Homelessness charities warn against Government funding cuts to homelessness services
Mission Australia, the St Vincent de Paul Society, Wesley Mission and The Salvation Army have joined forces to call on the Federal Government not to cut $57 million from homelessness services. The homelessness charities warn that the impending cuts will leave frontline workers and people facing homelessness in the lurch when the $56.7 million Federal funding for Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) supplementation for homelessness services stops in June 2021.
Unless the Federal Government agrees to fully fund these services, homelessness programs across Australia are under threat of losing millions of dollars of funding from July this year. These vital homelessness programs provide emergency and long-term accommodation plus other supports to people without housing, including women and children escaping domestic violence.
Mission Australia CEO, James Toomey says: “If the Government cuts millions of dollars from homelessness services, there will be more than 500 fewer frontline workers helping people to find housing and other services they need.
“Domestic and family violence has risen during COVID-19 and emergency accommodation services are needed now more than ever. Through our homelessness services, Mission Australia helps more than 11,500 people affected by homelessness each year, including women and children escaping domestic violence.
“Homelessness is likely to increase when JobKeeper ends and the JobSeeker payment is reduced at the end of this month. This will lead to a rise in demand for these vital homelessness services.
“Removing the ERO at this crucial time in the country’s COVID-19 recovery phase will have the effect of taking staff away from vital services at a time of great need and upswing in demand.
“This is an easy ask of Government. Now is not the time to try to save $57 million at the expense of people facing homelessness and the programs that support them. The amount needed to keep these vital homelessness services afloat is around 10 per cent of what was immediately pledged to Aged Care this month.”
St Vincent de Paul Society National Council CEO, Toby O’Connor says: “We know that the leading cause of homelessness for women and children is domestic violence and that vulnerable young people are forced to couch-surf before they approach homelessness services for help. Let’s not make it worse for them by cutting these important services.”
Wesley Mission CEO, Rev Stu Cameron says: “The Federal Government has already committed to continue funding for ERO supplementation across much of the social services sector, ensuring fair pay for a predominantly female workforce. But no provision has been made for our dedicated homelessness workers.
“Australia’s homelessness services don’t have enough funding to meet demand. Existing clients require charities to stretch available resources as far as possible, with the Productivity Commission reporting that 33.6% of clients had unmet accommodation needs and 2.1% for services other than accommodation in the last year. Let alone all the young people, individuals and families in our communities who will need our support.
“Without continued funding for ERO supplementation, homelessness services will help fewer people when there is already much more to do. Preventing and addressing homelessness must remain our focus.
“An untimely decision, even more so when considering the compounding effects of COVID-19.”
The Salvation Army’s Head of Social Mission, Major Jenny Begent says: “With homelessness services across the country continuing to be stretched due to ongoing housing affordability issues and the impacts of COVID-19, it is crucial that the Australian Government maintain funding levels just to ensure the status quo.
“Without adequate funding to meet ERO supplementation payments, homelessness providers will be forced to cut services to make up the shortfall at a time where demand already far exceeds the capacity for services to respond.”
 The Federal Government funds Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) supplementation to contribute towards the increased staff costs resulting from the 2012 Fair Work Commission decision to increase community sector wages. The planned cut will reduce funding to pre-ERO levels, though staff will continue to be paid at the increased rate, resulting in fewer staff employed.