Page 1350 - Week 04 - Thursday, 10 April 2008

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health issues. The ACT Shelter 2008-09 budget submission is concerned that the extent to which specific funds have since been provided is unclear. However, SAAP services themselves are saying that there is a need to invest more in this area. Breaking the cycle also recognises that the number of young people experiencing homelessness aged between 13 and 15 years is increasing, and added that their needs are complex and they require not just accommodation but also support services to prevent the cycle of homelessness and poverty.

DHCS commissioned a report by the Australian Catholic Universities Institute of Child Protection Studies on children’s experience of homeless in the ACT. The report captures the trauma and anxiety surrounding children’s experiences of housing instability.

Many have welcomed the ACT government’s initiatives to assist homeless young people through the stairwell and pathways programs. However, both of these initiatives are worker intensive—the pathways program through extra planning, consultation and implementation meetings, and the stairwell project through increased outreach support. It is essential that the ACT government provides youth SAAP services with sustainable funding to ensure the success of these initiatives.

Meanwhile, public housing for lower income young people who are not homeless has been tightened by the eligibility income test and targeting of the waiting list. It is for this reason that ACT Shelter welcomed the recently announced Housing ACT initiative to let units to young people who have been waiting on the ACT Shelter 2008 budget priorities standard list for some length of time. The key theme that has emerged from ACTCOSS consultations is the urgent need for more exit points from SAAP services.

The ACT has the highest proportion of all states and territories of service users, supported for more than six months—14 per cent compared to the Australian figure of 6.3 per cent. Average length of support in the ACT was 86 days, compared to the national average of 48 days.

The most recent ACTCOSS budget submission states that there is a bottleneck in SAAP services, meaning that people who are homeless or in insecure accommodation do not have access to these services. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported that in 2004-05 the ACT had a substantially higher average daily turn-away rate, 71 per cent, for people requesting SAAP accommodation than the other states and territories. We need more exit points from SAAP but we are pleased that the government is moving to provide transitional housing to ease the pressure on the SAAP system.

In announcing the 2006-07 $1 million budget cut to SAAP, the government indicated that the cut would not result in a reduction in the number of beds. However, the cuts did not take into consideration the support services that are needed to help people in those beds, and a number of services reported to ACTCOSS that they had been forced to reduce their staffing levels and the level of service they can provide.

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