Page 1967 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 3 June 2015

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MS FITZHARRIS: Minister, how does the extension of better services funding support social inclusion for Canberrans who are doing it tough?

MS BERRY: Thank you for your question, Ms Fitzharris. The extension of funding for the human services gateway and strengthening families initiatives offers an opportunity to continue two programs that are already delivering results for the community.

The experience of families in the strengthening families pilot shows us what the better services program means on the ground. Every family in this program has complex needs. Sixty-nine per cent of families experience mental illness, 46 per cent have disabilities and 38 per cent are involved with care and protection services. Strengthening families addresses this by assigning a worker who helps the family identify where in their lives they think they need the support to be included and enjoy life in our community.

For one family, getting services right for their son who had a significant disability meant that they had the time and the energy to give to their other two children the support that they needed. It is a marker of success that as this family have moved through the strengthening families program they have focused on creating connections and building a community network that will work alongside their formal support to ensure they are better included and connected in our community.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms Fitzharris.

MS FITZHARRIS: Minister, what is the government doing to improve its support for public housing tenants and to make it easier for them to be part of their community?

MS BERRY: As I mentioned, we are making a once-in-a-generation commitment to renew our public housing stock. In this budget we are committing $159 million to build new, modern homes. We are building new homes across Canberra’s suburbs and town centres because we want grandparents to have room for the grandkids to stay, because we want kids to be able to stay at their local school, and because we want people with disabilities to be able to live in houses that meet their needs.

But we are also doing it because the foundation of inclusion is in making sure that we get the basics right. We want to provide tenants with a house that is affordable to heat, that enjoys natural sunlight, has modern noise insulation and is modifiable to meet people’s differing abilities. We want to provide houses where, on a crisp morning like this morning, you can turn the heater on, get the house warm, flick on the kettle and enjoy a quiet cuppa in a sunny spot in the house.

The reality is that much of our high density housing stock could never be modified or modernised to guarantee people these simple comforts. So we are committed to building more modern homes than can do so.

Mr Barr: I ask that all further questions be placed on the notice paper.

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