Housing SA

Extract from Hansard - House of Assembly 16 October 2019

Public housing and homelessness is a significant social problem across Australia. This very significant social problem is particularly relevant to me as the member for Adelaide and also the Minister for Child Protection. In my electorate and specifically within the CBD, September figures provided from the Adelaide Zero Project by-name list show that 163 people were identified as sleeping rough at 18 September, compared with 208 in August and greater numbers in July, June and May.

This reduction, while acknowledging the figures can fluctuate, is a step in the right direction thanks to the work of the South Australian Housing Authority and homelessness service providers. The reopening earlier this month of a boarding house in Waymouth Street provides an opportunity for couples and people with pets to seek assistance. Pets and couples, not typically accepted into boarding houses, will be able to sleep safe and access specialised services in this transitional accommodation.

Shockingly, at the time of forming government an asset condition report of housing stock had not been conducted since 2003. Further, the triennial review into the South Australian Housing Trust conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, tabled last year, demonstrated that assets not sold off had been left neglected, leaving a maintenance backlog bill anticipated to be hundreds of millions of dollars.

In this year's state budget, a $42.2 million housing stimulus package was announced, comprising a $21.4 million construction program and a $21.1 million preventative maintenance and upgrade program. This will make some inroads into addressing the legacy of Labor's blatant disregard for the critical need to maintain housing stock at appropriate levels and in good habitable condition, and to provide residents with dignity and respect.

The establishment of the Housing and Homelessness Taskforce to lead the reform and the development of this government's housing and homelessness strategy, along with the appointment of Ian Cox, who many will know was the driving force behind the Hutt St Centre, who will lead the new Office of Homelessness Sector Integration, are very significant. With this in mind, there is a clear direction to build the necessary framework to meet the 10-year vision that all South Australians have access to appropriate and affordable housing that contributes to social inclusion and economic participation.

Within my local community, I work to support various service providers who focus on supporting those vulnerable South Australians who are facing homelessness. Sadly, of the more than 21,000 people who sought the assistance of the South Australian Specialist Homelessness Services in the 2017-18 year under the former government, almost two-thirds were impacted by domestic violence, drugs and/or alcohol and mental health, or in some cases a combination of all three. These are also the three main contributing factors resulting in children needing to enter the child protection system. The correlation reminds us of how important a whole-of-government approach is to these social issues.

Research also shows that youth who are in foster care and juvenile justice settings are at increased risk of becoming homeless compared with other young people. The national Swinburne study on youth homelessness identified that 63 per cent of Australia's homeless young people were care leavers. The Transitioning from Care report card stated that as many as 40 per cent of young people discharged from statutory care experience homelessness within 12 months of exiting. To combat this, one of the first policies taken to the 2018 election was Stability in Foster Care. I am proud this commitment was met inside our first 100 days, fully budgeted and, since the 1 January 2019, fully implemented so that foster and kinship carer payments have now been extended to the age of 21.

There are clear operational protocols between DCP and Housing SA, ensuring the two agencies work collaboratively in the interests of all young people who are transitioning from care into independent living, as well as providing support by DCP caseworkers and/or Housing SA workers where appropriate. The Department for Child Protection also works with CREATE and Relationships Australia to support those transitioning from care into independent living and can direct care leavers to apply for the Transition to Independent Living Allowance paid through the commonwealth Department of Social Services and grants from the Dame Roma Mitchell Trust.

Another program delivering supports to young people aged up to 21 in Upper Spencer Gulf who are leaving care is the Transition to Adult Life Intensive program. This program involves intensive case management services, peer mentoring and assistance to access education and employment. It is imperative that young people in care who are transitioning to independent living have access to these services to support them on their path to adulthood. These are all key features to equip young people with the life skills necessary to reach their potential and prevent homelessness. I applaud the inroads made by my colleague, minister Lensink in the upper house, in the area of homelessness and commend the motion as amended by the Attorney-General to the house.