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Monday, 10 September 1984
Page: 690

Senator ZAKHAROV —My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. What steps is the Government taking to alleviate the serious shortage of emergency accommodation for young people both in the Australian Capital Territory and in the States?

Senator GRIMES —The Government is aware of the difficulty facing young people who need emergency accommodation, although part of that problem has been created in the past as much by a lack of long term and medium term accommodation as by a lack of emergency accommodation in the form of shelters. There has been a bottle -neck in emergency accommodation in both the Australian Capital Territory and the various States which has created this difficulty at the start of the process of homelessness in this group. The 1984-85 Budget provides an increase in funding for a new national program of services to assist homeless youth, women in crisis and also the chronically homeless. The proposed new program-the supported accommodation assistance program-is designed to consolidate and improve a number of existing Commonwealth and State programs and will be jointly administered and funded. One problem that has faced us in the past, which arose out of the inquiry into homelessness established by the previous Government, is that there has been no rhyme or reason, and no long term plan for dealing with the problem of homelessness in the community. There has been no co-ordination between the States and the Commonwealth.

In this financial year Commonwealth funding to the equivalent of $27m will be provided, increasing by a further $9.2m to a total of $36.4m next financial year . The funding available in this allocation represents a 100 per cent increase on the amount spent on these services by the Federal Government in 1983-84. The concept and general principles of the new program have been agreed to by the States. Bilaterial negotiations are continuing to clarify the situation as far as administrative functions are concerned. But I expect that point to be resolved very soon and the new program, I hope, will come into effect on 1 January 1985 and will run until 30 June 1989. The program is designed to build on existing plans for women, youth, and the chronically homeless, improving the co-ordination, delivery and standard of these activities. In 1984-85, funding will be the equivalent of $8.1m for the youth supported accommodation program, $ 7.83m for the women's emergency services program and $10.89m for the general supported accommodation program. I hope that in the future we will have a better system of planning and that we will be able to expand the program in the certainty that money is going to the right places, and that it will be administered properly. In that way I believe we will greatly improve the services available, not only to youth but also to homeless people generally in the community.