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Human Services - May 2017

The beginning of May 2018 has a Waterloo human services focus, with three events providing different opportunities for people to hear about, discuss and provide input on what needs to happen to better provide human services in the area. More information about each of the events can be found later in this email. The three events are:

  • REDWatch Roundtable on Human Services - Thursday 3rd May 6pm at the Factory Community Centre – this is an opportunity for local residents to raise their comments about what needs to change in the human services system. A flyer to promote this event is attached.
  • SLHD’s Waterloo Health Forum 2.0 - Building a Healthy Resilient Community 8.30am to 2.00pm Friday 4th May at NCIE. Everyone welcome please RSVP to SLHD-Planning@health.nsw.gov.au by 27th April, 2018
  • FACS’s Waterloo Human Services Forum 3 for Government and Non-Government Agencies (NGOs) Tuesday 8 May from 12.30am to 4.30pm queries regarding this event to hsplanwaterloo@facs.nsw.gov.au

So what are human services?

Inner Sydney Voice in its latest magazine describe them as:

Human Services are those which provide a service to society, particularly in times of crisis. Human Services are designed to help people navigate through crisis or chronic situations where the person feels they need external help and guidance to move forward with their life and rediscover their self-sufficiency. Sometimes the situation the person needs help with is external, such as the loss of a job or income, the need for food or housing or for help getting out of a dangerous situation, such as family violence. For other people the difficulty is an internal challenge such as depression, a physical ailment, disability, or other mental or physical health crisis. [Adapted from humanserviceedu.org]

FACS LAHC Waterloo Human Services Plan

REDWatch has been pushing for improvements in human services since our beginnings in 2004. Our summary of human service interventions shows that a lot of human service water has flowed under the bridge since then. Changes to government allocations policies for public housing in 2005 saw a significant concentration of people with high and complex needs in public housing over the following years. These new allocations were supposed to be accompanied by a Human Services Accord in which government agencies would provide support for people in this “housing of last resort”. That accord never eventuated, leaving people with high and complex needs in public housing without the supports to help them address their issues and keep the roof over their heads.

When the Government decided to redevelop the consolidated Waterloo Public Housing estate, it became clear that it wished to increase the density by 3.5 times, while keeping the number of social housing tenants the same. If the human services system was not working before the redevelopment, what was going to be done to make it work at much higher density? Redeveloping the buildings without addressing the ‘people supports’ was doomed to failure, in REDWatch’s view.

Last year REDWatch made it clear to FACS that it could not support any Master Plan for Waterloo unless it was accompanied by a plan that addressed the existing human services issues facing public housing tenants in Waterloo. REDWatch also made it plain that it needed to see the systemic problems in the human services system, that were impacting public tenants, addressed. It is encouraging that FACS Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) has agreed to prepare a human services plan for Waterloo. Work on that framework is currently underway and it does aim to also deal with systemic issues.

To date government and NGOs have met twice. The first meeting was primarily about the existing government human services policy frameworks that a plan will need to fit within, including Future Directions and the NSW Human Services Outcomes Framework. This workshop also dealt with issues connected to the community facilities required in the Waterloo master plan – here you can see some details from the presentations in FACS Waterloo Human Services Planning #1 Workshop of 20 February 2018. The second FACS workshop was aimed more at the issues that needed to be addressed from those working at the grass roots – you can see an outline from that meeting in FACS Waterloo Human Services Planning #2 Workshop of 20 March 2018. The third meeting on 8 May aims to try to bring the Framework and Policy together with the issues so far identified from the community. Agencies with an interest in Waterloo service improvement are encouraged to attend.

The FACS LAHC meeting on 8 May, will be a preliminary pulling together of the issues and the framework. Further work will be undertaken by consultants and LAHC staff over the next few months, to produce a Framework and Phase 1 Implementation Plan by November 2018. FACS assure us there will be formal opportunities for tenants to provide input into, and comment on, the plan over the coming months. REDWatch, Counterpoint Community Services and Inner Sydney Voice have been inputting into the Plan discussions and trying to ensure that it addresses the issues we are hearing from the communities. You might recall, as an example, our call, late last year, for case studies. The next REDWatch meeting is another attempt to get stories and examples to feed into the discussions to make sure it addresses the issues that matter for tenants.

There are a few things REDWatch needs to watch in this process. The systemic issues faced by tenants in Waterloo are similar to those elsewhere in public housing and there will be a temptation to try and exclude some of the systemic issues from the plan because they are wider than Waterloo. Yet, if these systemic issues are not addressed, then after a redevelopment, tenants will continue with their existing issues in addition to those that come from living with their complex needs in a higher density neighbourhoods. In Waterloo, the systemic issues need to be addressed if the redevelopment is to work – that is both the risk and the opportunity.

The second area to watch, is that while the proposed human services plan is put together as part of the redevelopment, 1 in 5 Waterloo public housing units fall outside the redevelopment area. These people need the human service improvements now, not just those who will live in the redevelopment. The redevelopment however is what is driving the human services plan.

