Lobbying by a local not-for-profit, Home on the Central Coast, has resulted in a NSW Labor pledge, if they form government following the March 25 state election, to build housing for people with severe mental illness.
By Jacquelene Pearson
NSW Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Rose Jackson MLC, came to Gosford on Friday, March 10, to pledge $20 million for three housing projects across the state in partnership with Mind Australia and The Haven Foundation.
The first project will be located on the Central Coast, Ms Jackson said.
Mark Heeney from The Haven Organisation, said the commitment would improve outcomes for people living with mental illness and psycho social disabilities and “will also have a great impact on our health system in the long run”.
Local couple Neil and Joscelyn Murphy, along with other members of the Home on the Coast committee, have been working on this project for 11 years.
“My wife and I have had 35 years of experience caring for our son who has serious mental illness and we wondered for a long time who was going to care when we were no longer able,” Mr Murphy said.
Mr Heeney said The Haven Organisation had been “working really hard over the last few years with Home on the Central Coast and with Liesl [Tesch, Member for Gosford] to make sure we can actually bring this much needed model for people who are experiencing significant mental health issues.
“There are significant housing affordability issues in the region and this model works really closely with the Local Health District to make sure we can actually relieve hospital beds from having people within who don’t actually need that acute mental health support,” he said.
“The model is very unique in that aspect that it provides that 24/7 NDIS funded psycho-social support and we are really excited about working with the broader community of the Central Coast as we prepare to actually launch our first Haven residence in NSW.”
He said the residences would be individual self-contained units with kitchen, bathroom and outdoor area as well as 24 hour a day access to staff.
“The staff have special skills and experience and education in supporting people with significant mental health issues.
“The people we support are also NDIS participants with a psycho-social disability or a dual disability so that may be people with an intellectual disability as well as a mental health concerns.
“We work very closely with the NDIS to ensure people get the right level of funding to ensure that they can stay well, stay safe and to maintain their tenancy within their home as well as ensuring they stay out of hospital so they can actually live an independent life within the community with the right levels of support.
“Mind Australia are a significant provider of peer support so that is people who have their own lived experience of mental illness and recovery who actually utilize that as well as their education of sometimes a Certificate IV in community services to provide a lot of activities of daily living, help people to build their capacity, help people to work on their symptoms of mental illness.
“A lot of our clients that we support have schizophrenia, schizo-effective disorder, some people that also have a history of issues with substances as well so it is a lot of multidisciplinary support that we provide to the individuals to help them on their recovery from mental illness but also help them to build budgeting skills and build strong relationships with each other with the whole purpose to then be able to move out over time when they are ready to less supported mainstream housing.
“We know that there is a necessary review happening with the NDIS to ensure it can be a sustainable scheme.
“We are working really closely with the federal government at the moment to ensure that the psycho-social housing, the support aspect is preserved.
“They know that there are some great outcomes being achieved by this particular model across Victoria and soon to be in South Australia as well so we will continue to advocate through that process … to ensure that people with psycho-social disability who are recipients of the scheme continue to receive that necessary support.”
“Today Labor is announcing $20 million in partnership with The Haven Foundation to establish specialist long-term Haven residences for people with severe mental illness and psychological disabilities,” Rose Jackson said.
“We know that there is a direct link between serious mental conditions and housing instability and homelessness and, if we are going to break that cycle, we need to invest in models that work,” she said.
“This is a model that works, it’s proven in Victoria and it is getting up and running in South Australia as well.
“NSW needs access to these services and these supports.
“People with serious mental illness in this state should not be missing out on the opportunity for permanent, long term, secure housing and that is exactly what The Haven Foundation is offering with their model and we are so excited to partner with them to provide the support to get these residences off the ground here in NSW.
“We are starting on the Central Coast. That is why we are here today and that is really because of the advocacy of Liesl Tesch (Member for Gosford) on behalf of her community and her constituents like Neil and Joscelyn who came to her, told her their personal story of their son Andrew but also many others who know people with severe mental illnesses who just cannot find stable housing.
“Liesl started banging the drum. She connected us with Mind Australia and it has really gone from there.
“On behalf of myself and the Shadow Health Minister Ryan Park we are so excited to announce today if we are elected to government $20 million will be invested to provide long term housing solutions for people with serious mental illnesses.”
Ms Jackson said the $20 million election commitment was “enough to support three Haven residences in NSW and we are starting here on the Central Coast because we know there is a real need, there’s already been a dialogue with the Local Health District and Homes on the Coast have clearly established the need here but it is going to be broader than that.
“We want more communities in NSW to be able to access this so we haven’t selected sites for those other two locations and we welcome those conversations with the community. Where is the need? Where is the Local Health District really struggling to provide that support.
“That $20 million will cover three sites and we think that’s a really important investment across NSW.
Jackson said she was not able to make a definitive statement about where the residences would be located on the Central Coast.
“If there is government land, health land or even land and housing corporation land, to be honest that’s where we’ll look to start because we want to make sure the investment that we are making goes the furthest.
“If those options aren’t available then we will start to have to look for other sites. Maybe its council land, maybe even private land. We are committed to making this happen.
“We’ve put the money on the table but identifying that land is the first thing we are going to get started with if we are successful hopefully in two weeks’ time.”