Visiting homelessness expert on what Australia can learn from Wales

Visiting homelessness expert on what Australia can learn from Wales

Australia could benefit from a policy lead approach to reducing homelessness, a model which has been successful in Wales, says visiting expert Dr Peter Mackie.

Homelessness needs to be tackled with legislation according Welsh expert from Cardiff University, Dr Peter Mackie, who is visiting Australia during Homelessness Week 2019.

A guest of RMIT University, Unison and the Council to Homeless Persons, Mackie said a Welsh law passed in 2015 requiring the government the provide more social and affordable housing had reduced demand for crisis accommodation and shelters by 18%.

“In Wales everybody who comes in the door who’s at risk of homelessness gets help and at a minimum it’s the help that’s required to keep a home, or if a person is already homeless, to find a home,” said Mackie.

“We’re now successfully preventing homelessness in nearly 70% of cases. The law has shifted everything earlier and we’re now less focussed on crisis.”

He said the approach was one Australia could benefit from to ease the current shortfall of 433,000 social housing properties nationally (102,800 in Victoria).

“It would drive the provision of more housing because government ultimately has a duty to provide it,” Dr Mackie said.

RMIT Professor of Urban Housing and Homelessness, Guy Johnson, agreed, saying the best way to prevent homelessness is to build more public housing.

“The evidence we have is unequivocal – public housing is the most powerful factor that prevents homelessness among disadvantaged households.”    

06 August 2019

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Johnson is also the Director of the Unison Housing Research Lab at RMIT, a unique partnership that combines academic research and industry knowledge to improve the lives of Australians facing housing issues.

Unison CEO Ed Holmes said that currently over 40,000 households are on the waiting list in Victoria, with more than half of them identified as critical.

“The single, most important factor in preventing and solving homelessness is increasing the supply of social housing,” he said.

Council to Homeless Persons CEO and the Chair of Homelessness Australia, Jenny Smith, said the Welsh model requiring governments to deliver prevention support could be a gamechanger for Australia.

“The value of the Australian Government’s spending on social housing and homelessness services has fallen in real terms by $82 million in the last five years,” she said.

“The Welsh experience demonstrates that our federal government needs to increase, not reduce, its investment in social housing and homelessness services.’’

How the Welsh model works:

  • Duty to prevent homelessness: Local authorities are required to deliver prevention support to all households seeking help who are at risk of homelessness. This is successful for 68% of clients.
  • Help to secure: Of those whose homelessness isn’t prevented, or who only seek help after becoming homeless, local authorities must attempt to secure housing. This is successful for 41% of clients.
  • Duty to secure: For those whose homelessness persists, the local authority has a duty to secure housing if they are in priority need. 80% of these households are successfully accommodated. 

 

Dr Peter Mackie will speak at an event presented by RMIT, Unison and Council to Homeless Persons on Thursday 8 August as part of Homelessness Week, 4 to 10 August. Register to attend.

Story: Grace Taylor

06 August 2019

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  • Society
  • Equality, Diversity & Inclusion
  • Social services

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