Cohort Study published

2 July 2019

The ACT Government has released the report of the team commissioned in 2018 to study the support requirements and accommodation options of people in the ACT with high and complex service needs (HCSNs).

The study – known as the Cohort Study – was intended to assess how far present homelessness services meet these people’s requirements. A short summary was released, as well as the full report dating from August 2018.

The short summary includes findings that one of the gaps in existing homelessness accommodation and support services in the ACT is for people with a mental illness, and that one of the systemic challenges is a lack of permanent/long-term accommodation which is affordable and accessible.

The full report, in section 4.2.6 about “People with psychosocial disability” and in section 4.3.1, says more. It recounts stakeholders’ perceptions that the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has created conditions where people in the ACT who are homeless and have psychosocial disabilities now experience greater challenges accessing supported accommodation. Stakeholders explained that the ACT Government stopped providing block funding for supported accommodation services for people with a mental illness (among other services), believing these would now be funded through service users’ NDIS packages; but if people with psychosocial disabilities who experience homelessness are unable or unwilling to access the NDIS, as often happens, they are no longer eligible to access these supported accommodation facilities.

The study found that the best outcomes for those with HCSNs come when permanent supportive housing (PSH) meets the following criteria:

  • It is owned or rented through a formal lease held in a tenant’s name.
  • There is a legal and functional separation between the landlord and the support provider.
  • The housing is integrated into the community/neighbourhood.
  • It is affordable.
  • There is access to voluntary services.
  • The housing is not contingent on behaviours (other than standard tenancy obligations).
  • The resident has choice in housing and services.
  • Services are community based, with no live-in staff.

The full report contains a section (pages 67-68) about MyHome in Canberra, commenting on aspects of both HOME in Queanbeyan and the MyHome model. It concludes by suggesting “that MyHome can contribute to ending homelessness in the ACT for people with HCSNs to the extent that it is brought into alignment with the critical characteristics of PSH: affordability, normality, choice, autonomy, non-conditionality, and a separation of tenancy and support providers.”

Because the study focused on people with HCSNs who contacted the ACT’s homelessness accommodation and support services, it refers to a group which is probably smaller than those in the ACT with long-term mental illnesses who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. In particular, it did not refer to those who depend for their accommodation on family members, and so may become homeless when those family members are no longer able to accommodate or support them. This group was identified in a survey conducted for MyHome by Carers ACT early in 2019.

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