Human and Social banner image

Human and Social

Human and Social

Support the community to recover from the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 pandemic and build personal and community resilience.

Content accurate as of July 2020.

Mental Health and Suicide

Mental Health (MH) service providers are reporting an increase in contacts and service demands since the onset of COVID-19 with expectations of a surge in suicides following the impacts of the mental health, financial and personal stresses deriving from the pandemic.

Beyond Blue has seen a 60% increase in contacts since the same time last year. There has been a 70% increase in alcohol consumption.

Currently available data indicates that there are higher levels of reported anxiety and psychological distress in the general population, and that some of those with severe, complex and chronic mental illness have disconnected from services. There is strong evidence from previous pandemics and broader research that there are risks of increasing mental ill health, including new presentations of mental distress and illness, increased substance use and increased risk of suicide in the longer term.

The Townsville Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) was established in March 2015 to ensure broad-based collaborative, community engagement on suicide prevention in Townsville. The network brings together key members of the community with an interest in suicide prevention and facilitated the development of the Community Action Plan 2017-2020 to prevent suicide in Townsville.

The work of the TSPN has been guided by the Queensland Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2015-2017.

The underpinning principles of the TSPN are that suicide prevention is everybody’s business and strong resilient communities that can understand and speak about suicide issues will also have the capacity to address the problem.

TSPN and the Community Action plan target initiatives across the three elements of suicide prevention: prevention, intervention and postvention.

  • Townsville has x2.5 the national average rate of suicides.
  • Some suburbs are up to x3.1 the national average.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have suicide rates x3 the national average.

The Australian Productivity Commission 2019, Mental Health, Draft Report, notes “The cost to the Australian economy of mental ill-health and suicide is, conservatively, in the order of $43 to $51 billion per year. Additional to this is an approximately $130 billion cost associated with diminished health and reduced life expectancy for those living with mental ill-health” and in its key points note that:

  • “in any year, approximately one in five Australians experiences mental ill-health…”
  • “in contrast to many physical health conditions mental illness tends to first emerge in younger people (75% of those who develop mental illness, first experience mental ill-health before the age of 25 years) raising the importance of identifying risk factors and treating illness early where possible, the treatment of mental illness has been tacked on to a health system that has been largely designed around the characteristics of physical illness…”
  • “there is less awareness of what constitutes mental ill-health, the types of help available or who can assist…”
  • “the importance of non-health services and organisations in both preventing mental illness from developing and in facilitating a person’s recovery are magnified, with key roles evident for – and a need for coordination between – psychosocial supports, housing services, the justice system, workplaces and social security…”
  • “adjustments made to facilitate people’s active participation in the community, education and workplaces have, for the most part, lagged adjustments made for physical illnesses, with a need for more definitive guidance on what adjustments are necessary and what interventions are effective…”

The proposed program changes identified below are particularly in line with the Australian Productivity Commission 2019, Mental Health, Draft Report path towards maintainable long-term reform as follows:

Reform area 1: Prevention and early intervention for mental illness and suicide attempts
  • Consistent screening of social and emotional development should be included in existing early childhood physical development checks to enable early intervention.
  • Much is already expected of schools in supporting children’s social and emotional wellbeing, and they should be adequately  equipped for this task through:
    • inclusion of training on child social and emotional development in professional requirements for all teachers; proactive outreach services for students disengaged with school because of mental illness
    • provision in all schools of an additional senior teacher dedicated to the mental health and wellbeing of students and maintaining links to mental health support services in the local community.
Reform area 2: Close critical gaps in healthcare services

The availability and delivery of healthcare should be reformed to allow timely access by people with mental ill-health to the right treatment for their condition. Governments should work together to ensure ongoing funded provision of:

  • services for people experiencing a mental health crisis that operate for extended hours and which, subject to the individual’s needs and circumstances, provide an alternative to hospital emergency departments
  • acute inpatient beds and specialised community mental health bed-based care sufficient to meet assessed regional needs
  • access to moderate intensity care, face-to-face and through videoconference, for a duration commensurate with effective treatment for the mental illness
  • expanded low intensity clinician-supported on-line treatment and self-help resources, ensuring this is consistently available when people need it, regardless of the time of day, their locality, or the locality choices of providers.
Reform area 3: Investment in services beyond health

Investment is needed across Australia in long-term housing solutions for those people with severe mental illness who lack stable housing. Stable housing for this group would reduce their future need for higher cost mental health inpatient services and improve their mental health and inclusion within the community.

