Almost 40,000 School Children Sought Homelessness Help Last Year
20 March 2017 at 1:24 pm
The number of Australian school children seeking help from homelessness services has increased by more than 80 per cent over the past three years, according to new data analysis.
In the lead up to Youth Homelessness Matters Day on 5 April, the Council to Homeless Persons analysed Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data.
It found 39,155 children enrolled in preschool, and primary and secondary school presented at homelessness services last financial year.
They were among the 279,000 people who sought help nationally.
The Council to Homeless Persons, Victoria’s peak homelessness body, warned the situation would get worse if federal funding for public housing was cut in the May budget.
There has been ongoing speculation that the federal government could scrap the National Affordable Housing Agreement because it has failed to improve affordable housing stocks or reduce homelessness.
Jenny Smith, CEO of the Council to Homeless Persons, said students would be especially affected if the $1.3 billion agreement with the states, that provides 320,000 affordable homes, was lost.
She said many families, including those with school children, were the occupants of social housing.
“That $1.3 billion is working very hard to keep tens of thousands of vulnerable young people in stable housing with their families so that they can keep going to school,” Smith said.
“Having a strong public and community housing safety net funded by the Commonwealth helps ensure kids from low-income families can focus on studies, rather than worrying about where their family is sleeping that night.
“If you don’t have a proper home, how can you get a proper education?”
According to the data there was an 83 per cent increase in school children seeking help from homelessness services between 2012/13 and 2015/16.
The cohort which saw the largest increase was primary school students. Over the past three years there was a 92 per cent increase in those seeking homelessness help – 20,087 last financial year, up from 10,441 in 2012/13.
In Not for Podcast’s latest series, Housing the Homeless, to be released Tuesday, Smith said affordable housing was “the driver of homelessness in our country”.
“People on low incomes are just unable to access safe and secure housing that they can afford. We’ve got half a million shortage of affordable rental properties,” Smith told Pro Bono News.
“So if you’re a mum on a supporting parents payment, you’re going to be able to afford just two in 100 properties in the outer suburbs of one of our capital cities like Melbourne.
“And even if you can find a property you can afford, you’re not necessarily going to be the person that’s successful in securing that.
“We have not had investment from our governments for decades now in increasing social housing. We’ve got more than 200,000 people around the country on waiting lists for public housing, and we actually don’t have any national plan or policy in either homelessness or the housing… to address this problem.”
She said children and their families were often the hidden homeless.
“Homelessness isn’t just the rough sleeping we see on the street. Kids from disadvantaged families who aren’t fortunate enough to be in social housing are often forced to chop and change schools as they cycle in and out of temporary accommodation or as their parents move around to find cheaper housing,” she said.
“It’s a tragic reality that students are living in overcrowded and inadequate housing such as rooming houses and caravan parks, which are forms of homelessness.”
On Youth Homelessness Matters Day, the Council to Homeless Persons and other organisations will call on the government to adopt a national plan to tackle youth homelessness.