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Home, home on the range

On August 4th, Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews launched 2014 Homeless Persons Week where he “reinforced the Coalition’s commitment to help those without safe and secure accommodation.”

Help them with what, I wondered, as every sign to date has indicated that this government is hell bent on increasing the number of homeless people and cutting off all support.  In the hope that I may have missed a new announcement, or was misunderstanding all the funding cuts, I read the media release to see what help was being offered.

Mr Andrews wants to “raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness and the surrounding issues.”

“On any given night in Australia, homelessness is a reality for over 105,000 Australians and these disturbing statistics represent individuals from all walks of life,” he said.

Perhaps it is Kevin’s awareness that needs some work because that figure comes from an ABS media release in 2012 titled 105,000 people homeless on Census night 2011Awareness was raised some time ago so I read on to see how this awareness would translate into action.

Mr Andrews said the Australian Government is committed to adopting a considered, methodical and measured approach to addressing the complex issue of homelessness.

I am growing to hate the word methodical.  It usually presages committees and consultants and coloured papers and millions spent on reviews with little achieved.  But I read on still clinging to the idea that a media release surely contained something concrete.

“We have made a good start with all states and territories signing the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, which will allow us to start working collaboratively to achieve a lasting legacy of helping all Australians find appropriate housing.”

What Mr Andrews fails to point out is that the states and territories already had a signed deal with the previous government and he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to renew the commitment, and in so doing, he cut $44 million that was to be spent on capital works.

Chief Executive of The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia, Dr John Falzon, said “The uncertainty remains despite the Government’s recent announcement that it will extend the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) for another year. Although the NPAH extension was welcome, the spending cut of $44 million to the capital works program aspect of the agreement was not. A commitment to addressing homelessness should be bipartisan. It is homelessness itself that we must cut, not the spending on homelessness.”

With the crisis in youth unemployment, and the government’s focus on “earn or learn”, they also made the inexplicable decision to cut funding to the Youth Connections program which provides funding to local youth services to support young people at risk of disengaging from education and work.

“This is a highly successful program, supporting 30,000 young people each year.  When we have national youth unemployment at 12.2 per cent and many regions as high as 20 per cent we cannot afford to end assistance now,”  Youth Connections National Executive Officer Rebekha Sharkie said.

“What’s more, 93 per cent of young people in the program who had reconnected with education, training or employment for at least 13 weeks, were still working or studying six months after Youth Connections.  That’s an extraordinary level of success and shows that this programme is too important to face the chopping block.”

Jobs Australia CEO David Thompson said the service was needed more than ever and should be extended or replaced with a similar service.

“There is a growing crisis in Australia of youth unemployment and disengagement. Some young people need a lot of support to successfully overcome the challenges and issues in their lives that are holding them back,” Thompson said. “Cutting this program makes no sense from an economic perspective: with an ageing population, we need more young people participating in work. It makes no sense from a social perspective: because if we don’t make the effort to keep young people engaged in education and work, then there’s a greater risk that they’ll engage in anti-social behaviour. And it makes no sense from a Budget perspective because giving up on young people means more of them will end up on the dole, costing the Government money, rather than paying taxes.  Youth Connections fills a critical gap in services and with youth unemployment at crisis levels in some areas, it’s just not the time to be cutting a programme like this.”

One service that will lose funding because of this decision is the Oasis Youth Centre in Sydney.  Run by the Salvation Army, it provides accommodation, case management, and a school which offers tailored programs for its 33 students.

“Students who come into our Oasis Youth Centre have a whole range of complex needs and they can’t attend normal school because of these complex needs they have. We work with them, we tailor the program to suit. Three young ladies who will complete their HSC this year, we have another 19 completing year 11 and then the rest are completing year 10 or completing basic numeracy and literacy classes.

The Youth Connections program, the education program we provide here is very important. So important that we’re going to look at how we can continue this Youth Connections program, the school right here, even after the funding is cut. That means we’ve got to look at the others services we’re providing and just see how we can continue to do this because we see education as an important part of stopping this endless cycle of homelessness. Around 44,000 young people every night homeless, and we’ve got to end this.”

Also affected by the cuts will be the Brimbank/Melton Local Learning and Employment Network which plays a vital role in brokering partnerships and fostering a strategic whole-of-community approach that supports young people’s education, training, transitions and employment outcomes in Melbourne’s west.  Key objectives include improved retention rates and educational outcomes, and improved transition outcome and development of work-ready skills in young people.

The Abbott government has cut $128 million in funding to youth connections, partnership brokers, and the national career advice programs—programs designed to assist young Australians finishing school and getting work.

