Government must act as Auditor General finds Department of Communities failing vulnerable tenants

The Government must urgently address the issues set out in the Auditor General’s Report, which found serious failings in the Department of Communities’ response to vulnerable tenants, Greens spokesperson for Mental Health Hon Alison Xamon MLC has said today.

Ms Xamon said the Auditor General’s report, released today, assesses the management of disruptive behaviour in public housing by the Department of Communities.

She said although the Auditor General found the Department’s Disruptive Behaviour Management Strategy (strategy) to be generally effective, serious concerns were raised about the response to vulnerable tenants.

“The Auditor General has rightly identified that poor mental health; family violence; drug and alcohol abuse and inter-generational dysfunction can often contribute to disruptive tenant behaviours,” Ms Xamon said.

“These are all issues that should be addressed through appropriate referrals and support, not via a punitive approach that results in vulnerable individuals and families being made homeless.

“The Department has a responsibility to support tenants to maintain stable housing – not contribute to appalling rates of homelessness.”

Ms Xamon said the causes of disruptive behaviour in public housing were complex, yet the Auditor General found that the same standard procedures were being followed, no matter the diversity and complexity of the underlying cause of the disruptive behaviour.

She said the report showed strikes were issued against tenants despite the existence of complex mental health illness, or family violence or inter-generational dysfunction.

“This is neither fair, nor effective,” Ms Xamon said.

“When a tenant’s disruptive behaviour is the result of complex mental health issues, the last thing he or she needs is to be made homeless.”

Ms Xamon said it was outrageous, as shown in today’s report, that the only form of early intervention offered by the Department to support vulnerable tenants was to give the tenant a brochure.

She said data collection and reporting was also highlighted as an issue.

“I have voiced my concern regarding the recording of data in other Government Departments including Justice and Education,” Ms Xamon said.

“In this case, a lack of adequate reporting is hampering the Department’s ability to identify opportunities and to effectively intervene to minimise disruptive behaviour.

Moreover, Ms Xamon said, today’s report shows low participation by staff in disruptive behaviour management training affects the efficiency, effectiveness and appropriateness of departmental responses to complaints about tenants.

She said the Auditor General had rightly recommended the Department take a more holistic approach to tenancy management to reduce disruptive behaviour incidents.

“Despite the much-touted Machinery of Government (MOG) changes which were supposed to increase cooperation and information sharing between different government agencies, today’s report shows that information sharing within and between agencies was inadequate,” Ms Xamon said.

“For example, in some instances, staff were not made aware of the outcomes of referrals to mental health and child protection service providers for tenant support.

“How is the Department able to support these tenants without this crucial information?

“We all want to live in safe and peaceful neighbourhoods – this requires a holistic response from the Government that addresses the underlying causes of disruptive behaviour.

“The Government must prioritise addressing the issues raised by the Auditor General to ensure the best outcomes for tenants and for the wider community over the longer term.”