19/11/2013 - 14:35

Federal hit to homeless funding

19/11/2013 - 14:35

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Groups working to reduce homelessness in Western Australia have criticised the imminent dissolution of a top-level government advisory board set up by Labor.

Federal hit to homeless funding
BACKWARD STEP: Ian Carter says winding down the Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness, of which he’s a member, is short sighted. Photo: Grant Currall.

Groups working to reduce homelessness in Western Australia have criticised the imminent dissolution of a top-level government advisory board set up by Labor.

The Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness was formed by the (first) Rudd government in 2009 to implement its white paper on homelessness, which called on all levels of government, business, the not-for-profit sector and the community to work together to get people off the streets.

Its membership includes Anglicare WA’s chief executive Ian Carter, who has spoken out against the decision by the Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews to wind down the council.

In a recent speech to the National Housing Conference, Mr Andrews said homelessness had increased in recent years and suggested the council had therefore been ineffective in its role.

Mr Carter disagreed with the minister’s assessment, and told Business News the council hadn’t been given a chance to prove its worth.

“This is one of the most effective groups that I’ve been involved in … to me it was a very effective council and it played a very important role as we sought to understand homelessness,” he said.

Mr Carter said the council had a significant impact on homelessness agendas, including launching a number of initiatives that needed time to work.

“I think any service system takes a long time to turn around and reform,” he said.

“When people talk about changing the education system they talk about a decade to turn the ship around – the homelessness system is not too different from that.”

Mr Andrews also has indicated the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness and the National Affordable Housing Agreement may be reformed, with no promise of continued funding.

“From the Commonwealth’s perspective, it feels like we are simply throwing money over the fence,” Mr Andrews said with regard to more than $6 billion in federal funding given to states to increase affordable housing.

The current agreements expire at the end of June next year.

Western Australian Council of Social Services chief executive Irina Cattalini said affordable housing providers relied on that funding because of the low level of private investment in the sector.

Ms Cattalini told Busisness News federal reforms needed to be made to support institutional investment on the scale that would turn around the housing affordability crisis.

“We need to rethink our approach to affordable housing so that we see it as a long-term investment in infrastructure that drives the productivity of our economy – the same way we view ports, roads and rail,” Ms Cattalini said.

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