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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (5 March) . . Page.. 591 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

The final recommendations of the Status of Women in the ACT report, the needs analysis of homelessness in the ACT, and the report on accommodation and support services for homeless men and their children, all called for more mental health outreach workers, yet we still have not seen any new positions created.

Many people become mentally ill or stay ill longer because they cannot maintain stable housing, yet many people are discharged from hospital or leave crisis accommodation before they are in a financial or psychological position to locate or maintain appropriate housing. It simply isn't socially responsible, or even cost effective, to have people cycling through or slipping through our crisis services.

I have heard that, this year, hundreds of people have already been turned away from our crisis accommodation services. These crisis accommodation services are reporting that these are people they have seen before-that people are going through a tragic cycle of spending time in the crisis services, getting things together, but not having extended support as they move back into the community. Hence, they lapse back into crisis and end up knocking on the doors of the crisis services again.

Our crisis services are stretched to breaking point-that cannot be denied. There are many ways in which we can assist our crisis accommodation services to support people in need. An easy answer is more beds, but the provision of outreach workers is an important aspect of that. They help people who are not currently in crisis, either as they are moving out of crisis or before they are counted as being in crisis. I think that is a far better solution, as prevention is better than cure in working through social problems, and that is part of the aim.

We know outreach workers with expertise in mental health will provide support for people before they find themselves in crisis, and help them to make the transition to a self-sufficient life. The workers will be able to provide counselling and the practical help people need, such as assistance in dealing with rental arrears, finding employment and getting medical treatment.

Sometimes people move on from crisis accommodation, before their lives are stable enough to enable them to maintain their new situation. If they are not given support, they are back at the doors of the crisis accommodation services within a few months. We must take action to break this vicious cycle.

I think this Assembly, this government and the former government have heard sufficient evidence-there have been countless reports, submissions and activities of lobbying by SAPP services-from people who have been through crisis accommodation and from people who provide support to our community, that, a priority, outreach workers are needed. I hope the Assembly will support this motion, so we see more mental health outreach workers engaged, as soon as possible-and in the 2003-04 financial year.

MRS BURKE (6.38): I give my full support to Ms Dundas's call for the government to act quickly to recruit more mental health outreach workers. I believe that, at this stage, in the order of three or four would be very helpful. We have had enough of government rhetoric, and there have been enough reviews. Now is the time for action. It is time to listen to the community and meet the unmet need.

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