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Question: Homelessness Services

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:46): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Minister for Human Services on the emerging topic of older women's homelessness.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: It is deeply concerning that older women are the fastest-growing cohort of homeless people in our nation, with 34 per cent of women aged over 60 living in poverty and over 30 per cent of the newly unemployed or underemployed aged between 51 and 65 and female. When the COVID supplement is cut this week, it will actually be older women who will be struggling even more to keep a roof over their heads. My question to the minister is: what measures is the Marshall government taking to stem the growth of older women's homelessness?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:47): I thank the honourable member for her question and, indeed, note her commitment to this area. I think it was last year that the Zonta community organisation invited a range of political parties to speak about this topic of older women and homelessness. I have also met with former Senator Kay Patterson, who has raised similar issues which clearly relate to the areas within the federal domain, such as superannuation and those issues.

It is a complex area, but homelessness for all cohorts is a complex area given that there can be a range of reasons why people fall into homelessness, whether they are economic, domestic and family violence, mental health issues or other challenges that people experience. We know that there is quite a number of people in South Australia who are quite vulnerable because they are in either rental stress or mortgage stress and so can just be a few pay packets away from falling into that homelessness cycle.

I have spoken already about the measures in terms of the recent response to COVID, which we believe have been highly successful, together with our partners. There is a range of measures in terms of financial counselling and specialist support services, particularly for those who are experiencing domestic and family violence. We have a range of services that we fund, including Women's Safety Services, which are well known to people. We also have the expectation, through the homelessness services, that services into the future are going to be more effective and more focused on that prevention side. These areas are important for all cohorts.

At the moment the system is quite disconnected, in that the government funds specific services rather than outcomes. A lot of this is driven by the way the systems are funded, so we are looking towards having services working more effectively to produce better outcomes for all people experiencing homelessness.

We also have a program that was targeted towards women who might want to get back into the housing market, through a pilot of affordable homes. We set aside nine properties which were, I think, a shared equity product. That has been a really useful learning, because the experience we had with a range of people who were interested was that they lacked either the deposit or the income stream. That meant we needed to adjust those programs, and we are still working on that particular aspect of how we can assist women into homeownership.

I think there may be three contracts either close to or having been signed for those properties, but there is a range of services that are available. The financial counselling area is one we are also very interested in, to assist women to know what services are available and to manage their finances.

We are certainly looking at this area not just as individual cohorts but as a system-wide approach, because a lot of the drivers can affect people of various ages and circumstances. It is more holistic than just a specific or particular response to certain people, but the affordable homes program was one that was particularly directed to older women.

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