A commentary on the Minister’s budget estimates statements on TAAS

For rent sign with houseWe’re not sure if you noticed the following comments made by the State Housing Minister during budget estimates hearings.  We posted this as part of a larger post a few days ago.  Today we repost in order to respond; here’s what the Minister said in response to a question from an LNP colleague on July 24:

We made the very hard decision, but I believe the right decision, to stop the funding to TAS because we believe there was a duplication of services………. It is very important to note that, amongst the services that TAS provided, only 10 per cent were related to advocacy. The majority of services are already offered by the RTA and other organisations. Seventy-five per cent of TAS services were over the telephone. We believe that we have made a good decision in this area. We have streamlined the processes and we have more money available now for our housing and homelessness strategies.

We’re not sure how the Minister determined that 10% of TAAS services were related to advocacy but we do know that in the last full year of funding, 35% of all the advice provided by TAAS services was related to advocacy.  This equates to just short of 19,000 hours of advocacy services to Queensland tenants. Where will Queensland tenants gain access to these services when the Commonwealth emergency funding ends on December 31 this year?

The Minister’s claim that  services provided  over the phone duplicate the RTA’s demonstrates that he doesn’t understand the fundamental difference in the nature of these services.  The average call to the RTA is 4-5 minutes. Comparing this with the  hour and three quarters TAAS services spend on average when assisting a household, speaks volumes.

TAAS services are not providing the same information as the RTA.  Rather, they are advising tenants in a more in-depth manner, studying documents and developing  strategies with individual tenants to get the best outcome contingent on their different circumstances.  The RTA simply does not offer this type of service.  The RTA must remain impartial.

The Minister also said the following:

RTA staff are trained and qualified in law and conciliation, unlike the staff in some of the other organisations in this space.

If the Minister is referring to TAAS services when he talks about ‘other services in this space’, we think that in additional to being  incorrect, it is also extremely unfair and disrespectful.  TAAS workers are all trained in tenancy law – most, if not all, are accredited – and engage in QCAT training offered at various levels by the Tenants’ Union of Queensland (TUQ).  They also participate in on-going professional development on a range of topics.  TUQ solicitors provide back-up support for their delivery of tenancy advice.

We think the Minister’s comments are incorrect, unfair and unreasonable.

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