Reform area 4: Assistance for people with mental illness to get into work and enable early treatment of work-related mental illness
  • Individual placement and support programs that reconnect people with mental illness into workplaces should be progressively rolled out, subject to periodic evaluation and ongoing monitoring, to improve workforce participation and reduce future reliance on income support.
  • Mental health should be explicitly included in workplace health and safety, with codes of practice for employers developed and implemented.
  • No-liability clinical treatment should be provided for mental health related workers compensation claims until the injured worker returns to work or up to six months.
Reform area 5: fundamental reform to care coordination, governance and funding arrangements
  • Care pathways for people using the mental health system need to be clear and seamless with:
    • single care plans for people receiving care from multiple providers
    • care coordination services for people with the most complex needs
    • online navigation platforms for mental health referral pathways that extend beyond the health sector.

Mentally Healthy Cities
Current Policy

Townsville has x2.5 the national average rate of suicides. As the first mentally health city initiative in place for last 2 years – PHN funding has come to an end.

50% of people dying by suicide were known to have mental health conditions; or were known to have one or more physical conditions. There is concern that the isolation of the COVID-19 restrictions may have a negative impact on people's mental health.

Proposed Policy

Continue funding for the Mentally Healthy Cities program to proactively address the mental health agenda.

Coordinating/connecting support for community mental health services to implement community-based service delivery models for suicide prevention and supports for emergent decline in mental health from social isolation in vulnerable cohorts.

Linking services and data sharing to identify risk and protective factors to prevent suicide through evidence-based interventions.

Coordination and funding of Community based training to build the capacity of our community, e.g. Accidental Counsellor or Mental Health First Aid Educate Townsville and surrounding communities of the importance of self-care to aid in the prevention of mental illness and increase community awareness to reduce stigma.

Continue to advocate for the region in bringing National and International Mental Health organisations to Townsville and increasing exposure.

Cost: $0.9M per annum ongoing

Responsibility
  • NQ Primary Health Network
  • Queensland Government's Department of Health
Children and Family trauma clinical support
Current Policy

NAPHL Mental health services is currently turning away 5-10 referrals a week of children under 12 years who do not meet Psychological Therapies criteria and are unable to pay for private long-term therapy.

Current policy settings have created a gap in the service delivery model to support children under 12 (and their families) who have experienced trauma.

For many of these children their mental health has been further negatively impacted by both the 2019 floods and the COVID-19 pandemic.

This gap is particularly impacting individuals and families who are seeking and do not have the propensity to pay commercial fees.

Increased demand on Queensland Health has changed their delivery and pushed moderate clients into NGO sector.

The current Medicare model is not sufficient or appropriate to address this need. A free service is only available to health care card holders. Fee gap could be $70+ per session impacting affordability for many COVID-19 impacted families.

Proposed Policy

Reform Area 1 – Australian Productivity Commission 2019, early intervention for mental illness and fill a gap for children under 12 years of age created by current policy settings.

Specialised services are needed and a long-term intervention that works with both the child and their family.

Employ 3 specialised clinicians to provide approx. 120 sessions per month and a case load of approx. 60 families at one time.

Cost: $0.5M per annum ongoing

Responsibility
  • NQ Primary Health Network
  • Queensland Government's Department of Health
Shedspace – early intervention youth program
Current Policy

The Townsville Shedspace is the first of its kind in Australia and adapts the proven Mens Shed model to an all-inclusive, younger cohort. This supports an early intervention agenda.

The Shedspace program currently operates through community fundraising. Townsville’s youth issues are of serious concern and this program provides a potential way to work with the cohort and address the issue.

The program provides a safe space for young people to engage in creative and manual arts to improve their mental health and wellbeing and facilitate their referral into other services when needed. The Shedspace model uses mentors to work with young people to develop skills, build confidence and engage productively in the community.

Proposed Policy

Reform Area 1 – Australian Productivity Commission 2019, early intervention for mental illness by expanding the Shedspace youth program that is recognised for its outcomes.

This early intervention program supports mental health, social and emotional wellbeing and community capacity building.

Responsibility
  • Queensland Government's Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors
  • Australian Government's Department of Social Services
  • Queensland Government's Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women
Complex case management
Current Policy

Townsville LGA has only 3 funded neighbourhood centres. These are funded for only 1 FTE and rely on unskilled volunteers to provide service to the growing client base.

COVID-19 restrictions have prevented many volunteers from continuing to support the neighbourhood centres, limiting their capacity to meet growing demand.

Families in crises have complex financial, psychological and social needs, requiring holistic case management.

