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Discussion Paper - Homelessness Australia.doc

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					A Discussion Paper on the National Affordable Housing
                    Agreement

About Homelessness Australia

This discussion paper was prepared on behalf of Homelessness Australia.

Homelessness Australia is the national peak body working to prevent and respond
to homelessness in Australia.

Homelessness Australia advocates for people who are homeless, aims to
represent the interests of homeless services and contributes to policy development
and the evaluation of Australia’s homelessness service system. Through our
networks we represent more than 1,000 agencies.

National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA)
As part of the Australian Government’s National Reform Agenda, the Council of
Australian Governments (COAG) has decided to consolidate 92 special purpose
payments into 5 payments.

The NAHA will be one of these new payments, and according to the Government it
will include:
 Australia’s network of homeless services, the Supported Accommodation
    Assistance Program (SAAP), responsible for helping almost 190,000 people
    every year1,
 public, community and other housing provided under the previous
    Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement (CSHA), and
 a number of other programs, such as Rent Assistance.

Homelessness Australia is releasing this discussion paper in order to draw
attention to a number of issues that we believe remain unclear or unresolved.

What will be the impact on the ground for homeless services?

Funding for Australia’s network of homeless services (SAAP) will now be included
in the NAHA. This includes funding for women’s refuges, youth shelters, men’s
shelters, and many other programs such as outreach services, drop in centres and
living skills programs.

Funding for homeless services has become seriously stretched in recent years.
Since 1996, the amount of funding an agency receives each time its supports a
client has fallen in real terms, from $3,150 in 1996 to $3,050 last year. 2

1
    AIHW 2008, Homeless People in SAAP: SAAP National data collection annual report 2006-07, p.9
2
    AIHW 2008, Homeless People in SAAP: SAAP National data collection annual report 2006-07, p.88
There are a range of other issues facing the funding of homeless services in
Australia as well. Homeless services have never recognised children as clients.
This means that agencies cannot provide services for children in a planned and co-
ordinated way. Last year, more than 69,000 children accompanied their parent(s)
to a homeless service.3

Levels of unmet demand for homeless services are chronically high. Nationally,
one in every 2 people who approach a homeless service seeking help are turned
away each day.

The sector is looking for Federal and State/Territory Governments to give some
answers to the following questions:

      Will SAAP continue to be a specific program under the NAHA?

      Will States/Territories have the discretion to re-direct homeless funding at other
       areas under the Agreement?

      Can Governments give a commitment that funding for services will at least be
       maintained at current levels?

      Will children be funded as clients under the new arrangements?

      What work is being done to address unmet demand?

Will States Be Required to Match Funding?

Under the CSHA and SAAP agreements, the State and Territory Governments
were required to allocate funding of their own for homeless services, and for public
and community housing.

While the Commonwealth has indicated that overall levels of funding to the States
and Territories will not be reduced, it has not made a clear commitment that States
and Territories will have to maintain their funding under these agreements. It may
also foreseeable that states may move funding from some sectors and into others.

Targets, Outcomes and Funding

It is understood that the new NAHA may include statements of objectives,
outcomes, and outputs.

There are a number of issues to consider when targets or outcomes are set,
including the following:



3
    ibid, p.9

                                                                             Page 2 of 3
   Is the target realistic: Can we expect to cut the rate of homelessness by half if
    there is no substantial funding increase directed toward homelessness in the
    NAHA? What about other factors like rising rents or housing costs, or even
    macro-economic forces?

   How are targets affected by other programs, or other consolidated SPPs?: Is
    there scope in the NAHA to work with other departments or areas that affect
    sustainable housing outcomes, such as health and education? Could money
    flow from education or other areas to help accommodation and housing, given
    that, for example, accommodation may help youth stay in school?

   What happens if the targets are not met?: While setting targets is an important
    step, what happens if states fail to meet these targets? Can the NAHA be
    adapted or reviewed, will funding be increased or decreased as a result, and
    will funding be more specifically targeted? What would be the next step if the
    NAHA goals were met with success?

What are we potentially going to lose when we consolidate SPPs?

There are currently more than 90 specific purpose payments that the government
hopes to consolidate. Merely placing these together into 5 or 6 “omnibus” SPPs
would in fact work for appreciably little gain. Presumably the Government will look
to streamline the administration of its programs. In this case, there are a number of
elements about the current administration of SAAP that might be lost.

The Supported Accommodation Assistance Act which the program is administered
under will potentially have to be repealed. The SAAP Act is a significant piece of
legislation. Its sets out a definition of homelessness, and those at risk of
homelessness that is distinctive in its scope.

SAAP has its own governance arrangements. It is administered by a committee
made up of Federal and State/Territory officials that looks specifically at the
implementation of the program. If there is only one inter-governmental committee
under the NAHA, homeless service delivery will become one in a very long list of
things that will be looked after. SAAP needs to get the time and attention it
deserves.

Research and Evaluation

Under both SAAP and the CSHA, there have been explicit commitments for
research funding, evaluation, and data sets that accompany each program.

While it is believed that these funds will be a part of the new NAHA, it is not yet
known what form they will take, or what guarantees and designs will be put in place
with regards to research and evaluation. Will each section of the NAHA continue to
have its own independent funding and basis for datasets and research? Will some
data sets be eliminated or consolidated into others? Will the states each be
responsible for their own data sets and evaluations?

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