Ms Kate Gumley
Chair, Homelessness Working Party
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
PO Box 7576
Canberra Business Centre
NYCH would like to thank the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs for the opportunity to provide a written submission to the 'A National Quality Framework to support quality services for people experiencing homelessness'.
Please find attached the National Youth Coalition for Housing Submission in response to the paper.
NYCH would be happy to make ourselves available to meet with you to expand or clarify the points that we have raised.
TITLE: NYCH Submission to the National Quality Framework
Submission written and prepared by
NYCH Council Delegates
Maria Leebeek (Chair and QLD Delegate): firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Coffey (Vice Chair and NSW Delegate): email@example.com
Brett Paradise (NSW Delegate): firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane Lazzari (Victorian Delegate): email@example.com
Emma Robertson (ACT Delegate): firstname.lastname@example.org
Theresa Moore (TAS Delegate): Theresa.Moore@ynot.org.au
Tracey McNee (NT Delegate): email@example.com
Lisa Laschon (WA Delegate): firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information contact Ms Maria Leebeek Chairperson (email@example.com)
Established in 1982, the National Youth Coalition for Housing (NYCH) is one of three founding members of Homelessness Australia (HA). NYCH focuses on youth homelessness and housing issues and represents the nine State/Territory Youth housing and homelessness sectors including specialist youth homeless providers. The NYCH Constitution outlines the objects of the Coalition as1:
- To provide a national forum for non-government organisations concerned with the provision of, co-ordination of, and activities related to youth housing at State and Territory levels;
- To make representation to, and where appropriate, co-operate with governments and other relevant organisations at Local, State, Federal and International levels in the pursuit of these objects;
- To co-ordinate action around the issues of youth and housing, and other related issues;
- To undertake research related to youth housing
- To facilitate the development of a national youth housing policy
NYCH has a long history of supporting human rights. NYCH has a Charter of Rights, developed in 1995, that has been used a foundation to the organisation and guides the development of NYCH policy.
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NYCH supports the right of all young people to:
- Safe, secure, affordable and adequate housing appropriate to the needs of the young person.
- Adequate, secure and independent incomes not related to age.
- Live free from the threat of physical, emotional or sexual abuse and harassment.
- Resources, services and information that are non-judgmental and non-institutional. These should include a range of gender-specific and ethno-specific services where appropriate.
- Relevant and accessible services including health care, financial assistance, counseling or support services, child care, transport, housing and legal services.
- Participate in design and management of programs or projects directed at young people.
- Services and programs relevant and responsive to cultural, gender, class, sexuality and disability diversity among young people.
- Self determination and Land Rights if Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
- Equal opportunity and affirmative action policies and practices which recognise the discrimination faced by young people on the basis of their age, race, sex, cultural background, disability, class, parenting status or sexual preference.
- Secure paid employment at wage levels equivalent to those of adult workers performing similar duties.
- Free education and participation in education management and curriculum design.
- Non-exploitative and relevant non-compulsory vocational training programs and opportunities.
- Information and support services on issues of concern to young people including incest, sexual abuse, drug and alcohol use, health, parenting and legal rights.
- Freedom from State intervention or incarceration for poverty related offences.
- Parent their children and have access to assistance in parenting at their request.
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There are some additional areas that the NYCH charter does not address that should also be considered in a national human rights framework. These are;
- Privacy - particularly about the collection of personal information of homeless young people as they are vulnerable in terms of perceived or real retributive action if they do not consent;
- Fair hearing;
- Administrative Justice; and
- Freedom of Expression.
RESPONSE TO NQF PAPER
There is no question that homeless young people are entitled to quality services. It would be our contention that if young homeless people had their rights enschrined in legislation, this would ensure recognition of homeless people.
Rights, standards or service charters will only be effective if young people have access to advocates to deal with problems and help make complaints especially the most marginalised and disadvantaged, they are only as effective as the enforcement of compliance and how complaints are responded to
There are 11 key points that the National Quality Framework should take into account:
- The need for national homelessness legislation with service user outcomes focus, including a right to housing, progressively realised.
- A national quality framework that focuses on service user participation and outcomes, including a robust complaints mechanism, will support quality service delivery.
- A national quality framework must embed continuous quality improvement (CQI) in both standards and accountability and/or accreditation processes.
- Evidence demonstrates that implementation of standards in community sector will require financial investment to achieve a national quality framework at both a service and a system level.
- Ongoing commitment and resource will be required to support sector capacity and workforce development to achieve sustained service quality.