The increase in complex needs of clients and the requirement to access multiple support agencies to appropriately manage the clients’ needs, makes this work unsuitable for volunteers who are not trained professionals to deal with complex case management.

Proposed Policy

Reform Area 5 – Australian Productivity Commission 2019, Mental health indicates clear and seamless single care plans are needed for people with the most complex needs.

Funding to provides/expand Community Connection and appoint 6 FTE (2 per centre) trained case managers to each neighbourhood centre to appropriate support the complex needs people and remove the reliance on volunteers for these professional services.

Increased Emergency Relief funding to enable increased service delivery and longer operating hours for neighbourhood centres.

Cost: $1.8M per annum (ongoing)

Responsibility
  • Queensland Government's Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors
  • Australian Government's Department of Social Services
  • Queensland Government's Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women
QPS Mental Health Co-Responder
Current Policy

The QPS & THHS mental health co-responder program was implemented in 2018 after successful trials in West Moreton HHS, Gold Coast HHS, Cairns and Hinterland and Sunshine Coast HHS.

In the period January to November 2019, more than 70% of calls for services that the co-responders attended were diverted from hospital and treated on-site, within the patients’ own home.

The co-responder model has seen reductions in the release time from general duties officers (QPS) and QAS paramedics.

The co-responder model is supported by the Hospital Service who report less presentations to ER, and QAS who have reduced the call for service with a reduction in ambulance transfers.

Proposed Policy

Extend the Mental Health Co-Responder program 7 days, allowing a mental health nurse partner with a police officer to respond to QPS mental health calls for service within the community.

Under the model, patients receive an assessment in the home with, on most occasions, the patients receiving referrals to their own doctors or expert agencies. When required, the patient can be directly admitted to the Acute Unit rather than the long wait in the emergency department, which would normally occur if only Police attend the incident. This allows the patient to feel at ease, in the safe environment of their own home rather than a waiting in ED.

Cost: $0.4M per annum (ongoing)

Responsibility
  • QPS
  • THHS
  • QAS
  • NQ Primary Health Network
  • Queensland Government's Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors
  • Australian Government's Department of Social Services
  • Queensland Government's Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women
QAS Mental Health Co-Responder
Current Policy

Following the success of the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and HHS Co-Responder initiative, a pilot program has been undertaken as joint initiative with Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) and Gold Coast, Metro South and West Moreton Hospital and Health Service (HHS) providing specialised mental health response to people experiencing a mental health crisis by delivering immediate assessment, short term management and intervention within the community.

Following the change to the Public Health Act (2005) in 2017 to amend the Mental Health Legislation, the scope of Emergency Examination Authorities (EEA) has broadened significantly, correlating with an increase in EEA use by QPS and QAS transports to Emergency Departments under this authority. It is advised in June 2019, QAS place all at risk patients in an EEA.

The success of the QPS co-responder program sees QPS responsible for only 6% of total Mental Health admissions to ED, with only 3% on EEA in the current format of co-responder and the positive impacts on ED diversion.

Proposed Policy

QAS are responsible for 62.6% of Mental Health admissions to ED with 14.7% presenting on an EEA.

For immediate clinical service delivery, expansion of the co-responder program into QAS would maximise the programs effect:

  • diversion of MH consumers from ED
  • timely care to consumers in community at the time of crisis
  • enhanced strategic collaboration with QPS, QAS and HHS to address mental health within the community.

Fund a THHS and QAS co-responder program, operating 1 x 10hr shift 7 days a week requiring 2 x HHS Clinical Nurse.

Cost: $0.4M per annum ongoing

Responsibility
  • THHS
  • QAS
  • QPS
  • NQ Primary Health Network
  • Queensland Government's Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors
  • Australian Government's Department of Social Services
  • Queensland Government's Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women
Mental Health recovery
Current Policy

Currently available data indicates that there are higher levels of reported anxiety and psychological distress in the general population, and that some of those with severe, complex and chronic mental illness have disconnected from services.

There is strong evidence from previous pandemics and broader research that there are risks of increasing mental ill health, including new presentations of mental distress and illness, increased substance use and increased risk of suicide in the longer term.

Proposed Policy

Expand Disaster Recovery funding through DFRA to support a community response further to the monsoon event and psychosocial impacts further compounded by COVID-19.

Support mental health clinicians to offer targeted therapy and interventions to support the mental health of people who have experienced significant and sudden change from COVID-19 and are exhibiting mental health symptoms.

The team would complement and provide support to existing service providers on the ground and would specifically target vulnerable touchpoints within the community.

