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Human Service Plan Goals from REDWatch Perspective

REDWatch has been involved in a few meetings with Land and Housing Corporation about the shape of a human services plan for Waterloo. The document below has been provided to LAHC as an indication of some of the systemic issues that REDWatch wants to see addressed in a Waterloo Human Services Plan.

Human Service Plan Goals from REDWatch Perspective

What we have asked for is a human services plan to go alongside the SSP Built environment / master plan. We have asked for this because we do not believe that the people issues experienced currently in public housing will be addressed by solely a built environment plan.

While we recognise that the redevelopment will both uncover human service needs that were not previously known and that it and the relocations will create new human service needs this has not been the focus of our request. Addressing these issues are crucial and they need to be addressed as part of the redevelopment / relocation process. To greater or lesser extents they are the usual human service focus of a redevelopment and of course we need to make sure they are handled as well as possible.

Our request however is to address the more systemic problems in the human service system as it particularly applies to people with high and complex needs that priority allocations concentrates in public housing. The issues currently faced by public tenants are often because the human service system does not provide the supports necessary for tenants with complex needs. These will become that much more acute post development when people are living in 3.5 times higher density and in closer proximity to private residents. It is not expected that private tenants will put up with what public tenants are currently expected to put up with. For private tenants it will not be part of the price they pay for being in public housing.

So where do I think we should start?

We need to recognise that public housing estates like Waterloo are not normal populations they are creations of public policy that increasing allocate public housing stock to the most needy. It seems to make this concentration, without providing the human service support in a systematic way for those that are placed in public housing. Further it is difficult for front line workers to get supports for people who are in need of services. At one extreme tenants often report that they have to wait until things get so bad that the police are called and at the other people are not socially engaged, are isolated and afraid to go outside their front door – a problem for example for community nurses trying to get frail tenants to get exercise.

So here is what I want to achieve

1)      Start with services for the new priority tenants - To gain priority access people have to substantiate the issues that will give them priority. This is like a high jump bar – clear it and you are in! But there is no human service element that seeks to support people with these issues and to help them establish a successful tenancy with minimal impact on their neighbours. In the first instance a human services plan for Waterloo needs to look at and supply where necessary the human service supports for new people entering the estate.

2)      Undertake follow up reviews for priority tenants. There needs to be follow up to ensure the services that were referenced in the application continue to be provided after the move or that suitable services have been found if they are no longer using that provider. This is also an opportunity to see if other services might be required or somethings no longer required.

3)      Set up referral process from client service officers. Tenants often report raising issues either as neighbour complaints or concerns about people being off medication etc to client service officers. Creating a climate where CSO’s do not turn over quickly in housing offices would also allow for better established relationships with tenants and hence a greater likelihood that tenants raise issues earlier rather than when it gets to be intolerable.

4)      Provide a referral mechanism for frontline NGO, Govt and Medical staff to refer someone who they believe from their interactions requires access human service supports. This is an extension of 3 however as LAHC and FACS Housing both part of FACS this might be easier to establish than a broader mechanism. Eg Complaints to the Police should also trigger a human services assessment to look at what supports may be needed by the tenant.

5)      There will need to be a mechanism to deal with systemic issues. It needs to have people from a senior level capable of addressing issues within and between departments but it also must have a strong feedback loop from frontline workers.

6)      There will need to be a mechanism where front line workers can flag service integration issues they are experiencing at a local level up to be addressed within or across silos.

7)      The idea of social prescriptions should be explored as part of improving supports for public housing tenants and not just medical and case management prescriptions

I do not believe we need to start with item 6, I think we have a reasonable idea of what needs to be addressed to kick the process off. Some improvements in the supports for high needs tenants coming into Waterloo estate provide the basis for those supports to be made available to existing tenants. Hopefully the system then becomes more responsive, and responsible for the care of the people with needs that are concentrated in public and social housing.

Geoffrey Turnbull

REDWatch Co-Spokesperson