Response to the Victorian State Budget 2022-2023

4 May 2022
Parliament House Victoria

Sacred Heart Mission is pleased to see the Andrews’ Government’s 2022-2023 Budget, focusing on supporting Victoria to safely recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

We are pleased to see substantial investments in a range of social infrastructure systems – health and hospitals, fulfilling the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health, education and transport upgrades.

In addition, we are pleased to see the increased support to the Community Social Services sector with an increase to indexation of funding. While still not fully covering the funding gap for delivering services, it goes some way towards a fairer and more transparent funding mechanism.

Ongoing challenges for the homelessness sector

However, while there were some gains in the budget directed towards addressing homelessness, we share the disappointment of our sector partners and peaks that the Budget did not continue the level of investment in homelessness funding delivered through the Homelessness to Home (H2H) program.

Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) has highlighted that the H2H Program budget for the coming financial year has been reduced by $43 million, 78 per cent of its earlier budget which means 1,440 people will miss out on support.

Sacred Heart Mission is one of the many funded organisations across Victoria coordinating the H2H Program, with our GreenLight Plus program, established to support people who were placed in temporary hotel accommodation during the Covid pandemic into long-term housing, to provide wrap around services, to sustain their tenancy and prevent a return to rough sleeping.

We know from evidence gathered over the decade by Sacred Heart Mission’s Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI) program that getting people out of homelessness saves governments millions of dollars in public expenditure by reducing the use of public services – hospitals, acute mental health care and our prison system.

“H2H is still in its early phases”, says Sacred Heart Mission CEO Cathy Humphrey. “It is arguably too early in the program to truly know the impact on sustaining tenancies and stopping people cycling back into rough sleeping – but there are strong indicators that the program is having a significant impact on people’s lives,” she says.

GreenLight Plus is supporting people into stable housing

Our GreenLight Plus program has been supporting 144 clients across the South, North and West region of Melbourne since February 2021, of these, 140 (97 per cent) are in stable housing.

This is ultimately a fantastic achievement – and a testament to the collaborative approach taken by the Victorian Government and Specialist Homelessness Services.

It is too early in dissecting the budget to fully understand what this might mean for the continuation of existing H2H responses. We appreciate that the evidence of the impact of the program is not yet known, so we are hopeful that the evaluation of the program will provide the strong social and economic evidence to Government that will see the program extended in the following year’s Budget.

GreenLight Plus Program Manager Sarah Honan-Barnes highlights that a positive from the Covid-19 pandemic was that people who were rough sleeping during lockdowns had access to housing. “For some people, this was the longest period of time in years that they had four walls and a roof over their head, and they knew where they were sleeping the next night,” she says.

“Sadly, there was not enough funding to support everyone through H2H that was sleeping rough and since the hotel program is not continuing since Melbourne ended its lockdowns, we have seen many people return to rough sleeping. In an ideal world, we want to see ongoing support for rough sleepers to access long-term housing with wrap around support to assist them to settle into their homes and their communities,” Sarah says.

“We know a two-year program may not fully address rough sleeping in Victoria for people with complex and enduring needs,” says Sacred Heart Mission CEO Cathy Humphrey.

Thinking ahead to the Ten-Year Social and Affordable Housing Strategy

“We are hopeful that the $75 million allocated in the budget to providing tailored homelessness support and focus on delivering prevention, early intervention and sustainable housing does just that.”

“We are looking forward to the release of the Victorian Government’s Ten-Year Social and Affordable Housing Strategy, and the response to the Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria. We hope this includes a focus on investment in evidence-based Housing First approaches like J2SI, GreenLight and GreenLight Plus that truly support people to exit homelessness for good.”

For a detailed breakdown of key social policies in the Budget, the see the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) Budget analysis.

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