Cost: $1.4M per annum

Responsibility
  • NQ Primary Health Network
  • Queensland Government's Department of Health
Community Infrastructure
Current Policy

During COVID-19, more people choose to be active every day in local neighbourhoods and we see many cases where the infrastructure could not accommodate the demand for walking. The provision of footpaths and safe crossings, open space and access to roads and speed reductions in our neighbourhoods are even more important.

Community infrastructure will see benefits to local tourism, transport, accessibility and inclusion, and for recreational benefits.

Proposed Policy

Providing safe passage of connection and commute, linking our community, community gardens and markets, promoting health and wellbeing with walkways and bike paths to increase social connectivity and promoting physical activity.

Bikeways and Walkways have been identified by Bicycle User Group (BUG), Queensland Walks, Bicycle Queensland, Queensland Outdoor Recreation Federation, the Heart Foundation and 10,000 Steps.

Cost: $15M

Responsibility
  • Australian Government's Local Roads and Community Infrastructure
  • Queensland Government's Works for Queensland (W4Q)

Programs
  • NQT-1033 – Volunteer-based community recovery program
  • NQT-1031 – Activate your household campaign
  • NQT-1032 – Localised intersectoral media messaging
  • NQT-1039 – Healthy City Coordinator
  • NQT-1044 – Mobile Mental Recovery Team
  • NQT-1045 – QPS & QAS Co-Responder Model
  • NQT-1114 – Mental Health
  • NQT-1116 – Suicide prevention
  • NQT-1130 – Caring for Our Carers
Projects
  • NQT-1136 – Social infrastructure to connect our community (walkways/bike ways)

Domestic and Family Violence

Townsville has a disproportionately high number of Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) cases as evidenced by Queensland Police Service (QPS) and Townsville Hospital and Health Service (THHS). In 19/20 QPS responded to over 6,400 calls for services for DFV, an increase of 11% from 17/18 and 70% of calls reported outside of business hours.

Recording the third-highest rates of DFV in Queensland per capita, Townsville has a specialist DFV Court processing approximately 12 applications per day, and a QPS Vulnerable Persons Unit was launched in Townsville in May 2020 responding to on average 18 DFV calls for services every day during 19/20.

Concerns are that periods of social isolation or restriction are masking DFV visibility and exacerbating this situation.

An indication of the levels of violence being experienced in our community, the North Queensland Domestic Violence Resource Service (NQDVRS) reported seeing more than 780 individual clients seeking assistance as victims of DFV in the quarter finishing 30 June 2020. The intake and adult counselling program at NQDVRS operated at 109% of funded capacity for this same quarter.

DFV has a clear intersection with homelessness and child protection sectors in our community. This is the number one cause of homelessness among women in Australia. DFV is a preventable crime and with a whole of community effort can be eliminated. This will take sustained and committed leadership at all levels.

Evidence from NQDVRS indicates that increased isolation as a result of public health measures implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19 has seen an increase in complexity and coercive tactics used by perpetrators during this time. Examples include, withholding access to children due to ‘social distancing’; non-compliance with family court orders; refusing to allow victims to leave the home; increased control of all day to day activities with people either becoming unemployed or working from home during this time. An important protective factor for victims is often their workplace.

Townsville has the third-highest per-capita rate of Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland (calls for services, DVO applications, DVO breaches).

There is a concern COVID-19 restrictions forcing people to be at home, may have increased this even further. Queensland hospital emergency departments are reporting an increase in significant injuries related to domestic family violence. QPS is reporting an increase in the severity of domestic violence cases.

The Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Death Review and Advisory Board, 2019 report indicates that “between 1 July 2006 and 30 June 2019, there have been a total of 320 domestic and family homicides in Queensland. This consists of 164 intimate partner homicides, 136 family homicides and 20 collateral homicides”. The report further notes “the highest domestic and family homicide rates were observed in the northern areas of Queensland, notably in the Mount Isa and Far North Queensland police districts.”

The proposed program changes identified below align with the Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Death Review and Advisory Board, 2019 report recommendations 1, 2, 8, 13 and 14 as follows:

1. That the Queensland Government increase the availability, accessibility and integration of services that support young mothers and their families experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, domestic and family violence. Funded services should incorporate key elements, including, although not limited to:

  • delivery of early intervention and supportive responses
  • a focus on continuity of midwifery care
  • provision of trauma-informed responses to intergenerational violence
  • delivery of services in an integrated fashion utilising multi-disciplinary approaches.

These services should give appropriate consideration to the intersections of vulnerabilities and complexities experienced by all mothers; and be accessible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and those with disabilities.

