Australia: Report Finds NSW Homeless Services Turned Away 483 Children in A Year
Story Code : 1060888
The NSW Ombudsman’s report on the uptake and effectiveness of homelessness services found between 2,300 and 2,600 children, aged between 12 and 15, sought help in each of the five years to July 2022, The Guardian reported.
The ombudsman, Paul Miller, also said it was impossible to tell how many children under 12 were seeking help, which he described as “particularly concerning”.
He criticised the Department of Communities and Justice for failing to implement previous recommendations to improve monitoring and reporting, despite it saying it supports them.
“This lack of outcomes evidence reflects a broader and longstanding gap in what is known about unaccompanied homeless children, about their needs and what happens to them,” Miller said.
“What little we do know does not give us confidence that the improved policy documentation is achieving significant practical improvements,” Miller added.
On Monday night the NSW homelessness minister, Rose Jackson, said “many of the findings are disappointing and frankly unacceptable”.
“We cannot normalise having thousands of young, vulnerable people seeking out specialist homeless services without knowing who, if anyone, is taking care of them,” the minister said, adding, “We recognise that we need to do better and part of that commitment is to provide more transparency and accountability.”
A previous report from the ombudsman in 2020 highlighted how little was known about this group of children, including the cause of their homelessness, what support they needed and where they went after presenting to the services.
The ombudsman found the department said it had supported the recommendations to collect more data and better understand the driving issues, but had not done so.
The report also found Aboriginal children were overrepresented in youth homelessness figures. The number of Aboriginal children seeking help increased by 4.6% over five years.
It also found children in out-of-home care accounted for more than 10% of those presenting as homeless or at risk of homelessness.
It found the number of children asking for help had not declined over the past three years.
“We can also see that more of those children have been seeking a bed, but that fewer of them have received a bed,” Miller said, adding, “We cannot see what has happened to those children who needed a bed but didn’t get one, nor do we have the outcomes for those who were accommodated.”
The report found that just under of the children who presented to specialist homelessness services needed a bed but less than half of those received one.
The state’s peak homelessness body claimed the report showed the state government was failing in its duty of care to homeless children.
“The thousands of children turning up to refuges on their own are some of the most vulnerable people in our society and need the right support,” Trina Jones, chief executive of Homelessness NSW, said.
“As a minimum, the government should urgently lift funding for specialist homelessness services, including those that specialise in youth assistance,” Jones added.