Groups unite in fresh push for older people’s housing
Australian Ageing Agenda- Darragh O'Keeffe- A new coalition of aged care providers, homelessness services and consumers is being established to bring about government action on the urgent need for older people’s housing amidst worsening rates of homelessness among seniors.
The National Older Persons Coalition on Housing will lobby federal and state governments to increase funding for specialist homelessness agencies to support seniors in need and to advance an older person’s housing strategy, which has previously been proposed by aged care peaks.
The new coalition is one element of a major five-year project being undertaken by Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG) and the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Housing, Urban and Regional Planning (CHURP) and funded by The Wicking Trust.
A series of reports from government agencies and not-for-profit groups in recent years has documented the increase in seniors at risk of or experiencing homelessness (read AAA’s past coverage here and here).
The new project, which got underway last year, aims to increase awareness of older people’s housing needs, improve seniors’ access to suitable accommodation and ensure greater availability of support services for those experiencing difficulty.
Jeff Fiedler of HAAG said that older people hadn’t traditionally been on the radar of homelessness agencies but they were a fast growing group requiring help due to falling rates of home ownership and a sharp increase in the numbers relying on the private rental market.
Aged care providers were in a unique position to identify seniors at risk of homelessness and could refer them to appropriate services, he said.
“There is great interconnection with the aged care sector in our work given housing is a foundation for home-based aged care,” Mr Fiedler told Australian Ageing Agenda.
Lack of specialist agencies
Of major concern was the lack of agencies in the homelessness sector that could specifically respond to the growing numbers of seniors needing help, with just three specialist services for homeless seniors currently in Australia, Mr Fiedler said.
What’s more, the national Assistance with Care and Housing for the Aged (ACHA) program was a “terrific service” but was currently “drastically under-funded,” he said.
The ACHA program, which is currently delivered by more than 40 different agencies across the country, is “patchily located” and not well networked with other agencies, he said.
Mr Fiedler and his project partner Dr Debbie Faulkner from CHURP are undertaking a survey of the organisations delivering the ACHA program and the project will be lobbying for reform of the scheme as well as increased funding.
They are also producing a series of state-based reports on older people’s housing issues in order to identify current gaps in service provision.
A report on the situation in South Australia is currently being finalised while another on NSW will be completed by August, he said.
Aged care providers interested in getting involved in the project can contact Mr Fiedler directly via email (Jeff.Fiedler@oldertenants.org.au).