2. That the Queensland Government increase the availability, accessibility and integration of primary prevention service responses and awareness campaigns to families, children and young people with the purpose of breaking the cycle of intergenerational trauma and violence.

8. That Queensland Health increase the availability and accessibility of culturally safe mental health, alcohol and other drug services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people experiencing chronic and acute suicidal ideation and behaviours, with particular consideration to experiences of intergenerational trauma.

13. That the Queensland Government (Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors and Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women) support the development of community-led strategies to help drive local community action, including in rural, regional and remote areas, to reduce the incidence and impact of domestic and family violence.

14. That the Queensland Government (Department of Housing and Public Works and Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women) continue to harness support from sporting clubs in all local communities to raise awareness and create safe environments for victims and children; and partner with male leaders in sporting settings to challenge behaviours and change attitudes that excuse, minimise or condone violence against women. This should be prioritised in regional, rural and remote areas where there may be limited community resources available for victims and perpetrators of domestic and family violence.

Domestic & Family Violence Co-Responder
Current Policy

Townsville has the third-highest per-capita rate of Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland. 70% of DFV calls for service by QPS occur outside of business hours in Townsville with no local out-of-hours support providers for victims and children of DFV outside of QPS and THHS.

The number of DFV calls for service reported by QPS increased in 18/19 by 0.7% from 17/18. This figure jumped in 19/20 with an 11% increase for calls for service with QPS on average responding to 18 DFV cases every day in Townsville.

Queensland hospital emergency departments are reporting an increase in significant injuries related to DFV. This is echoed by QPS reporting an increase in the severity of DFV cases.

QPS calls for services for DFV is x3.5 the calls for services of mental health. There are concerns COVID-19 restrictions are forcing people to be at home and may have contributed to increasing this even further.

Proposed Policy

Recommendation 71, 72, 73, 74 Not Now Not Ever: Putting an end to domestic and family violence in Queensland report.

A DFV co-response model would see domestic family violence workers operating crisis responses in coordination with QPS Vulnerable Persons Unit after hours to response to peak demand calls for service.

Fund NQDVRS to engage after hours response for 4 DFV social worker (2 teams of two) and a senior worker/team leader to coordinate after hours response and lead and implement current and future integrated service responses in conjunction with QPS across high risk offender responses, repeated calls for service, coordinated case management for complex matters.

Cost: $0.9M per annum ongoing (including $50k brokerage for undersupply of crisis accommodation)

Responsibility
  • QPS
  • THHS
  • QAS
  • Queensland Government's Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors
  • Australian Government's Department of Social Services
  • Queensland Government's Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women
Children’s crisis counselling
Current Policy

Townsville has a lack of service providers specialising in Acute Trauma Response counselling for children, that should take place within a week of the incident witnessed by the child.

Following QPS response to DFV with children involved, and referring the child for support services, there is a wait time of up to 6 weeks before the child is scheduled to see a case worker.

Proposed Policy

Reform Area 1 – Australian Productivity Commission 2019, Mental health prevention and early intervention for mental health and suicide attempts.

Increase funding to provide education and immediate specialist child support services for children involved in high level DFV incidents (within the week of the incident occurring).

Cost: $1M per annum ongoing

Responsibility
  • Queensland Government's Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women
  • Australian Government's Department of Social Services
DFV Education & Awareness
Current Policy

Townsville has the third-highest per-capita rate of Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland with a specialist DFV Court dealing with approximately 12 applications per day.

Townsville is experiencing an increase in the severity of DFV cases with unlawful woundings (stabbings), grievous bodily harm, threats to kill and increased cases of strangulation.

Non-lethal strangulation is one of the most significant red flags to homicide and premature death from strokes and other health issues.

22 women have died in Australia this year already due to DFV, 50% of those women were killed in Queensland.

A whole of government, whole of community and whole of family approach is needed to end all forms of DFV.

Proposed Policy

Recommendation 15, 18, 20, 30, 70 Not Now Not Ever: Putting an end to domestic and family violence in Queensland report.

Fund the largest media education and awareness campaign informing people of all ages about DFV, mental health and the effects on children, families and community.

Recommendation 81, 83(b) Not Now Not Ever: Putting an end to domestic and family violence in Queensland report

Compulsory education in schools, juvenile detention centres and prisons.

Cost: $0.4M per annum

Responsibility
  • Queensland Government
  • Australian Government
Co-located agencies
Current Policy

In September 2016, the Queensland Government established the Townsville Stronger Communities initiative to get young people back on track to lead more productive lives.

