It was twelve months’ ago yesterday that 23 services then funded through the Tenant Advice and Advocacy Services (TAAS) Program received an unexpected fax informing them that the funding program would be completely discontinued. The funding was being withdrawn despite the lion’s share of it coming from the interest generated on tenants’ own bonds. The fax provided three months’ notice of funding withdrawal, ending their contracts almost two years early.
Today we wanted to pay homage to resilience of these services and acknowledge their commitment (their workers and committees) to continuing to deliver services to tenants in their communities.
The last year has been an exceptionally difficult time for the TAAS services. As many of you will know, after a huge outpouring of support for the services and a campaign to raise people’s awareness of the changes, the Commonwealth government announced on October 3 – three weeks before the end of the State funding – that services would be provided with one-off funding from 1 November to 30 June.
These funding arrangements were hurriedly put in place – the State agreed to administer them for the Commonwealth – as services turned around their closure plans and continued on. The services were in the odd situation of having to wrap up and finalise the funding originating from the State under one contract and sign up new contracts with the same area of government in order to deliver the same, albeit a slightly reduced level of, services.
In the meantime they kept providing those services and supporting tenants in their communities.
The next few months were still followed by the lack of long term security for the services. Tenants and supporters across the state contacted the State government seeking a review of the decision and thousands of letters and postcards were received by government on the issue. In the meantime, negotiations between the Commonwealth and State governments on the National Partnership on Homelessness (NPAH) were underway, under which the Commonwealth sought to bind the State to funding tenant advice and advocacy services.
This issue did not seem to get resolved by the two levels of government, despite the State signing up to the NPAH, and is still outstanding.
Through these months, sadly two services closed after losing their last trained worker. With no future funding secured, the period of emergency funding coming to an end, they made the difficult decision to close their doors. The first was the TAAS in Cairns where, fortunately for tenants, the Tenants’ Union had an office and was able to expand their services delivery. By the end of May, the TAAS in Rockhampton then closed.
As 30 June approached, all services again had to start making decisions about office closures. The situation again looked grim. In early June – again about three weeks before the funding was to run out – the Commonwealth government announced another offer of on-off funding to the State of $2.5M to continue the services for six months whilst a long term plan was put in place.
The sector and the tenants they work with were delighted. Another lifeline! However, the State government soon announced that it would not accept the money. The situation was again grim.
Days later the Commonwealth announced that it would fund the sector through the Tenants’ Union of Queensland. We understand that sub-contractual arrangements are currently being put in place between the TUQ and the local tenant advice services.
This has been a tough journey, especially for small committed management committees as well as workers in the services who on two occasions have faced redundancy. Still the services have managed to focus on outcomes for renters in their communities.
Amazingly most services have managed to survive. It is truly a credit to their resilience and commitment to the work they do.
Of the 23 service providers, 17 are still operational – going strong and delivering important services to tenants in their communities. Unfortunately though, in this last transition, five additional providers have decided not to accept the second round of funds. That said, local service devliery will continue in all areas and in the locations where providers have not continued, service will be delivered through the Tenants’ Union of Queensland.
Contact numbers for all the services remain the same except for the following regions: Rockhampton, Bundaberg and Roma. Tenants can make contact with the local service through the TUQ’s 1300 744263 number. We will seek a full updated contact list and post it as soon as we can.
We will also soon start again to support the services’ campaign to remain funded beyond December 31, when the current funding runs out. And we will once again be coming to you and to ask you to help us. The services could not have achieved what they have without your support and we warmly and genuinely thank you for i