- The Federal Government needs to provide leadership and clarification on how they will meet the challenge of identifying a response to homelessness as a key deliverable in a range of National Partnership Agreements (NPAs), including the NPAs for Disability, Healthcare, Indigenous Reform and Education.
- The Framework needs to include a principle of transparency of all parties in service accountability to service users through service user participation in service delivery and CQI process; and in relationships between the funded sector, government and potential external accreditation providers.
- A continuous quality improvement process will not occur overnight and will require ongoing state, territory and federal government commitment to a defined strategic process, including support to organisations to achieve the best outcome.
- The Framework must build on the quality systems and accreditation processes that are already established and embedded in many service funding agreements to recognise existing service quality work and reduce the regulatory burden. Accreditation under an existing specialist homelessness accreditation system should satisfy under the NQF.
- A staged process to the development and implementation of standards needs to allow for the different capacity of services to achieve quality requirements. This will include allowing those more advanced to undertake external accreditation while other services are being supported to achieve service quality.
- The Framework must contribute to an expanding knowledge and research base on youth homelessness by including in the NQF youth-specific data collection methodologies for use by youth homelessness, generalist homelessness and mainstream services. This will capture the evidence to support investment in responding to the high level of youth homelessness.
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NYCH want to highlight the adolescent development issues that impact on young people, families and communities and this must be taken into consideration when developing policy and practice responses. Adolescence is a time for great change for young people and their families.
These changes for young people are at a number of levels:
- Biological - physical
- Psychological - thinking and feeling
- Social - how they relate to the world around them
Adolescent development is generally seen to be in three stages:
- Early adolescence: 12-14 years
- Middle adolescence: 15 -16 years
- Late adolescence: 17 - 19 years
In general NYCH further breaks down the age group into three sub groups:
- 12 -15 year
- 16-18 years and
- 19-25 years.
The rationale for a 'youth specific' service response is that the young people who are in homeless services / supported accommodation are:
- dealing with a range of trauma issues relating to the fact that they are no longer able to live in the family home; and
- have no capacity to move 'back home' should their private rental or other accommodation breakdown so there is a greater need to ensure that young people have the independent social and living skills prior to moving out of supported accommodation.
The report 'Children in the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program'2 highlights research that found that 'half of the children who had experienced homelessness showed major developmental delays and high levels of either aggressiveness or withdrawal'. In fact they cite a number of research studies that demonstrate the negative impact on children and young people's development due to their experiences of homelessness.
The research from Guy Johnstone demonstrates that the impact of not understanding youth homelessness can be seen in the chronic adult homeless population, with a significant proportion of these having experienced homelessness in their youth.
NYCH has articulated a continuum of support framework is consistent with the work of Chamberlain and MacKenzie.
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YOUNG PEOPLE'S STATEMENTS
Young people are very clear when they articulate what quality means.
'Knowing that my worker cares about me makes all the difference. Workers help me to stay in school, otherwise I would drop out.'
Young man in Geelong, 20093
'My year level co-ordinator took me shopping for toiletries and helped me get set up after I had to leave home. It really helped me. She cared about what happened to me and I wasn't doing it all on my own.'
Young woman in Geelong 2009
In the report 'Telling it like it is' report 4in describing the perfect youth worker, one participant responded:
'Actually stops and listens and helps me through things. And doesn't go 'well this is what we'll do' but it's like, well, how would you like to go about it, and what do you want to achieve...this...'
In conclusion young people want to be respected:
'No judgment. That's got to be number one. They can't have any judgments and criticisms... they have to make the time, the patience and also have the connections to make things happen...You want someone who is committed to the job, and is actually there to help. Not something that you can't just walk into and go like 'I've got qualifications at TAFE. I'm a youth worker.' It's not like that anymore...You got to have a worker who knows how to reach inside someone and go 'look, I am not gonna hurt you, I am not gonna tell other people 'bout ya, I am not gonna put judgment and criticism onya, I am gonna help ya to the best of my ability. What do ya wanna...tell me everything I need to know - and to have trust. I wish I had someone'.
- National Youth Coalition for Housing, National Youth Coalition for Housing Constitution, p.1
- Children in the Supported accommodation assistance program, Final Report, August 2005, Social Policy Research Centre, Commonwealth of Australia pg 16
- Youth Forum Geelong, 2009
- Youth Homelessness in the ACT and the Services that Support them (Dec 2004), Youth Coalition of ACT with Morgan Disney and Associates Pty Ltd