These three programs are aimed at getting young people into the education and training they need to get a job and then getting them work. Youth Connections has been a fantastically successful program. It’s helped more than 100,000 people already and 80 per cent of people who go through Youth Connections are still in work or training 18 months later.

The average cost of putting a young person through a Youth Connections program is just over $2000.  Youth Connections works, it’s cost effective and it makes absolutely no sense when the Government’s talking about reducing unemployment to cut the very programs that help unemployed young people into the training they need or into the jobs that they can stick to.

Determined to read to the end of Kevin Andrew’s media release, I finally came to his “plan”.

“In the year ahead we will review housing and homelessness policies and programmes to examine ways to improve housing supply and affordability.  This review will feed into the Government’s White Papers on Reform of the Federation and on taxation.”

And there we have the strategy.  Tanya Plibersek warned in her speech during the week that

“The Government’s got a White Paper on Commonwealth-State relations that says basically that housing’s none of the Commonwealth’s business so what happens to public housing funding after June next year, who knows. We know that there were 10,000 more national rental affordability scheme properties to be built. This Government canned them in the most recent Budget as well so that’s 10,000 affordable homes that would have been available under existing funding except this Government has ended that program.”

Victorian Premier Dennis Napthine has warned that the national partnership on homelessness, which provides family violence services and accommodation for the homeless, including the government’s flagship ”Youth Foyers” program in Warrnambool and Ballarat, would be at risk without additional money from the Commonwealth.

When talking about the importance of education in breaking the cycle of homelessness, Tony Abbott made much of his decision to spend $30 million on truancy officers to keep aboriginal kids in school.  He did not mention that his government cut $1.6 million in funding in November for a school bus service that transported students from town camps to five schools in Alice Springs.

Add to this the cuts to legal aid and family violence programs, the closure of many refuges, and the withdrawal of any support for young people for half the year, and it is clear that this government has no concern about a growing problem and are instead exacerbating the situation of our most vulnerable citizens.

Mr Andrews concludes by saying “National Homeless Persons Week is a time for us all to reflect on what we can do to achieve long-lasting results in helping people stay out of chronic homelessness.”

It appears he is reflecting on how to abrogate any federal responsibility by passing the buck to the states.

23 comments

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  1. Terry2

    Kaye. the use of the term “methodical” by the LNP is almost as scary to me as “collegial or collegiate” used by a certain person when he wants to impose his will on the majority.

  2. Tracie

    I saw a few months ago in relation to Senate estimates that this ‘government’ is very determined to fob the issue of homelessness off to the states. They will refuse to pay a cent towards it. When asked how the states are going to pay for it, they didn’t particularly care. They will exacerbate the situation, and sleep well at night.

    Their double talk with absolutely everything is excruciating!

  3. bobrafto

    I just feel sicker and sicker to the stomach to the point that I couldn’t read more than half of this article.

    We are not in a recession that cruel and inhumane treatment can be meted out by these LNP cnuts.

  4. Ricardo29

    Kaye Lee, another brilliant column which nails the hypocrisy of the so called Christian, Andrews. Just another example of this mob’s apparent hatred and intolerance of the needy. One hopes the young and homeless who are missing out will remember when they come to vote. We need to make sure they do: remember and vote.

  5. Hotspringer

    Fight homelessness by not giving the unemployed any income for six months. BRILLIANT!!!
    Once they starve to death – problem solved.

  6. Möbius Ecko

    Another way this Federal government is abrogating any responsibility for their requirements and devolving them not only down to the State level, where they will shift blame to when the bad news starts to flow, but even down to the Local level.

    The government has frozen indexation for subsidies to the Local councils around Australia. This means that even the smallest council will lose over a million dollars in the next four years with larger councils losing significant revenue. The councils have already stated they are implementing cuts to services, such as roads and infrastructure maintenance, and the provision of services, which includes to the homeless.

    As one council poignantly stated that for a PM who sells himself as the infrastructure minister he’s certainly doing a lot to destroy it.

  7. Dan Dark

    Kaye I didn’t read it all either sorry, having 3 kids under 30 they are sickos this lot of god loving white men.That’s the point they want them to starve and die and whammy makes them numbers go down, and all they have to do is cut to the bone, Same with the elderly the sick and single mothers and anyone else that dosnt meet their moral or fiscal views, I am at the sort of end of my life I said to doc last week, give all them tests to a young mum who’s kids need her, or a child who comes from a homeless family that needs medical treatment,
    if they want to quibble about money this gov and how much health care costs them, I am willing to give my seat over to someone younger or worse off than my family
    Gloria did ask Tones on radio that day, do you want me to just go away and die? Yes he does the whole gov do, and it’s really looking like that was the plan all along, Tones is fixated with dead people, so this would be right up his alley, half the population dead from starvation, hyperthermia, diabetes, gassed in a car, or in gaol because crime will hit the roof, and all we will be able to do is read about it in the newspaper, they have got the country by the balls, and if we move a bit, they squeeze harder to keep us in line.

