Prior to receiving the report of the Commission into Family Violence, the Andrews Government had already announced that they would accept all of their recommendations.
Upon receiving the report, the task of digesting the 2,200 page report and 227 recommendations is ongoing. However, one thing that that is already clear is that in the housing area there will be a higher level of scruitiny on outcomes and results.
The recommendations constitute a major challenge for the Minister for Housing. For example, recommendation 18 calls on the Minister to give priority to removing current blockages in refuge and crisis accommodation and transitional housing, so that victims of family violence can gain stable housing as quickly as possible.
One of the major blockages identified in the Commission’s Report was the dwindling number of public housing allocations over recent years.
At the beginning of the Bracks Government in 1999–00, 11,051 new households were allocated public housing. In 2013–14, this number was 5,715. So over a 14 year period, where Labor was in government for 11 years, allocations of public housing fell by nearly 50 per cent.
In recognition of the enormity of the task ahead recommendation 19 then calls for the establishment of a Family Violence Housing Assistance Implementation Task Force (FVHATF). Reporting through the Minister for Housing, the FVHATF is given three specific tasks. The first task is again focussed on blockages, and as such feeds back into the priority identified for the Government in recommendation 18.
In practice this should mean that the ideas developed by the FVHATF become priorities for the Government.
The second task given to the FVHATF is to design, oversee and monitor the first 18-month phase of the proposed expanded Family Violence Flexible Support Packages (including rental subsidies).
The Victorian Government has allocated $3 million a year for the next four years for up to 1,000 Family Violence Flexible Support Packages a year. These packages will be administered by 15 specialist family violence services and can be used for housing and non-housing costs, including paying for rent arrears in advance, relocation costs, furniture, security measures, counselling, education, training and employment assistance.
There may be some role for community housing in providing accommodation under the expanded Family Violence Flexible Support Packages, however the focus in the report was on the private rental market.
The third task is to evaluate those cases where people are unable to gain access to and sustain private rental accommodation under the proposed expanded Family Violence Flexible Support Packages. The FVHATF will then have to quantify the number of additional social housing units required.
The FVHATF then is asked, in essence, to tie that all together. They need to plan for the roll-out of the packages and the provision of the social housing required. For example, if the FVHATF conclude that 1,000 additional social housing units are required for family violence victims who are unable to gain access to and sustain private rental accommodation, they then need to formulate a plan for how that housing should be delivered.
All of that work then goes back to the Minister, who must present it to the Cabinet Family Violence Sub-committee who will make the ultimate decisions about programs and funding.
The work for the Minister for Housing does not end there. Prior to the next Victorian election in November 2018, the Minister must make his first report to the Parliamentary Committee on Family Violence on the following matters;
- the extent of unmet housing demand among people affected by family violence—including the average and range of current stays by women and children in crisis and transitional accommodation
- progress in meeting the benchmark of six weeks in crisis accommodation
- proposed actions for meeting the continuing housing demand from people affected by family violence.
Beyond 2018, this report must be made annually, meaning that the Government will be accountable for matters such as unmet housing demand among people affected by family violence.