On Thursday 4 March, the Final Report from the Parliamentary Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria was released. The report includes 51 recommendations that together call for an improved response to homelessness in Victoria. The Inquiry was conducted by the Victorian Legislative Council’s Legal and Social Issues Committee, made up of Members of Parliament from both major parties and the crossbench, chaired by Reason Party leader Fiona Patten. The Committee recommends that the response to homelessness should centre on early intervention and better long term housing options.
Eight of the 51 recommendations are specifically about young people and address barriers they face in finding a safe and secure place to live. YACVic are pleased that these recommendations align with the evidence from the youth sector and from young people that YACVic gave to the Committee in our Ending Youth Homelessness submission and COVID-19 Recovery Plan. The Committee has heard young people’s recommendations about improved and expanded supports, early intervention, addressing issues in the private rental market and increases to income support payments. Further recommendations called for improved and expanded supports, early intervention, addressing issues in the private rental market and increases to income support payments.
Fair Access to the Rental Market
Young people face significant barriers to the private rental market. These barriers include unaffordable rental prices and discrimination based on age, background and rental history. YACVic shared young people’s experiences with the Committee who have made the following recommendations for change:
Recommendation 12 suggests that the Victorian Government consider barriers faced by young people entering the private rental market, and expand criteria for the Private Rental Assistance Program.
Recommendation 49 acknowledges that young people without a rental history have a hard time finding accommodation - as found in YACVic’s Ending Youth Homelessness submission. The Committee recommend that the Victorian Government work with the Real Estate Institute of Victoria to develop mandatory training for real estate agents to ensure equal access to rental tenancy regardless of age, race or rental history.
Support for Young People
Young people say that family violence, relationship breakdown, low income support payments and a lack of alternative accommodation make them experience homelessness. They value the vital support that services provide but know that they are not adequately resourced to help all young people across the state. YACVic voiced these experiences to the Committee who have made the following recommendations:
Recommendation 16 highlights that family conflict is a leading cause of homelessness for young people. It recommends greater investment into early intervention services for young people that experience family conflict.
Recommendation 18 calls for more funding into innovative accommodation options for children at their family home, such as the Kids Under Cover program. These programs help young people to strengthen family connections without leaving home.
Recommendation 19 supports the expansion of the Community of Schools and Services model to four metropolitan and three regional sites. This program helps communities to identify young people at risk of or experiencing homelessness and provides targeted support.
Recommendation 47 calls on the Victorian Government to advocate for a permanent increase to the JobSeeker rate. YACVic strongly supports this recommendation and urges the Victorian Government to also support an increase to the Youth Allowance rate so all young people can access real housing options.
Jobs, Training and Education
Young people shared with YACVic their struggles to find and keep employment, which has become even more difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic. Finding secure employment gives young people better housing options and long-term stability. The Committee have listened to these concerns and made the following recommendations:
Recommendation 17 asks the Victorian Government to consider expanding Education Youth Foyers, as recommended in YACVic’s Ending Youth Homelessness submission. The Committee recommend that Youth Foyers be expanded to regional and metropolitan areas, and that existing Foyers receive more funding.
Recommendation 20 requests the Victorian Government to commit to funding job readiness and employment programs for young people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
YACVic welcome the recommendations made by the Committee which demonstrate that they have meaningfully listened to young people’s experiences and recommendations for change. YACVic urges the Victorian Government to implement these recommendations so that no more young people have to experience homelessness. We look forward to working with the Victorian Government to implement these changes and embedding meaningful youth participation. YACVic will continue to ensure that young people are meaningfully involved in the design, delivery and governance of all responses to youth homelessness.