  8. Lurline Hanna

    Quite obviously, the LNP will assist the homeless by making sure there are so many of them that the streets will be crowded and none of them will ever go cold again. And they won’t go hungry either, because when they pass away from preventable causes due to being unable to afford medical care, they’ll be able to eat one another.

    Homelessness fixed, along with many other social problems in one fell (and foul) swoop.

  9. darrel nay

    Thanks Kaye’

    Illuminating these ‘elites’ is essential – they are some of the most efficiently greedy anti-human people in history. We desperately need to be generous and to strengthen the ties that build communities. It is disgraceful that people like Dan Dark have to sacrifice health care for a crumbling health system – he is not the only one.

    The government is engineering homelessness and they should be ashamed – the statistics don’t include all the homelessness they have created in Iraq and Afghanistan with their criminal wars.

    Love each other

  10. David Questel

    The rich elite have declared open war on all others – are they prepared for what might come of this? During the years of the Labour Government the cry of class war often came from the then opposition benches against the government for this – and all the time the plan was theirs. Its clear enough to see that the great wish of the Australian elite is to place themselves in the same position as Americas ruling classes. Unfortunately for them they have never had the courage for a real fight.

  11. DanDark

    when I get home from work I will comment on it Bob, I got to go 🙂

  12. Kaye Lee

    bob,

    That pic is reminiscent of Cher “If I could turn back time” which is certainly what this mob want.

  13. david linehan

    Not wishing to be too mean and a bastard but I recall Salvation Army Officers standing in support of Lying Abbott pre election 2013. Perhaps they have since changed the numbers on the hymn play list For the sake of those youths continued support and their Annual Appeal collections success, they say supporting Abbot was a mistake.
    I know of many who no longer contribute to them, because of it, me included. Like the Catholic Church, they do much good work.

  14. Kaye Lee

    The Federal Government is effectively trying to shut down an advocacy voice in the disability sector through funding cuts, says former Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes.

    “Rachel Ball at the Human Rights Law Centre said something I have requoted because I think it is very powerful. She said: ‘It’s easy to stand atop a mountain of privilege and tell people the people at the bottom of the mountain that privilege is irrelevant’,” Innes said. “And I really do think that that is what this is about. There is a philosophical agenda that is driving these decisions and people aren’t really considering the impact on real people.”

    Innes said as a result of the recent Budget he believes that over the next 12 months to two years, more homelessness and the levels of poverty among people with disabilities will increase.

    “I just think as a community we need to be talking and talking quite publicly about that,” he said. “I really think that Government hasn’t realised the damage it has done with this current Budget. I do believe, I’d like to be wrong, but I do believe homelessness will increase, poverty will increase, there will be decreases in support that people in psychosocial disability will be receiving because of the fact that many will be pushed off the Disability Support Pension. There’s no jobs plans from the Government for people with disabilities.”

    Innes also said it was also important for the sector to speak up over the downgrading of the Disability Discrimination Commissioner role.

    “The current Attorney General doesn’t seem to regard the role as important enough to warrant a full-time Commissioner with lived experience of disability with knowledge of the disability sector – so he’s given it to another one of the Commissioners as a second job,” he said. “As I said, I admire Susan Ryan, she’s a very good operator but she just can’t do that job on top of her current job. As a continuing Commissioner she must work within the constraints of the current Attorney sets.

    “I think that is a real problem for the sector because I was able to use that role to really advocate on broader issues and get publicity on broader issues and not having that capacity at the Commission is a real problem for people with disabilities.

    “The Human Rights Commission can only do what it’s resourced to do and at the moment that resourcing has been taken away from them.

    “Some people in the sector have been critical of the Commission, but this is not a Commission decision. It works within the constraints that the Government gives it.”

    – See more at: http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2014/08/govt-cuts-shutdown-disability-advocacy-innes#sthash.5Q9vltwI.dpuf

  15. Dan Dark

    Bob, I went and watched the video of Cher sitting on the big cannon with her mankini on after reading Kaye’s comment.
    And if you listen to the words, well how fitting, shame he can’t turn back time, and start from scratch
    but then again he thinks he is god, so anything is possible, and his followers or are they his leaders,
    shit now I am confused, but anyways back on track,their fugly faces were so apt to the puppet sitting on the cannon shooting his poison balls on the weakest and poorest at their instruction, geez what a man….not..