Townsville Stronger Community Action Group comprises senior representatives of key agencies to provide a whole-of-government response to youth crime.

This initiative is a local solution to address youth crime - a problem we can’t solve alone, but through a whole of government, whole of community and whole of family approach, we can work together to break the cycle. 70% of young offenders in Townsville have been exposed to domestic and family violence. The Townsville Stronger Communities initiative needs to be expanded to include services for DFV.

Proposed Policy

Recommendation 74, 75, 78 Not Now Not Ever: Putting an end to domestic and family violence in Queensland report Establish co-located government services to provide holistic and timely support to victims of domestic and family violence.

Shared space for QPS, Corrective Services, Child Safety, Department of Housing, Queensland Health, Midwifery, Department of Education, Youth Justice and Centrelink.

Cost: $1M per annum ongoing

Responsibility
  • Queensland Government
  • Australian Government
Co-located services
Current Policy

The Queensland Government identifies the need for integrated response within the domestic and family violence sector and allow information sharing between agencies.

Proposed Policy

Recommendation 74, 75, 78 Not Now Not Ever: Putting an end to domestic and family violence in Queensland report

Establish co-located NFP support services to provide holistic and timely support to victims of domestic and family violence.

Shared space for DFV, Mental health, Drugs and Alcohol abuse, Reintegration to family after custody, child protection, schooling, separation/divorce.

Cost: $1M per annum ongoing

Responsibility
  • Queensland Government
  • Australian Government

Homelessness and Affordable Housing

The lifting of the moratorium on evictions and mortgage relief and the financial impacts of the economic crises is likely to place additional pressure on social and low-cost housing, which is already under pressure.

Townsville housing services provides 3,500 tenancies, accommodating over 7,600 people, with a demand list nearing 2,000. Of these, 83% of tenancies are for singles or single parents, 41% of tenancies are for Indigenous people, and 29% of tenancies are for people with a disability.

Housing affordability has far-reaching impacts on NQ's economy and the wellbeing of the population. The increase in house prices experienced in Australia in recent years has not been accompanied by a similar level of wage growth. Consequently, home purchase and renting has become significantly more difficult than before. The significant increases in the cost of housing have resulted in many people being unable to afford a home, or they struggle to find suitable, affordable private rental accommodation. Supports are available (see below). Demand for these housing supports has been greater than supply. The demand for these supports in NQ is expected to increase significantly due to the COVID-19 health, social and economic impacts.

As such, many people will not have access to long-term, secure, safe, affordable and appropriate housing. Without suitable alternatives or support from family or friends, this means that they are at risk of homelessness. At the most vulnerable end of this group of people are those who are homeless, of which there are three levels:

  1. Primary homelessness is experienced by people without conventional accommodation (e.g. sleeping rough or in improvised dwellings including in cars)
  2. Secondary homelessness is experienced by people who frequently move from one temporary shelter to another (e.g. emergency accommodation, youth refuges, "couch surfing")
  3. Tertiary homelessness is experienced by people staying in accommodation that falls below minimum community standards (e.g. boarding housing and caravan parks).

Homelessness is rarely caused by a single event or circumstance – for most people, there are complex and intersecting factors and events which lead to homelessness. Some key risk factors are economic (poverty, unemployment, low income or underemployment, debt or other financial difficulties e.g. gambling addiction), social (family breakdown, domestic and family violence, sexual assault, social isolation), health (mental illness, addiction). Often these factors compound, e.g. addiction leads to health issues, financial difficulties and a breakdown of family relationships, leaving someone without a support system in the event they have difficulties paying rent. Domestic violence is the single biggest cause of homelessness in Australia.

Some people and groups are more at risk of homelessness or more vulnerable to its impacts, including women and children affected by family and domestic violence, children and young people, Indigenous Australians, people experiencing repeat homelessness, people exiting from care or institutions into homelessness and older people.

The primary, and most effective, form of support for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness is access to secure and affordable housing.

Secure, affordable housing has flow-on effects to employment, health and social outcomes and is therefore critical to support quality of life.

Figure 1: Rental housing affordability index

Rental housing affordability index

Due to the high cost of private rentals and home ownership, the primary way for vulnerable, low-income people to access secure and affordable accommodation is through social housing.

However, in most states and territories, the demand for social housing far outstrips supply, and there can often be waiting lists of several years to secure social housing. Partly because of this, and partly because of the difficulty of moving between social housing properties, there are a large number of social housing tenants living in inappropriate properties. For example, an older person who first moved into a three-bedroom social housing property when they had a partner and three children, who is now living alone in the property, is unlikely to want to move to a one-bedroom social housing property. On the other hand, growing families can get stuck in properties that are much too small.

