Communiqué - Meeting 15, Canberra, 15 and 16 August 2012

The Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness held its fifteenth meeting in Canberra on Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 August 2012.  Discussions focussed on the Council’s key priorities for the final year of its current term and on future developments in the homelessness reform agenda.

The Council was pleased to have the opportunity to again engage with the Hon Brendan O’Connor MP, the Minister for Housing and Minister for Homelessness.  The Council also welcomed the attendance and engagement of the Hon Kate Ellis MP, the Minister for Employment Participation and the Hon Mark Butler, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing.

National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness

The Council reinforced its earlier advice to Minister O’Connor that continued investment in a mechanism such as the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness was key to leveraging greater State and Territory investment and interest in reducing homelessness.  Following detailed consideration of current arrangements and future priorities, the Council will shortly be providing its advice to the Government.

Homelessness evidence base

The Council values the efforts made by the Government to improve data collection and analysis around homelessness.  Robust data and a solid evidence base are vital to measuring progress towards the targets outlined in the White Paper, The Road Home.  Continued investment in increasingly sophisticated data collection is an important driver of gaining a comprehensive picture on homelessness.  The Council supports the ground-breaking Journeys Home study, which provides a rich longitudinal data set that is essential for understanding homelessness trends and pathways over time.  The forthcoming release of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Counting the Homeless estimates will further contribute to the evidence base.

Indigenous and other highly disadvantaged young people

Further to the visit of a small delegation to Alice Springs earlier this year, the Council is developing advice on opportunities for the Commonwealth to trigger investment in integrated accommodation, training and education initiatives for vulnerable young people at risk of homelessness.

Employment and homelessness

Minister Ellis informed the Council of the success of the Wage Connect program aimed at supporting the very long-term unemployed.  The success of such a program can only serve to improve the lives of those previously unable to participate in the workforce.  The Council agreed that linkages between employment service providers and other community sector services would assist in creating seamless support services for those in the community who are most vulnerable.  The Council was encouraged by the discussions with Minister Ellis regarding further research, consultation and evaluation of key employment related services.  The lessons learnt will be valuable in structuring future Government programs for the most vulnerable job seekers in our community.

Aged care and mental health reforms

The Council was pleased to engage with Minister Butler and officials from the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) on matters relating to the aged care and mental health reforms.  The Council is encouraged by the increased Commonwealth investment in mental health, including the expansion of headspace services across the country. headspace is an important point of contact for vulnerable young people and represents a significant service that could be tailored to prevent homelessness.  The Council will continue its close liaison with DoHA and headspace to provide advice on strategies that headspace might employ in assisting this vulnerable cohort of young people.

Next meeting

There will be one further Council meeting held in this calendar year; this is tentatively scheduled for November 2012.

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