The third area is the evidence base. Currently there is a tendency within government that if you cannot count it, it does not exist. But as Ross Gittins reminds us in Wednesday’s SMH “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted”. We do need an evidence base, but it has to be recognised that the experience of the service user’s count and not just the figures that are or are not yet collected.

REDWatch Roundtable on Human Services - Thursday 3rd May

REDWatch wants to hear from service users, public tenants and residents  about what they think needs to be fixed in the human services system. This meeting REDWatch has invited some service users to provide some brief inputs on their experience of the human services system to set the scene. This will then be followed by a discussion facilitated by Lyn Lormer from the Local Community Services Association (LCSA). Lyn has been trained in the “Harwood Collective Impact” process, which has been used in a number of communities and she will use some of her skills to help us identify what needs to happen to address human service issues in our area. Grant Lavender from The Factory will be at the meeting to provide support to Counterpoint CS service users participating.

I encourage you to come along, bring your stories and ideas about what could be changed to make the system better. The REDWatch meeting is at 6pm, Thursday 3rd May 2018 at the Factory Community Centre, 67 Raglan Street, Waterloo – this is an opportunity for local residents to raise their comments about what needs to change in the human services system. REDWatch will collate the issues raised and feed them into the human service discussions.

Sydney Local Health District (SLHD)

About a year ago REDWatch, Counterpoint Community Services and Inner Sydney Voice met with the head of SLHD, Dr Teresa Anderson. We asked that SLHD become more actively involved in addressing the human services issues in Waterloo. We wanted Health to address how people navigate the health system, how the health system interacts with other human services, and how population level health issues could be best addressed as part of the redevelopment.

One of the first outcomes of that meeting was a Waterloo Health Forum in September 2017. You can see some of the issues coming out of that forum in the Report of the Building a Healthy and Resilient Waterloo Now and Into the Future 27th, 28th September 2017. These findings have fed into the planning around the Waterloo human services plan that FACS is developing.

The SLHD forum on 4 May at 8.30am is the second Waterloo Health Forum focusing on Building a Healthy Resilient Community. This forum is open to the local community, NGOs, health workers and government people. It is an ideal opportunity to get an overview of what is happening in the area and to talk about how Health can better respond to local issues in Waterloo. If you would like to go please RSVP to SLHD-Planning@health.nsw.gov.au by 27th April, 2018 (This Friday).

The second outcome from our approach to SLHD was for SLHD to employ a Healthy Living Link Worker for Waterloo. Those who attended the last REDWatch meeting heard Kristian Reyes talk about his role – he will talk also at the 4thy May Waterloo Health Forum. We asked for this role in response to long standing requests from Waterloo NAB and others for a Health “go to person” who could help address the complex health issues that people cannot seem to get addressed currently by the Health system. Kristian has also been attending the FACS LAHC human services meetings. He currently operates from The Factory on Wednesday (Thursday for this week after ANZAC Day). You can contact Kristian by email at Kristian.Reyes@health.nsw.gov.au.

The third outcome we asked of SLHD, was to bring a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) lens to the Waterloo redevelopment. SLHD had been doing a HIA on Green Square. This study should be released in the near future and it will be helpful in looking at a range of health impacts associated with a high density inner city redevelopment. Many of the issues raised will be relevant to Waterloo, but what will be missing is the impact of redevelopment on a community with high and complex needs. We hence asked SLHD to do a Health Impact Assessment for Waterloo. Health were unable to get a HIA into the initial study requirements for the Waterloo redevelopment, but they did get an undertaking that the health elements of the other studies would be pulled together so a gaps’ analysis could be done. We wait to see if this materialises from the studies when the summaries are released. SLHD however remains committed to bringing an equity focused HIA lens to the Waterloo redevelopment and we will find out more about this at the 4 May Health Forum. David Lilly, who worked for LAHC during the Waterloo master planning in 2011, was recently employed to work part time on Waterloo HIA issues for SLHD.

In  Conclusion

I have provided a brief context for where the meetings mentioned at the beginning of this email fit in to what REDWatch and others have worked on over the last couple of years.

When I am asked how we are going on the human services changes, I usually reply “so far, so good”. We are all acutely aware that the wheels could fall off some of it, at any time. After all, there is a long list of human services interventions that have not delivered the change necessary in Redfern and Waterloo. We need to understand why this happened in the past and all try our best to make sure that this time we get results that address the supports and issues that are desperately needed by Waterloo public housing tenants. Hopefully this would result in the supports tenants need to achieve a successful tenancy while allowing the quite enjoyment of their homes for themselves and their neighbours.

When I was first learning about community development, we used to talk about grabbing the near edge of a problem and working on that near edge, as a way of tackling the bigger problem. That approach is relevant for tackling this problem. The parts of the human service problem you see as a service user, a neighbour, a friend, a local service, a faith based community, a government worker, a councillor or an MP will all be different, but they are all parts of the human service system problems we are trying to fix. To help get these problems fixed we need your perspectives and for you to speak up about how you experience the problem and why it must be fixed. Together we can give this a good shake and hopefully make a difference for people in the future who need to access timely, joined-up supports.

Geoffrey Turnbull Co-Spokesperson REDWatch.