The Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness held their twelfth meeting in Canberra on Thursday 3 and Friday 4 November 2011. The Council were pleased to welcome the Hon Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator the Hon Mark Arbib, Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness, and the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for Human Services and Minister for Social Inclusion, who spoke on the progress and priorities within their portfolios in addressing issues for people experiencing or vulnerable to homelessness. The Council considered a range of matters relating to the key priority areas in their forward workplan.
Ensuring vulnerable people experiencing homelessness or at risk are supported to enjoy good health
The Council provided feedback to Government on the sector’s strong support for assistance being rolled out to aged care service providers who specialise in the care of those elderly who were previously homeless. The Council noted that the implementation of such measures must be carefully managed to reach providers needing such support and there is a need for close monitoring of the ongoing adequacy and targeting of funding. The Council identified opportunities for homelessness peak bodies and representatives to contribute valuable information to Government consultations for the development and implementation of mental health initiatives. The Council explored how the sector could assist in informing the coordination and integration of these measures to support people who are vulnerable to homelessness, and is seeking opportunities with relevant departments to enable this.
Enhancing service delivery, including through service integration
Minister Plibersek and her department engaged the Council in discussions on Service Delivery Reform—particularly in relation to service integration and coordination opportunities presented by the amalgamation of key Government agencies. The Council are supportive of the portfolio’s approach in increasingly leveraging available data to inform service delivery and will continue to engage with the Department of Human Services to support the development of programs to provide preventative, integrated and holistic support to customers of Government agencies.
Addressing Indigenous homelessness
The Council spoke further at this meeting about issues relating to Indigenous housing and homelessness, including the challenges presented by the changing demographics of the Indigenous population and the adequacy and effectiveness of current programs and models supporting this vulnerable group. The Council have a particular interest in promoting effective ways of addressing and preventing homelessness amongst Indigenous youth, including to support their connection with education and training. The Council intends to engage with stakeholders and leaders in this area in the year ahead.
Ensuring vulnerable people experiencing homelessness are supported to pursue aspirations for economic and educational participation
Council members reflected on the importance of social and economic participation activities for people vulnerable to homelessness in strengthening their engagement and self-esteem. The Council continues to work with relevant Government departments to progress the participation-related White Paper targets, as well as Government’s capability to measure and be accountable for these outcomes. In monitoring these matters, members continue to urge departments to improve their analysis and synthesis of existing evidence, and to plan for improved collection of data in the lead up to the assessment of the 2013 interim targets.
Maintaining the focus on data and research to provide evidence-based advice
The Council received several presentations on research and data related activities, including on the valuable synthesis work being progressed by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute. A comprehensive briefing on the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children was of significant interest to members due to its key intersections with the work of the Council and the current focus on developing a robust evidence base to inform activities and measure outcomes. The Council continues to actively monitor the government’s capacity to measure and be accountable for homelessness targets and outcomes.
The Council’s first meeting in the New Year will be held in February.