There are also significant issues of housing quality in social housing, with many properties being overdue for repairs or upgrades. Where a person is unable to access secure, affordable accommodation, the secondary form of support for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness is temporary or crisis accommodation, intended to offer short term accommodation until people can enter into longer-term arrangements.

The Australian Government (through the Department of Social Services) supports the housing systems provided by the states and territories, primarily through providing funding.

The Australian Government provides around $1.5 billion to the states and territories each year through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. Of this, $125 million (which will be matched by states and territories) is set aside for homelessness services.

The Australian Government is also responsible for the Commonwealth Rent Assistance Program ($4.6 billion a year) and the National Rental Affordability Scheme.

Reconnect & At-Risk tenants
Current Policy

With the COVID-19 impacts creating further stress on low-income individuals and families to maintain their health and tenancies, the coordinated wraparound services such as case management, job coaching, education enrichment, and health promotion activities, exercise and nutrition classes will assist to reduce the impacts.

Proposed Policy

Recommendation 88, 89 Not Now Not Ever: Putting an end to domestic and family violence in Queensland report.

Expand the number of places for NQ residents in the Australian Government’s Reconnect program which aims to prevent homelessness by intervening early with families and young people to stabilise and improve their housing situation and improve their level of engagement with family, education, training, employment and their local community (current funding $118 million).

Continue to expand tenancy case management and wraparound support services.

Providing proactive support to those going into social housing and building their capability will support sustainable tenancy in both public and provide sector.

Cost: 1,500 hours outreach and 3,000 hours for case management

Responsibility
  • Queensland Government's Department of Housing and Public Works
  • Australian Government's Department of Social Services
  • Queensland Government's Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women
Specialist Housing
Current Policy

Domestic and Family Violence has a clear intersection with homelessness and child protection sectors in our community. This is the number one cause of homelessness among women in Australia.

Singles and single parents represent 83% of government owned and managed social rental housing in Townsville.

Females represent 62% of tenancies with children under the age of 18 representing 39% of people in social housing with an unmet demand in shelter / crisis accommodation.

Proposed Policy

Expand the number of housing support for women and children experiencing domestic and family violence to be delivered via a $10 million grants program for eligible organisations to provide new or expanded emergency accommodation and a further $3 million to continue supporting states and territories through the Keeping Women Safe in Their Homes program, which provides security updates and safety planning.

Cost: $TBCM

Responsibility
  • Queensland Government's Department of Housing and Public Works
  • Queensland Government's Department of Social Services
Rental Assistance
Current Policy

Our community will have JobKeeper payments stopped, No-Eviction restrictions lifted, at a time when unemployment will spike. Affordable accommodation will be needed to avoid the increased burden on social housing, which is already strained.

Proposed Policy

Increase funding available to, and adapt criteria, around existing rental relief initiatives to support tenancies at risk due to cessation of JobKeeper payment and the cessation of the eviction embargo.

These payments would support tenants to maintain safe and stable tenancies.

Cost: $TBCM

Responsibility
  • Queensland Government's Department of Housing and Public Works
  • Queensland Government's Department of Social Services
Long Term affordable Housing for NQ
Current Policy

Further support the people already in social housing and who are experiencing hardship due to the COVID-19 situation.

Proposed Policy

Bringing forward funding connected to the Precinct revitalisation and renewal program for social housing to meet demand to be created from COVID-19 economic impacts.

Cost: $TBCM

Responsibility
  • Queensland Government's Department of Housing and Public Works
  • Queensland Government's Department of Social Services
Transition accommodation for vulnerable residents
Current Policy

Townsville Housing Services provides 3,500 tenancies, accommodating over 7,600 people with a demand list nearing 2,000.

83% of tenancies are for singles, or single parents. 41% of tenancies are for Indigenous people and 29% of tenancies for people with a disability.

The demand for social housing support is expected to spike following the end of JobKeeper and the lifting of the 'no eviction' order.

Proposed Policy

Expand the Townsville City Deal to provide funding to local organisations in Townsville to deliver more dwellings for vulnerable North Queenslanders. The focus will be on providing the funding required to repurpose or build/lease affordable housing for those most vulnerable, including women and children escaping family violence, people with disability, older people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Cost: $100M

Responsibility
  • Queensland Government's Department of Housing and Public Works
  • Queensland Government's Department of Social Services

Programs
  • NQT-1118 – Wraparound support services for social housing
  • NQT-1132 – More subsidised rental properties (NRAS).
  • NQT-1133 – Rental assistance
Projects
  • NQT-1134 – Build new social housing

Youth Support

Young people are experiencing additional stresses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and reaching out to help-line services in greater numbers than before.

