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1.3.1 Homelessness assistance including the disruptive behaviour management strategy

Last Modified: 08-Oct-2019 Review Date: 01-Jul-2018

Purpose

To guide child protection workers in assisting individuals, families and children who are homeless or who have incurred a strike or strikes through the Disruptive Behaviour Management Strategy.

Practice Requirements

  • The Department of Communities (the Department) has a role in providing services to vulnerable children, young people and their families at risk or in crisis.
  • Where homeless families with children request assistance to access accommodation, child protection workers must assess whether the children are at significant risk of harm and, if so, offer support services accordingly.
  • If children are at risk, a referral to a homelessness accommodation and support service must be made as a first option, or financial support may be provided for low cost overnight accommodation (from one to three nights). For more information please refer to the Directory of Specialist Homelessness Services by Department District (in related resources). In the Perth, Mirrabooka and Fremantle districts, referrals must be sent to Entrypoint Perth. 
  • Where the Housing vision (Housing) provides us with information about families with children who have incurred a ‘strike’, child protection workers must consider the safety and wellbeing of the children and decide whether a referral should be made or support be offered to assist the family to prevent eviction. Duty officers must select '16–Housing–3 Strikes' as the contact method in Assist.
  • Where a family presents on multiple occasions (including requests for financial assistance) within a short period, an assessment of risk of the children must be undertaken. This involves accessing Assist and Objective records ,and making further enquiries with other agencies (including Housing) and professionals, and engaging directly with the family.
  • Where an assessment is not undertaken, the rationale for the decision must be recorded and approved by the designated officer. With every subsequent contact with the family (including for financial assistance), the decision to undertake an assessment must be reviewed. This decision and the rationale should be recorded and approved by the designated officer.
Process Maps

Procedures

  • Background
  • Determine family eligibility for accommodation assistance
  • Referral and assistance options
  • Entrypoint Perth – Perth, Mirrabooka and Fremantle districts
  • Disruptive Behaviour Management Strategy – Housing
  • Alternative assistance programs for individuals and families
  • Background

    The Department is committed to supporting individuals, families and children in crisis, and in the case of homelessness, provides a range of options. Primary homelessness is defined as those that are sleeping rough without a roof over their head.

    We can provide support to children, young people, individuals and families in circumstances where there are no other service providers and vulnerability is significant. This may be via referral to a homelessness accommodation and support service, and/or assessing suitability for financial assistance through a one-off payment for low cost overnight accommodation.

    The Homeless Assistance Policy is based on the premise that we are not a housing provider and do not have access to ongoing accommodation. We fund a range of homelessness accommodation and support services that assist people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Assistance to acquire more stable or longer term accommodation is the responsibility of these agencies, and Housing. Information about services provided by Housing can be found on its website. Homelessness services funded by the Department are listed in the Directory of Specialist Homelessness Services by Department Districts (in related resources).

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    Determine family eligibility for accommodation assistance

    When a family with children presents to district office as homeless, assistance can be provided in cases where all of the following three conditions are met:

    1. The family has no shelter, that is, they are ‘primary homeless’.
    2. The family has no other resources or has exhausted all other resources including financial resources, Centrelink payments and assistance from friends and family. 
    3. Children will be at risk of significant harm if assistance is not provided.

    If an eligible family requires our assistance with accommodation, a referral to a homelessness accommodation and support service is made. Financial support may also be provided through the Family Crisis Program.

    The Perth, Mirrabooka and Fremantle Districts and the Crisis Care Unit (CCU) assist eligible families to find accommodation or allocate financial support relating to homelessness through Entrypoint Perth.

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    Referral and assistance options

    An immediate referral should be made to an appropriate service for assistance to access medium or long term accommodation - refer to the Directory of Specialist Homelessness Services by Department Districts. Where ongoing accommodation is required, a referral to a housing agency is appropriate. Housing has a single entry portal for affordable housing information at www.affordablehousing.wa.gov.au.

    Where there are no vacancies for homelessness accommodation and support services, alternative assistance options include:

    • providing other assistance to free up the family's resources to facilitate accommodation options (for example, where a family member or friend is willing to accommodate the client if they contribute to food expenses), or 
    • paying for overnight accommodation expenses in a low cost hotel, caravan park, etc., through financial assistance as discussed below.
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    Entrypoint Perth – Perth, Mirrabooka and Fremantle districts

    Entrypoint Perth, operated by Centrecare, is funded to support individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness referred by the Perth, Mirrabooka and Fremantle district offices and the CCU. All metropolitan districts direct referrals to Entrypoint Perth.

    Entrypoint Perth’s target group includes:

    • individuals over 15 years of age
    • families
    • couples without children, and
    • women with or without children who are homeless as a result of family and domestic violence.

