06:25pm Tuesday 25 February 2020

Homeless children let down by patchy services and lack of reforms

Seen and heard: putting children on the homelessness agenda was released by children’s groups including the Institute for Child Protection Studies (ICPS) at Australian Catholic University (ACU).

Drawing on research, including information from frontline staff across 107 specialist homelessness services, the report found that these children were being let down by a lack of clear national targets and patchy support services.

Of the children who accompanied their parent or guardian to a homelessness service last year, almost 72 per cent were under the age of 10.

Professor Morag McArthur, Director of ICPS, said that two years after the release of the Federal Government’s White Paper on tackling homelessness – The Road Home – not enough action had been taken.

“There is little consistency in the services and support provided to children who become homeless when their families do – what they end up getting is pure chance,” she said. “The White Paper made a range of commitments specifically to homeless children, yet little has been done.”

“There have been no clear national targets set, not enough of an increase in resources, and no consistent national framework.

“The impact of homelessness on children is especially disturbing. It has a profoundly negative impact on their health and wellbeing, their engagement with school, their capacity to learn and their connection to friends, family and the community.”

The report calls for prevention, early intervention and better support through:

  • An increased supply of affordable housing
  • Simpler services that are easier to identify, access, and leave
  • Dedicated children’s workers at all specialist homeless services
  • Prioritised housing support for families, especially those with young children
  • A national framework to guarantee consistency and quality of care for homeless children
  • Specific national targets for reducing the number of homeless children
  • Expansion of existing effective programs such as the Household Organisational Management Expenses (HOME) program, which assists families with personal or financial challenges

Professor McArthur said homelessness has a flow-on effect in children’s lives, and it’s essential they get a strong and targeted response from the system.

“The state and federal governments have done some great work around homelessness, but too often the focus has been on single people, and not families with children.”

Seen and heard: putting children on the homelessness agenda is a joint initiative between ICPS, Mission Australia, Hanover Welfare Services, the Australian Centre for Child Protection and the Social Policy Research Centre.

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