HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [5.41 pm]: Before I begin what I was going to speak about, I want to say how much I appreciated the contribution by Hon Matthew Swinbourn, who spoke about raising the profile of rare diseases. I am aware that this area often gets overlooked, and I, for one, indicate how much I appreciate the advocacy that he has consistently shown in this area. A lot of parents and individuals are impacted by this, so I just wanted to say that I really appreciate the sort of advocacy he has brought to this place and continues to bring to that issue.
That aside, I rise because I want to make some comments arising from a statement I made in the chamber last week around the issue of evictions, particularly from our public housing regime, of people who have quite serious mental health issues. At that point, I raised my concerns in this place about what I saw as quite a distinct departure of the department of housing from the policy that was developed back in the thirty-eighth Parliament with the Mental Health Commission to ensure that people who have ongoing serious mental health issues are not evicted simply because of the behaviours that arise as a direct result of their mental illness. At that point, I mentioned that I had become aware during this term of government of a number of people who had been evicted, or are facing eviction, as a direct result of their mental health issues. I expressed my concern that culturally within the Department of Communities, but specifically within the department of housing, it appeared that we had moved away from the important policies around how to ensure that people are able to successfully maintain their tenancies.
Therefore, I was very disappointed when on Friday I received a letter from the Minister for Housing in response to an issue that I had been pursuing and raising—a man who has hoarding disorder who has effectively been pursued to the point where, at that time, he was homeless. He is now trying to get back into his original accommodation, but with no support from the department of housing. Rather than give me any comfort, I have to say that the letter I received only reinforced my concerns that the people operating within the minister’s office around this area really have no idea what they are talking about. They really do not seem to understand why it is so important that people who are vulnerable and people who have serious mental health issues need every effort made to ensure that they are able to sustain their tenancies within public housing, and that we do not just give up and effectively turf people out into homelessness. That seems particularly ironic, considering that one of the key flagships that this government likes to put out is the work it is doing around homelessness. This government has a serious disconnect, and it will have to change its attitude.
The letter refers to the guy whom I have talked to and mentioned in this chamber and recognises that he has hoarding disorder. The letter goes on to say how the department has found it too difficult to assist him to sustain his tenancy because he has difficulty liaising and connecting with mental health services. Members, this basically reinforces that the department knew all along that this guy has serious mental health issues, and effectively did not take every single measure possible to ensure that he could get that assistance.
It will always be the case that a significant number of people with serious mental health issues who are in our public housing system will either lack insight into the degree of their issue, or, in the case of the guy whom I have been assisting, will say how absolutely difficult it is to get the appropriate support that they need. I have spoken to him again this week. He has been couch surfing, because of course he has effectively been made homeless. He has said to me that, from his perspective, he has the most serious hoarding issues that one can get. He needs help, he wants help and he is asking for help. The government’s response to this has been to make him homeless.
We will have to get back to basics on this one. I suggest that the first thing that the staff within the minister’s office need to do is acquaint themselves with the intent of the original policy. They also need to have an urgent meeting with the Mental Health Commission about how it needs to put in place processes to ensure that people who identify as having serious mental health issues can best be assisted and be provided with wraparound services. It is not good enough. I will say to the staff who wrote this letter on behalf of the Minister for Mental Health to please keep in mind, when they are writing to me as someone who is raising concerns about people with mental health issues, that this is an area I know quite a lot about. Therefore, I am able to read through what these sorts of letters are actually saying and I am able to understand where the system is failing.
I am quite happy to have a meeting with the minister, if need be, to talk about how the system needs to be improved. It will always be difficult for people who have serious mental health issues to maintain their tenancy. I recognise that it is not fun, and not safe, to live next to a person with hoarding disorder. Nevertheless, we need to find a better way to deal with this. To simply evict people into homelessness, when public housing is effectively the last resort accommodation for many people, does not cut it. It is not good enough. I will keep raising this issue, and, if need be, I will keep profiling individuals who have been affected by this. I urge this government to start to get some connections between what is happening in Housing and the work that is being done by Communities, particularly around homelessness, which is otherwise good, and make sure it puts in place a continuum of supports for people right across the spectrum.