Under new reforms set to be implemented from July 1, the City of Sydney will face funding cuts to homeless services and will lose control of its Homeless Persons Information and Referral Service.
In February 2013, the NSW Minister for Family and Community Services, Pru Goward, released the Going Home, Staying Home reform plan for specialist homelessness services in NSW.
The reform program includes a new method for allocating funding which aims to distribute funding resources with greater fairness across the state. It also aims to ensure that services operate to a greater scale across metropolitan Sydney to stop a drift of people, without secure housing, into the City of Sydney Local Government Area.
The City’s chief executive, Monica Barone, informed council that the Department of Family and Community Services has confirmed there will be a reduction in cash funding provided by the state government to specialist homelessness services in the City of Sydney LGA of close to $6 million, from an original total of $21 million.
In addition to the funding cuts, the government has made it clear it intends to develop a new state-wide and state-run homelessness and referral telephone line called the Statewide Information and Referral Service (SIRS).
Once that commences operation, the City’s Homeless Persons Information Centre (HPIC) will become redundant as all of its current functions will be taken up by the state-wide information centre.
It has been recommended to council, by the CEO, that the current functioning call service be terminated as outlined by the reform.
The decision to cease operating the HPIC service will impact 11 permanent staff and five casual employees. Lord Mayor Clover Moore expressed her gratitude for the work of the City’s employees and vowed to assist them through the transition process.
The City established the HPIC in 1985 and it answers 60-75,000 calls each year from the 16,000 individuals and families who may become or are already experiencing homelessness.
“I would like to acknowledge our wonderful staff and the huge contribution they have made to our community,” the Lord Mayor said.
“However, I would like the councillors to support this recommendation and will ensure the City is involved in discussions with the state government to determine the appropriate functions are being being met by the new service centre.”
Both Labor councillor Linda Scott and the Greens councillor Irene Doutney expressed concern over the new reforms, including the state’s plan to send homeless persons back to where they came from.
“There is a reason for their situation and we could be potentially endorsing sending these individuals back to very stressful environments and ones that may have caused their current situations,” Ms Doutney said.