The Victorian Government is currently in the process of establishing a Royal Commission into Mental Health, which will provide a series of recommendations on how to better support Victorians with mental ill health and improve the mental health system into the future.
The Terms of Reference are currently being developed through a consultation process. Almost 4,500 Victorians have already had their say in the last month about what the Royal Commission should examine – most of them have so far been women, people close to someone who suffers from a mental illness, or someone who has one themselves.
The Victorian Public Tenants Association is concerned that the draft Terms of Reference does not currently mention anything about the connections between mental illness, housing and homelessness.
This is despite:
- 31% of Specialist Homelessness Services clients over 10 years old having current mental health issues (2016) compared to 16.2% of mental illness among the general population
- Last year 17,772 Victorians who presented at homelessness services cited mental health as one of the reasons they need help, whilst high demand and limited resources meant that 1-in-4 clients were turned away from assistance
- 500 people each year being discharged from acute mental health care into rooming houses, motels and other homeless situations
- While people with serious mental health issues are placed on the priority wait list for public housing, wait times of two years or more are not uncommon due to a lack of stock
- Public housing (26.8%) being the most common form of tenure for people with low prevalence mental illness
Housing, homelessness and mental health are interrelated. These links need to be better understood and the mental health system needs greater capacity to support people to be able to sustain their tenancies, avoid eviction, and provide more assistance to people with lived experience of mental ill health when they are housed.
Having a safe, secure place to call home allows people to focus on mental health treatment and rehabilitation. Without shelter, a person’s mental health is compromised.
Unless the Royal Commission considers these important interrelated issues, we will continue to have a broken system where there is not enough public housing to keep up with the need and too few wrap-around services for tenants who are lucky enough to have a place to call home.
You can have your say about the Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference by Sunday 27 January in one of two ways:
1) by completing the online survey
2) by submitting a written submission (details on the website).
The terms of reference will detail the Royal Commission’s tasks and it is critical that they include all relevant issues.