Funding for the National Partnership Agreement on Housing (NPAH) currently expires on 30 June 2014
Women’s Health West uses NPAH funds to help women who have experienced family violence improve home security and obtain court intervention orders as well as supporting families with crisis accommodation.
Funding for the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness expires on 30 June this year. The NPAH funding was a three-year agreement (followed by an additional one-year transitional agreement) that enabled the implementation of major national homelessness programs like Safe at Home as well as improving local services and introducing innovations such as ‘enhanced after hours’.
State governments matched funding and managed the funding process.
NPAH funding resulted in new services and increased capacity for many specialist homelessness services. Many innovations are local, smart and focus on early intervention.
Women’s Health West (WHW) is funded under Safe at Home to support 29 women to remain safely in their own home after experiencing family violence. Once the perpetrator has left this is a highly successful early intervention strategy to divert women and their children away from homelessness. We supported a total of 57 women and 93 accompanying children during 2012-13.
In the last financial year alone, Women’s Health West used Safe at Home funds to:
- Improve the safety of 53 families through 108 security installations, upgrades and/or repairs using a total of $9,649 in brokerage funds
- Provide court support to 42 women to obtain intervention orders; 41 orders included a clause to exclude the perpetrator from the home
- Support 2 families to find interim crisis accommodation to be safe while they waited for their intervention orders to be finalised
Statistics for the six months to date from July – December 2013 show a continuing upward trend in reporting, with 2990 police referrals to Women’s Health West (compared with 2207 for the same period in the previous year). This constitutes a 35.5 per cent increase on the same period last year.
The NPAH also provides funds to WHW for an enhanced after hours crisis response. Family violence most often occurs after 5pm and over the weekend when families are together. As such, the 24-hour family violence crisis response program is a critical component of our service. Crisis workers provide immediate face-to-face support to women and their accompanying children who are at police stations and local hospitals because of a family violence incident.
This program also funds us to work in partnership with McAuley Community Services for Women to provide a weekend worker who responded to 737 referrals from Victoria Police in 2012/13 alone. Responses to police referrals included telephone contact, risk assessments, safety planning, information about legal processes, referral to Women’s Health West’s court support, case management and other support services.
Finally, NPAH provides funding for ‘A Place to Call Home’ that offers stable housing by transferring available transitional housing properties to public housing and eliminating the need to relocate a family multiple times. This program also offers intensive case management and financial support to families who have experienced family violence to reduce the impact of homelessness. In 2012/13 WHW provided case management for 7 clients under this program. Of these clients, 3 received an APTCH property and brokerage, and 4 required brokerage funds alone.
Without NPAH funding each of these programs will end.
Write to the Prime Minister
Our CEO Dr Robyn Gregory has written to the Prime Minister — as minister responsible for women’s policies and programs — urging him to renew the agreement.
Please feel free to use this content and the background above to write your own letter. It would assist us greatly with the campaign to secure an agreement and ensure ongoing services by WHW and across Victoria.
Dear Prime Minister
I am writing to you on behalf of the Western Region Integrated Family Violence Partnership (WIFVP), including in your role as minister responsible for women’s policies and programs, to urge you to commit to renewing the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.
This agreement makes up a significant proportion of Victoria’s homelessness funding and has been critical in establishing innovative programs to tackle homelessness since 2009.
The WIFVP is a consortium of family violence, community health, and child and family services agencies that work across western metropolitan Melbourne to deliver integrated family violence services to women and children. We currently receive funds under the NPAH to deliver:
- A crisis response program that meets women and children at police stations and hospitals to provide an immediate service following a family violence incident
- An enhanced after hours program that responds to police referrals following family violence incidence on weekends
- A Safe at Home program that supports women and children to remain in their own home, where it is safe to do so, and have the perpetrator leave
- A Place to Call Home program, which swaps transitional housing for permanent accommodation so women and children avoid yet another move
These programs have been instrumental in reducing homelessness among women and children in our region. If the NPAH is not continued after 30 June, these programs will cease to operate.
The impact of family violence on homelessness
Family violence is the overwhelming reason women seek housing assistance. Statistics show that, in 2010, one in every two women with children seeking homelessness services was escaping a violent home situation. Since that time, reported rates of family violence have increased exponentially. In 2013-2014 the increase was around 35 per cent.
Without adequate support and housing options, women and children stay or return to violent homes, entrenching a cycle of violence, homelessness and intergenerational disadvantage. This cycle can have traumatic and long-term consequences for women and their children.
This cycle is also costly – to government, to communities and to families. Women who experience violence are far more likely to engage in alcohol and other substance (mis)use as a coping mechanism, vastly increasing their risk of ill-health and disease. They report poorer general physical and mental wellbeing; are at increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and a range of gynaecological problems; are more prone to adverse pregnancy outcomes; and are more likely to experience an unplanned pregnancy and seek an abortion when compared to women who live free from violence.
The dislocation caused by the loss of home significantly increases the already traumatic impact of family violence, with homelessness compounded by the loss of relationships and support networks that accompany a move for safety reasons.
Family violence and homelessness also limit participation in the labour force, affecting women’s ability to generate independent financial resources to gain and sustain housing.
Our NPAH programs act at key transition points to secure safe accommodation, reduce or avoid homelessness and provide the support required to sustain housing.
Children, family violence and homelessness
Around 65 per cent of WIFVP clients have children accompanying them. Most of them have either witnessed or experienced family violence, leading to significant psychological distress, health problems, educational disruption and ongoing poverty. They are more likely to be ill, more likely to become isolated, and can become withdrawn, unsettled, angry, even suicidal.
Children who experience homelessness are also more likely to become homeless as adults. This is because the combination of disruption in schooling and other support and resilience-building networks, coupled with an increase in emotional and behavioural problems as a result of experiencing and/or witnessing family violence, can lead to school refusal and an associated cycle of intergenerational disadvantage. Women who suffer childhood abuse are also over-represented in family violence statistics, suggesting that any efforts we make to limit children’s exposure to violence will prevent future incidences of family violence and homelessness.
Reducing the number of times women and their children must move prior to securing permanent housing will reduce these problems. This is the role of our NPAH-funded programs.
We have a moral obligation to secure women’s and children’s right to live free from violence and homelessness. Funding programs that prevent further violence and homelessness is a sound economic investment in Australia’s future.
We urge you to commit to renewing this agreement.
We look forward to hearing from your office and would be pleased to provide further information.
Dr Robyn Gregory
Chief Executive Officer
Women’s Health West
Cc The Hon. Kevin Andrews, Minister for Social Services