Don’t over-burden homeless services with administrative demands: Brotherhood of St Laurence

6 February 2013

Victoria’s Auditor-General today released a report evaluating recent initiatives to tackle homelessness stemming from the state and federal National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH).

Responding to the report, Brotherhood of St Laurence executive director Tony Nicholson noted the call for better governance arrangements but said he feared the path recommended would add further to the administrative burden faced by service providers in Victoria.

Mr Nicholson, who also chairs the Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness, said: "What we don’t need is SWAT teams of public servants being dispatched to look over the shoulders of homeless service providers in the community.

"Service providers already carry a significant administrative burden with a comprehensive file covering all aspects of help to each homeless person being submitted to the Australian institute of Health and Welfare, based in Canberra.

"Further, they are required to comply with accreditation standards maintained by a third party.

"The charitable and community organisations delivering homeless services on behalf of the government have an enviable track record of sound governance. This should give government funding bodies the confidence to take a minimalist risk-management approach to accountability for the delivery of services and expenditure of public funds.

"I agree with the Auditor-General about the need for greater focus on measuring the impact of services. We do need to find more robust ways of measuring the impact of services to the homeless.

"However, this requires methods that are more sophisticated than those often employed in similar human services programs. The circumstances of those who are experiencing homelessness are often complex. There are many factors that determine the success or failure of service interventions.

"The development of outcome or impact measures will therefore often need to be an iterative and collaborative process between government and service providers. This takes time but it is the only way to ensure methods of measurement are robust."

The report, Addressing Homelessness: Partnerships and Plans , was tabled in State Parliament today.