Reprinted from ABC news online. Read directly from the website here.
Homelessness agreement between states and Commonwealth extended with $115m funding promise (By political reporter Latika Bourke, 30-3-14)
A national agreement aimed at dealing with homelessness will be extended by the Federal Government for another year.
The Coalition is putting forward $115 million to extend the deal with the states, which is due to expire at the end of June.
That amount is $44 million less than what was provided by Labor, but the Government says it is not cutting funding to frontline services, only capital works.
“I reject any suggestion of cuts,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Sydney.
However, Labor spokeswoman Jenny Macklin says the capital works money is an important element.
“There’s less money to be spent on building houses, homes for people who don’t have them, for women and children escaping violence, for people who are living on the street,” she said.
“There’s $44 million less because of Tony Abbott cutting this funding.”
The pre-budget announcement follows a campaign by the social services sector which has warned it may have to lay off staff in the absence of certainty on the national partnership agreement.
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews says the new funding gives the sector “peace of mind” but also buys the Government time to plan an overhaul of housing policy.
“We’re going to provide the funding for service delivery for the next 12 months,” Mr Andrews said at the Salvation Army’s Flagstaff crisis accommodation centre in Melbourne.
“And during that time it’s my intention to work with services like the Salvation Army, Homelessness Australia and importantly, with the states and territories, so we can look at the long-term future of not just homelessness but housing more broadly.
“So this will continue the services … yet at the same time give us some time and opportunity to work with all those who are involved in the next few weeks and months to try and ensure that what we have in place in the future can be a long-term commitment and one that actually does meet the needs of the Australian people.”
Mr Andrews says more than 105,000 Australians are homeless on any given night.
He says the 180 homelessness services across Australia will have access to up to $230 million if the states and territories tip in their equal share.
Glenda Stevens from Homelessness Australia attended today’s announcement by Mr Andrews and says it gives providers the certainty they need.
“This is a significant first step. Although this is a short-term solution, our members are relieved, the uncertainty has ended,” she said.
Ms Stevens says the sector is looking forward to working with the Government on a longer-term solution.