In September Rod wrote to the Treasurer regarding Kids Under Cover, here is what he wrote and the response from Treasurer.
I am writing regarding the experiences of young people at risk of homelessness in Victoria and what needs to be done to support them.
This May you chose the not-for-profit Victorian charity Kids Under Cover as your budget day charity. As you are already aware of the organisation, there is no need for me to explain just how important their early intervention Studio Program is.
I would also like to acknowledge that this year the Victorian Government have announced a further $3.1 million for Kids Under Cover to provide housing for young people leaving youth justice. This is an important investment that I am sure will change the lives of many young people.
Unfortunately, funding for the Kids Under Cover Studio Program is failing to keep up with the heightened demand for their services. Many issues that put young people at risk of homelessness have only multiplied since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Young people rely significantly on insecure work, as such many have been forced to move back to the family home during the pandemic. For young people in unstable and overcrowding living
conditions this pandemic and the stay at home restrictions have been devastating.
Last year, Kids Under Cover built 66 studios for 102 young people bringing the total number of studios to 634, housing 936 young people. However, in May 2020 they had to close their applications due to an increase in demand and lack of funding. Since then, they have had 900 calls for support by young people and families, but they have been unable to progress them even to a waitlist.
Kids Under Cover rely mostly on philanthropy to fund their essential service to our community. Last year, the Victorian Government through Homes Victoria provided core program funding for only 18 studios. I have been advised that the Studio Program is not eligible for any of the $5.4 billion dedicated to the Big Housing Build.
I urge you to consider allowing Kids Under Cover to access funding from the Big Housing Build to provide secure and stable housing to young people at risk of homelessness.
This Studio Program reduces the number of people trying to access our public housing system, which is already under immense pressure. Without it, many young people will struggle with homelessness their entire lives.
RESPONSE from the Treasurer 10 October 2021
Thank you for your letter regarding the Studio Program led by not-for-profit Victorian charity Kids Under Cover.
The Victorian Government is a proud supporter of the Kids Under Cover charity, providing $6.5 million in funding over the past two years towards the delivery of 95 new portable studios to become a home for young people aged 12 to 21. In addition, in May 2021, I announced my continued support for Kids Under Cover through the nomination as my 2021- 22 State Budget Charity.
I note, however, that Kids Under Cover is experiencing continued demand for studios and is unable to support all eligible applications with its current funding. Staff at the Department of Treasury and Finance have discussed this issue with Homes Victoria who have advised that opportunities to fund the studio program beyond 30 June 2022 are being investigated.
Homes Victoria has further advised that the studio program is a valued component of Homes Victoria’s response to preventing youth homelessness and that it will keep Kids Under Cover informed of future developments.
In your letter you referenced the Big Housing Build program, announced in November 2020, under which the Victorian Government has committed $5.3 billion to construct more than 12,000 new social and affordable homes for Victorians in need.
While a significant portion of the funding for this program has been allocated to projects for delivery by Homes Victoria, part of this investment includes the allocation of $1.38 billion in funding to the Social Housing Growth Fund, an initiative which provides grant funding to the community housing sector, to deliver 4,200 new social housing dwellings across Victoria.
These new homes are allocated to tenants from the Victorian Housing Register, including vulnerable Victorians experiencing homelessness, disability and family violence. The Big Housing Build includes a commitment to build 2,000 dwellings for Victorians living with mental illness. In addition, the Mental Health Royal Commission recommended the construction of a further 500 dwellings for young people living with mental illness.
The Social Housing Growth Fund Grants Program has three upcoming rounds currently planned, involving the targeted procurement of dwellings within a Regional Round, a Homes for Aboriginal Victorians Round, and a Mental Health Supported Housing Round. 2
A requirement for eligibility to access future grant funding from the Social Housing Growth Fund is to be a Registered Housing Agency under the Housing Act 1983 (Vic) and a Participating Agency for the Victorian Housing Register. I understand that representatives from the Kids Under Cover charity recently met with Homes Victoria to discuss options for becoming eligible for grant funding under the program. Should you wish to discuss this
matter further, please contact Ms Shari McPhail, Director, Homelessness Accommodation and Support at the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing on firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the Social Housing Growth Fund, you can visit: https://www.vic.gov.au/social-housing-growth-fund
I trust that this information is of assistance to the Kids Under Cover charity and I thank you for raising this issue with me