Crisis accommodation package for domestic violence survivors rolls out
30 September 2020 at 1:21 pm
But advocates say organisations have been waiting for months for the additional support
A $60 million government package to house around 700 women and children fleeing domestic violence is welcome relief, say front-line groups who have been waiting over 12 months since it was first announced.
On Monday Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston and Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services Luke Howarth announced 40 projects would be funded under the Safe Places initiative.
At the end of last year, the federal government announced crisis accommodation providers would be able to apply for grants to construct, repurpose and renovate existing buildings for victims of family violence.
While applications closed in February and government guidelines predicted grant activity by July at the latest, it’s only now that the 40 projects have been announced.
A Department of Social Services (DSS) spokesperson told Pro Bono News that an extension for applications was granted earlier in the year to cater to community organisations that were busy providing support to communities affected by the summer bushfire season.
Projects include building new two and three bedroom homes, transforming office buildings into self-contained apartments and establishing small group homes.
The ACT, WA and SA will receive two projects each, there will be one project in NT, 16 in NSW, seven in Queensland, three in Tasmania, and seven in Victoria.
Hayley Foster, the CEO of Women’s Safety NSW, told Pro Bono News that while the scheme was going to make a significant difference to the safety of women and children across the country, many advocates were frustrated it had taken so long.
“The sector has been pleading with the government from the very beginning of March of this year for a substantial increase in investment in both emergency accommodation and in affordable accommodation assistance,” Foster said.
“There is a level of frustration that it’s not funding the full capacity of the service system.”
But the DSS spokesperson said that spending taxpayer funds must always be done with careful consideration.
“Particularly on projects such as this where women require complex support to ensure the safety of them and their children, rushing the process would not be in anyone’s interest,” the spokesperson said.
At the beginning of the pandemic, domestic violence groups reported a spike in demand for services, and many groups feared they could not keep up with demand without extra resourcing.
The $60 million Safe Places Emergency Accommodation program is part of the $78 million funding package, which includes $18 million to continue the Keeping Women Safe in their Homes initiative.
This funding forms part of the $340 million Australian Government investment in the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022 which is provided in addition to a $150 million COVID-19 response package.
Foster said that while any funding assistance was welcome, it had been slow to reach organisations from the get-go.
“For many of those organisations, they didn’t see any of the $150 million until around July, or they missed out completely,” she said.
“It just seems as though things are a little bit slow moving in the field of domestic and family violence, and it doesn’t feel like it’s top on the priority list of the government.
“So whilst, of course, it’s very welcome every time we provide another safe place for a woman and child escaping violence, we need to remember that we have many, many more women and children like them being turned away from services under our watch.”
This article previously stated that Pro Bono News reached out to Senator Ruston, but did not receive a response. The article was updated shortly after publication on 30 September to include additional comments from a Department of Social Services spokesperson.