Early intervention, collaboration and increased social security: The Centre’s statement on the Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria Final Report

  • The Centre welcomes the findings and recommendations of the Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria, which has found homelessness to be “one of the most complex and distressing expressions of disadvantage and social exclusion in our society and requires immediate attention by government”.
  • Victoria must uphold the rights of the many children experiencing homelessness in our state. Early intervention responses must prioritise the safety and security of children and young people.
  • The needs and experiences of children must be recognised and responded to in all of our service systems, with dedicated resources, training and support to enable this.

Victorian children, young people and their families must be prioritised in responses to homelessness. We know that children’s safety, development and wellbeing are at risk when families do not have a stable place to live.

The Centre welcomes the final report from the Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee’s Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria, which has found that COVID-19 has compounded the challenges faced by Victorians experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

We know that inadequate housing supply, meagre social security payments that keep people in poverty, family violence and conflict, leaving care and poor mental health are all circumstances that can lead to homelessness for children, young people and their families.

The Centre has compiled a summary of the recommendations that relate to children and families, below are some of the highlights.

We commend the Committee for recognising people under 35 as the largest group of people experiencing homelessness in Victoria, and that family violence is the main reason individuals accessing homelessness services seek assistance in Victoria.

The Centre strongly welcomes the Committee’s recommendation that the Victorian Government advocate to the Commonwealth Government to permanently increase the rate of JobSeeker Payment. The failure of the social security system is a significant contributor to homelessness in Victoria. In order to reduce the risk of homelessness among children, young people and families, the rate of JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and related payments must be permanently raised above the poverty line.

The Centre is pleased with the Committee’s recommendation that the Victorian Government implement measures to prioritise outreach to other institutions outside the homelessness sector for the purposes of early intervention. We know that early intervention can change a child’s developmental path. When child and family organisations provide specialist support early, this can improve lifelong outcomes for children and young people.

Following the release of the final report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System earlier this week, the Centre welcomes the Committee’s recommendation that the Victorian Government promote collaborative practice arrangements between mental health and homelessness services, in order to a) make the homelessness and mental health systems easier for individuals to navigate and b) ensure early identification of individuals experiencing mental illness who need support. It is vital that children, families and young people experiencing mental health challenges have access to a range of safe, sustainable and secure housing and support options.

The Centre also notes the Committee’s support of the extension of the Home Stretch program, which saw the Victorian Government pledge to extend care arrangements to every young person in the state to 21 years on an ongoing basis and allocate $64.7 million in the 2020/21 budget to make the program universal. The Committee also noted extra funding has been provided to ensure care leavers are prepared for independent living, and significant extra investments were provided to build additional residential care facilities.

Finally, the Centre applauds the Committee for its recommendation that the Victorian Government commit funding for programs that assist young people who are at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness to receive job readiness training and connect them with employment services. We know that support for children and young people at risk of or experiencing homelessness is most effective when delivered collaboratively between schools and social services.

Child development and family strengthening activities are often impossible when a family does not have a safe, secure and stable place to live. We call on the Victorian Government to action these recommendations as a matter of priority.

Read the Final Report.

Read the Centre’s summary of recommendations relevant to children and families.

Read the Centre’s submission to the Inquiry.

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