Support for young people in this time is important to prevent problem escalation and the manifestation of antisocial behaviour and to build resilience in the next generation.

Braking the Cycle
Current Policy

Indigenous unemployment in the last census was 17.2%. Youth unemployment in May 2020 was 16.8%. It is anticipated with the end of the JobKeeper program in September 2020 that both youth and Indigenous unemployment are likely, to at least double, to more than 30%. The lack of a drivers licence is an identified barrier to obtaining employment.

Braking the Cycle helps young people (between 16 and 25) in disadvantaged circumstances overcome this barrier by providing free access to:

  • safe, registered and insured vehicles
  • road safety induction
  • mentor drivers to provide supervised driving sessions.

Approximately 70% of program participants take on education or employment opportunities within six months.

An evaluation of Braking the Cycle found program participants were less likely than other drivers their age to incur a traffic or speeding offence, or be involved in an accident, reduced crime and reoffender rates.

Proposed Policy

Funding to support expansion of the Braking the Cycle program to assist young people to obtain a driver’s licence and develop life skills through association with a mentor to improve employability.

It is estimated that there is demand for the program by over 3,000 young people per annum in the NQ region.

Cost: $3M per annum (ongoing)

Responsibility
  • Treasury
  • QPS
  • PCYC
Indigenous Sport & Recreation Program
Current Policy

PCYC is funded to deliver sport and recreational programs and activities for 5 to 70+ year old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The program offers young people aged 5 to 17 after-school, in-school and vacation sport and recreation programs, while 18+ activities are offered on a scheduled basis either through local community and sport and recreational facilities or in local parks and Indigenous sites with prior consent from local elders.

In the last 6 months, the program has engaged with 3,459 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in 238 activities delivered in the wider Townsville Region. 34 community volunteers are actively supporting the delivery of the program. Of note, the increase in contact with families of participants who have raised personal stresses deriving from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ongoing financial impact on costs to engagement / re-engagement to sport and recreational activities for the health and wellbeing of their children/foster children.

PCYC achieves results through a grassroots service model that is directed by our local community members, local community reference group quarterly consultation also positive rapport with local Indigenous elders and importantly, the program being delivered by local community staff and valued volunteers.

Proposed Policy

Funding to support the ongoing sports and recreation program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people aged 5 to 80 years old.

Unmet demand for this program to deliver consistent holistic activities that engage participants their local schools, families and broader community in the Townsville Region is limited to the current funding provided, reducing the positive impact the program could support through the region.

Costs: $0.26M per annum ongoing

PCYC Indigenous Programs Youth mentoring program – Catch Me if You Can. Catch Me if You Can (CMIYC) has been designed specifically to foster stronger connections between Indigenous communities and the Queensland Police Service (QPS).

CMIYC is a PCYC & QPS commitment to reconciliation and closing the gap and a secondary diversionary crime prevention program through a facilitated program using sport as the driver and mentoring as the foundation for meaningful and sustainable relationships between police officers and local young people.

Costs: $0.06M per annum ongoing

TOTAL COSTS: $0.32M PER ANNUM (ONGOING)
Point of consideration (initial commitment of 3 years to program funding with option of an additional 4 years funding allocation to impact generational change)

Responsibility
  • Treasury
  • QPS
  • PCYC
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Youth case management
Current Policy

Youth Support Service (YSS) is currently delivered on Palm Island. A similar platform for the Townsville Region that is aligned and caters to low and medium risk young people can be serviced. At risk due to disengaging from education, training, housing, self-harm and homelessness. The current YSS framework doesn’t have a soft entry approach to build rapport with the service embedding trusting relationships for young person to readily access a service. The process to become independent of the service as well has its challenges. Currently, through the Sport and Rec Program, there is an existing platform forged in the last 5+ years to leverage and build on with the YSS framework.

Proposed Policy

Fund case workers to manage low-to-medium-risk young people, referring high-risk youth to local specialised service in Townsville and Regional Queensland due to transient movement of young people and families through the region.

Qualified Social Worker and 1 male and 1 female worker adhering to cultural processes and protocols within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Costs: $0.35M per annum (ongoing)
Point of consideration (initial commitment of 3 years to program funding with option of an additional 4 years funding allocation to impact generational change)

Responsibility
  • Treasury
  • QPS
  • PCYC
  • Queensland Government's Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women