LABOR MPs and candidates have launched a campaign in the Hunter to stop homeless people falling through the cracks, urging the state government to halt “ill-thought-out reforms”.
At least six specialist homelessness services are at risk of closure in the region because they have so far missed out on ongoing funding.
This is due to the government’s Going Home Staying Home reforms, which have consolidated 336 individual services into 149 new service packages that will be led by 69 non-government organisations.
Under the new system, the Hunter New England district will receive $17.91million a year – an increase of 9per cent, or $1.51million of funding, on the previous financial year.
However, the Labor MPs are concerned that smaller services such as the Hunter’s Warlga Ngurra Women and Children’s Refuge miss out.
The Warlga Ngurra refuge provides shelter and support to people fleeing domestic violence and is run by people from Aboriginal backgrounds.
“It’s been operating very successfully for 25 years – it wasn’t invited to tender because it’s a small service,” shadow minister for the Hunter Sonia Hornery said yesterday.
“It has served as a refuge, particularly for Aboriginal women and their children, and helped them to get their life back, to get their licences back, to get jobs and to find a home. Many of the really little services have been swallowed up – and because the government has moved from 336 individual services to 149 service packages.”
Deputy Opposition Leader Linda Burney, member for Cessnock Clayton Barr and shadow minister for the status of women Sophie Cotsis were also present for the launch in Wallsend, along with Hunter Labor candidates for next year’s state election.
They talked about how the Yacaaba Centre in Port Stephens, the Upper Hunter Community Services in Muswellbrook and the Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation at Singleton had also missed out on funding and were likely to close.
“This is one of the most ill-thought reforms I have ever seen in my 35 years of public life,” Ms Burney said.
“This is going to make the issue of homelessness, particularly for women and children escaping violence, even more difficult.
“It’s not too late to press the stop button in this.”
A spokeswoman from Family and Community Services Minister Gabrielle Upton’s office said the Labor Party was defending a homelessness services system that was “simply not delivering for the most vulnerable in the community”.
“Many millions of taxpayer dollars have been thrown at homelessness services over the years but it has clearly not worked,” she said.
“Between the last two censuses, in 2006 and 2011, homelessness in NSW increased by 27per cent.
“Under Labor and the old system, too many people in need were falling through the cracks. Labor and the Greens are making claims which are not only deceptive and misleading, but prey on the fears of the very people they claim to be supporting.
“While service providers may change under the Going Home Staying Home reform, the services they delivered will continue.
“There will still be specialist services including for women and children escaping domestic and family violence in the new system.”
The spokesman also highlighted that none of the 1300 crisis and transitional accommodation properties owned by the NSW government would be closing.
Some would get a change of management, but they would continue to be used to help those who needed it, particularly ‘‘women escaping domestic violence”, she said.