    Entrypoint Perth delivers the followings services:

    • accepting referrals from the Perth, Mirrabooka and Fremantle districts, the CCU, Housing and self-referrals
    • screening and assessment of people who contact the service via telephone and face to face methods, and
    • providing information and/or an immediate referral to suitable accommodation and support services.

    Entrypoint Perth is not a case management service.

    The referral process is as follows:

    • During office hours (9.00am to 5.00pm) the duty officer refers clients by phone or via email to referrals@entrypointperth.com.au. 
    • District staff must email the Entrypoint Perth Referral Form (in related resources) to Entrypoint Perth.   
    • Client consent to the referral either signing the Entrypoint Perth Consent Form (in related resources) or by telephone consent.
    • Entrypoint Perth must respond to the referral within one working day. Where an urgent response is required (during Entrypoint Perth’s opening hours), child protection workers should phone and email Entrypoint Perth to negotiate a response.
    • Entrypoint Perth will provide feedback on the outcome of the referral.

    The CCU must refer to the MOU - Entrypoint Perth for information about the referral process.

    Assessments can be made over the phone or at a location suitable to the client, including in a Perth, Cannington, Gosnells, Joondalup, Midland and Mirrabooka Centrecare office.   

    The Department retains responsibility for:

    • assessing children under 15 years of age who present as homeless 
    • the case management of a young person in the Chief Executive Officer's (CEO's) care aged 15 -17 years of age
    • supporting children who leave the CEO’s care to obtain accommodation
    • providing alternative care and accommodation for young people in the CEO's care who are involved in the criminal justice system
    • young people under 16 years of age who are unable to live at home, and
    • providing Family Crisis Program financial support in very urgent situations to families with children and those experiencing family and domestic violence.

    More information can be found in MOU - Entrypoint Perth (in related resources).

    Family Crisis Program – homelessness - families

    Where a family with children presents as homeless they may be eligible for a one-off payment for emergency accommodation through the Family Crisis Program.  Financial assistance may be provided for one to three nights. Team leader approval is required for more than one night and district director approval for more than three nights. 

    Eligibility

    For families with children to be considered eligible the following conditions must be met:

    • an unforeseen crisis exists
    • there is a demonstration of need
    • other avenues of assistance have been fully explored, and
    • external verification of key events has been sighted by the interviewing officer.

    An ‘unforeseen crisis’ is where a family is experiencing circumstances beyond their control. This situation has negative consequences that threaten the family’s social and emotional wellbeing. Where a person knowingly or repeatedly worsens their financial situation, this is not considered an unforeseen crisis.

    Excluded circumstances

    Excluded circumstances include situations where:

    • a person knowingly or repeatedly worsens their financial situation
    • where rent or mortgage payments are not paid (these are considered a normal part of household budget managment, not an 'unforeseen cirsis' - voluntary income management should be discussed with families in these situations), and  
    • where Centrelink has primary responsibility for payment and payment issues resulting in the unforeseen circumstance.

    Financial assessment

    A financial assessment determines if a family with children is eligible for financial assistance. The financial assessment can include verification of:

    • the applicant's identity
    • the applicant's income, and
    • that the client does not have the financial resources to resolve their current crisis situation.

    Please refer to Family Crisis Program – Financial Assessment (in related resources) for further information.

    Expenditure allowance

    As a guide it is suggested that an individual in normal circumstances may be eligible for up to $250. However, there may be exceptional circumstances where a child protection worker assesses that the case warrants up to $1,000. As long as the total is not greater than $1,000 the child protection worker can provide the assistance.

    Where child protection workers determine that the level of assistance required is greater than $1,000 (for either individual or multiple categories of assistance under the Family Crisis Program) the coordinator Client Support Services must approve the funding before assistance is issued. The coordinator Client Support Services, the director Business Support and Coordination and Executive Director can approve up to their delegated budget levels.

    Assist data entry

    To record the assessment and allocation of Family Crisis Program funding in Assist, child protection workers must create a new interaction using the 'Homelessness – Families' category: 

    1. Complete the standard interaction screens.
    2. When asked for an ‘action’ in the related action summary pane select ‘application for assistance’   This opens the financial assessment screen (equivalent of Form 012) for the child protection worker to populate.
    3. On the interaction detail tab, select 'financial support' as a primary issue.
    4. On the interaction detail tab outcome drop down menu, select 'financial assistance'.
    5. Once the intake is completed, the next step for processing the payment in Assist varies depending on the payment method chosen. Refer to the Assist User Guides - Financial Assessment (in related resources) for more information. 
    6. A 'Payment Authorisation Form' must be generated to authorise the approval for the funding.

    Please refer to the Assist User Guides - Financial Assessment in related resources for more information on data entry.

