Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How TAASs prevent homelessness

We've been talking for a while about the value of Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services. TU Executive Officer, Julie Foreman, reports on their value particularly in preventing homelessness.

New South Wales has the highest rate of low-income households who are in rental stress. Households in this situation are at risk of becoming homeless.

Workers in Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services (TAASs) play an effective role in homelessness prevention by consistent, successful negotiation to save vulnerable tenants from homelessness.

The National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness to which the New South Wales Government is a signatory, has four core outputs, one of which is:
Tenancy support for private and public tenants, including advocacy, financial counselling and referral services to help people sustain their tenancies.
TAASs play a unique role in ensuring that this State meets its obligations under the Agreement.  The Tenants Advice and Advocacy Program is the only program which offers specialised advocacy for New South Wales tenants.  TAASs' work on behalf of tenants who need the support of an advocate to retain and maintain a roof over their head is both cost and outcome effective.

Highly skilled, dedicated TAAS workers provide advice, advocate on behalf of tenants to a range of parties, and make referrals to other services to ensure their support forms part of a holistic approach to tenants’ health, financial and life skills challenges.

The TAASs' six-month project demonstrating effectiveness in preventing homelessness
To investigate the TAASs' role in preventing homelessness, a six-month project was undertaken from July-December 2012 by 15 TAAP direct services.  The data they recorded highlights the positive impact of support provided to clients whose tenancies were vulnerable.

During the course of the project, 516 tenancies at risk of termination were identified. As a result of the advice and advocacy provided by skilled TAAS workers, homelessness was averted in 424 cases (82.2 per cent).

Only tenants at risk of losing their homes were included in the study, that is:
•    a termination threat existed;
•    a tenant had received a notice of termination;
•    a CTTT termination hearing had been listed; or
•    a termination order had already been made.

The tenants were not only vulnerable in terms of losing their homes but they were also challenged by a number of cultural, age and disability related vulnerabilities. 

The data is summarised in the tables below.  All outcomes and results relate to tenancies, which were identified as vulnerable.

It is clear that TAASs not only play an important consumer protection role in providing information and advice to all tenants: they have a significant role in preventing homelessness. 

(This is a revised version of a report appearing in 'Around the House', the newsletter of Shelter NSW.)

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