  16. Dan Dark

    Bob
    Yeah everyday I wave my magic wand to try and turn back time, before Abbotts time, and everyday it doesn’t work, it’s broken I think nothing happens I wave it and wave it, but nothing,,,,,, but I will keep trying, one day it might just bloody work 🙂
    Who are the ducks in your pic, it’s us plebs isn’t it ? Watching the thieves steal this countries money and anything else they can get their grubby little mitts on…

  17. Dan Dark

    Bob
    Oh I looked at bundles closer after your last comment, yeah can see what u mean, but didn’t notice straight away until You said something, ssssshhhhh don’t tell anyone lol
    but hey you are pointing out the truth, and as for your encounter with Jane Caro, after reading your comment and the pic u attached, she would of thought you were an Abbott troll, u could of easily taken pic and comment the wrong way if you were Jane Caro, we know you so get you, but Jane didn’t, sooo who cares, it’s another day tomorrow of funny bob pics 🙂

  18. John C. Massam, of Greenwood, W.A.

    The States COULD take over the load, if they removed all the exceptions to land tax, and increased it. And if they re-created State banks so they could lend at lower interest rates (The Reserve Bank’s bank rate is FAR higher than that of the U.S.A. and most other developed countries.) The real cost to a bank for creating credit is possibly around half a per cent or less.
    Also, land or houses held vacant by speculators ought to attract a State Government letter to the owner that after three months a prefabricated house will be put on the property (if vacant), or tenants will be moved in, and the State will pay a reasonable rent to the landowner. The letter should add “We know you will appreciate this opportunity of an orderly method to remove Australia’s homelessness problem.”
    The last census revealed that about 10 per cent of Australia’s houses HAD NO OCCUPANTS. Re-read my proposal above. What percentage of serviced vacant house and commercial blocks are being held out of use would make very interesting reading.

  19. Anne Byam

    To Kaye Lee & David Questel. …….. First Kaye – exceptional hard-hitting article. It contains so many examples of the frightening hypocrisy on the part of Andrews and his colleagues, not to mention his ‘boss’. We all know what elitism is, so won’t go any further on that.

    Something David Questel said struck a big chord also, and matched one of your comments Kaye.

    From Kaye : ” Ref. the homeless, education, $13 million to be spent on truancy officers etc. and school bus runs being dropped.”

    From David : ” ….. .” the great wish of the Australian elite is to place themselves in the same position as Americas ruling classes. ”

    Had a visual recognition from all this, which I’d rather not have had.

    One truancy officer to every 20 children. With the reduction in funding for school bus services, how is this ‘making sure they get there’ supposed to be implemented ? Brutally ? Kindly ? With threats ? How ? Herding them like cattle into their respective schools ? It is ludicrous. No doubt the Government would wave their increasingly limp hands, and explain it all away – it’s under review … we are working on the plans …. etc. etc. yada yada yada.

    While I acknowledge the higher rate of truancy in some Aboriginal communities, there are probably many many reasons behind it ( apart from the general mis-behaviour of kids of all ages, kids of all colours, and kids of rural, bush and urban dwelling ). Perhaps many more reasons than we could possibly imagine, or that might ever be found in our suburbs, which are generally speaking, nice, clean, with reasonable utilities and services. – – – – [ Suburban kids skip classes too, but, admittedly not to the same degree. ]

    America’s ruling classes. That goes back a loooong long way. Back to when children, who were to work from dawn to dusk because they belonged to slaves, were rounded up and hunted – more often than not, cruelly into the cotton fields, or any other fields of endeavour that was the whim of some elitist of those old days, particularly in the South.

    That was then, this is now … but there’s a startling match up here – to a degree. This Government claim it is for the welfare of indigenous children. And maybe that IS the idea.

    It’s how it is to be implemented is the burning question – a question I’ll just BET will never get answered. Most likely will be another of their little ‘secrets’. And if it DOES get done, what does that make the truancy officers – jailers ? How do they assess whether a child is ill or not, contagious or not ? ( there’s a great deal more illness in indigenous communities, than in non-indigenous, according to charts I have seen ) … How do the officers keep the children IN school, if they think their families are in trouble or ill ? Threats ? Locking the doors ?

    I shudder to think. In the very BEST of circumstances, with all truancy officers being kind, thoughtful, skilled, with medical certificates etc. …. it is an almost insurmountable task. Perhaps this is just another of the Abbott’s diversions, attempts to get us all ‘on side’ … or not ??? Remains to be seen.

    Think about it ….. on second thoughts, perhaps – don’t.

  20. abbienoiraude

    Another excellent piece from Kaye.
    Sad, frustrating, frightening, factual and horrifying.
    At the end I thought:
    If I didn’t know better this Government comes across as plain ‘crazy’. Crazy is the closest I can come to describing them and yet it is not powerful enough for the reality of their damaging affect on so many.

    Where is the hope?

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