    Other requirements

    In line with Chapter 2.2: Assessment and investigation processes, where a family presents on multiple occasions for financial assistance in a short period of time, an assessment must be undertaken. This involves accessing previous records (Assist and Objective), making further enquiries from other agencies and professionals, and engaging directly with the family.

    Where an assessment is not undertaken, the rationale for that decision must be recorded and approved by the designated senior officer. At every subsequent contact by the family, the decision to undertake an assessment must be reviewed, and the decision and the rationale recorded and approved by the designated senior officer.

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    Disruptive Behaviour Management Strategy – Housing

    Housing introduced the Disruptive Behaviour Management Strategy (DBMS) to address community concern about antisocial behaviour by tenants in public housing. Housing has defined three levels of disruptive behaviour - Dangerous, Serious and Minor. Tenants found to have engaged in dangerous behaviours will have immediate action taken against them to terminate their tenancy. Those found to have engaged in serious breaches will receive a strike - if another strike for a serious breach is earned in a 12 month period, they will face eviction. For proven minor behaviours, three strikes in 12 months will result in termination of the tenancy. For more information refer to the Disruptive Behaviour Management Strategy Brochure (in related resources). 

    Districts are encouraged to develop and maintain local relationships with their corresponding Housing officers, particularly Housing officers with responsibility for the DBMS.

    To assist a family with children to prevent eviction, we have  requested that Housing share information at ‘first strike’. The Department’s role with these families is to assess what supports (in addition to those provided through Housing) could be provided to limit the likelihood of further strikes or eviction. Where families face immediate eviction under the DBMS and Housing has assisted the family to access other options but none are available, this information can be provided to us. 

    We assess whether the eviction will impact the safety and wellbeing of the children, and what referral or services may be offered. 

    In the first instance, Housing provides this information by telephone or via email to the duty officer.  This information is not provided for us to to take responsibility for the actual or possible accommodation needs of families and children facing eviction.  

    Open cases

    In situations where there is an open case and information about a family is received from Housing, the duty officer must complete a duty interaction and inform his or her team leader and the family's case manager to decide if any supports will be provided to address any identified issues. For further information refer to Chapter 2.2: Assessment and investigation processes.

    Interactions

    When a duty officer receives information about a child or family who do not have an open case from Housing, they must initiate a duty interaction to determine whether we have an ongoing role in offering support services and the child’s safety, wellbeing and/or protection.

    If it is assessed that we have an ongoing role, time-limited, targeted support may be provided to address homelessness through:

    • support or referral to specialist homelessness services
    • advice regarding other family and/or housing support services, or
    • direct service provision through the Family Crisis Program.

    Intake

    In situations where there are concerns for a child or young person’s wellbeing, child protection workers must intake and conduct initial enquiries to determine whether we have any further role.

    If it is assessed that there are significant concerns regarding harm or a significant risk of harm, a Child Safety Investigation must be conducted to determine what actions need to taken to safeguard the child or young person’s wellbeing. For further information refer to Chapter 2.2: Conducting a Child Safety Investigation.

    Children in CEO's care

    In cases where a general or family carer is at ‘first or second strike’ duty officers should complete an interaction and inform the family's the case manager. The case manager must assess if additional support services are required to prevent escalation of further crisis through eviction, and if safety and wellbeing issues require assessment.

    Where assessed as appropriate, we and non-government homelessness accommodation and support services will work in partnership with Housing to provide tenancy support in cases of vulnerable families with children at risk of eviction or who have been evicted under DBMS. This may be in the form of referrals to family support services such as Parent Support or Best Beginnings, or referrals to accommodation and homelessness services - refer to the Directory of Specialist Homelessness Services by Department Districts (in related resources).

    Families not facing immediate eviction

    We expect that Housing continues to case manage the client and contribute towards improving the circumstances that threaten the tenancy. The supports provided by Housing should be listed on the Disruptive Behaviour Management Strategy Information Sharing Form.

    Recording information

    We are required to report on information received through the DBMS. Information must be recorded on Assist in a new interaction with the following values recorded in the relevant areas of the interaction:

    Task

    Agency

    Agency Lookup  Department of Housing
    Contact Method  16-Housing-3 Strikes
    Issue  Housing issue
    Detail  Tenancy
    Protocol  Housing-3 Strikes Policy

     

    All other areas of the interaction are recorded according to individual circumstances.
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    Alternative assistance programs for individuals and families

    Individuals and families who present with the following are eligible for assistance under other programs:

    • Youth homelessness is addressed under the Youth Homelessness Protocol (refer to Chapter 1.3: Homeless young people).
    • Family violence assistance to leave funding (refer to Chapter 2.3: Family and Domestic Violence).
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