across Australia,” Porter said.
“Through Reconnect, vulnerable young Australians get help to stabilise their living situation and improve their level of engagement with family, work, education, training and their local community.”
Reconnect uses community-based, early-intervention services to support people aged 12 to 18 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Run in 102 locations across Australia, the program provides vulnerable young people and their families counselling, group work, mediation, practical support and specialised mental health assistance.
Mission Australia, which has seven Reconnect services in four states, cautiously welcomed the announcement.
NSW/ACT state director Ben Carblis said, while he was “very grateful” for the funding extension, his feelings were “mixed”.
“Twelve months I don’t think is long enough, but I’m hoping that this 12 months will give the government an opportunity to really understand the benefits of a program that really has had a significant impact,” Carblis told Pro Bono News.
“We would like to see the program be extended for much longer than that to ensure a greater a level of certainty and investment into a program to have a more lasting impact in the communities that we are serving.”
He said the program was successful, and a two-month evaluation period found improved outcomes for vulnerable young people.
“Young people’s permanency of housing improved by 17.7 per cent,” he said.
“Client personal wellbeing improved by 9.5 per cent, clients indicating that they did not have support in a time of crisis… reduced by 7.1 per cent, and the levels of family cohesion improved considerably, which is really what it’s all about, and young people [who] reported their families ability to get along as ‘poor’ decreased 37.9 per cent.
“To achieve results as significant as that has such a lasting impact, not only on the lives of those people… but also financially. As an early intervention strategy, being able to achieve these results early on is much cheaper and more effective that having to pick up the pieces later.
“A program that is able to achieve these results is certainly worth investing in.”
Even with the funding extension, Carblis said youth homelessness, as a growing problem, required greater resources.
“What we are seeing is an increasing level of young people that are becoming homeless, and so it is a growing concern, it’s a significant concern across the country,” he said.
“There’s a range of different reasons for this, but the connection of the family is such an important element of ensuring that young people don’t full into homelessness.
“And, as we know, when young people fall into homelessness the spiral of other issues really starts to pick up, people spiral quite quickly and start having to deal with problems such as mental health, drug and alcohol addictions.
“There’s a range of different things… which are very challenging, absolutely, for the individual, but [it’s] also quite expensive to try to bring that person back.”
The government’s announcement comes amid speculation that the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) will be scrapped in the May budget.
The initial report, which said the government would axe the scheme for failing to deliver outcomes, sparked outrage among the not-for-profit sector.
Organisations, including ACOSS, Anglicare and National Shelter, said the loss of NAHA would have a detrimental impact on homelessness.