Social Services, Elderly, Veterans, disadvantaged and Homelessness.
You don’t have to look far to see the standard and quality of social services in Canberra has declined. Canberra has the shameful claim to the 2nd highest homelessness rate of any Capital City in Australia.
Earlier this year I asked the appropriate ACT Government Minister about helping a particular homeless female in Civic. I was told there was nothing the government could do, if these people wont sign for permission for assistance and privacy wavers. The problem is most of these people have severely impaired mental and physical capacity to care for themselves and most will not sign paperwork, as they have a deep mistrust for authority and the system.
Many of these people have extremely tragic and sad stories, which have lead to them being homeless. Many also are remarkably talented and have skills that are also going to waste.
Once homeless, the longer they are left in this situation the more impaired and effected they will become.
You put any fully functioning and capable person on the street for a year. Subject them to extreme heat (de-hydration), cold (hyperthermia), wind, rain, abuse, discomfort, alcohol, drugs, filth and non-sanitary condition, constant threats of violence and assault, then add hydration, nutrition and zero medical or dental care and any person would develop significant mental health issues and be so much harder to help.
We also have a problem in our society of elderly abuse, which is not currently being addressed properly by government and who think, a do little, elderly abuse hotline is the answer. However, like many government hotlines, which only really record stat’s for some minister to claim they have assisted x amount of people, provides very little if any real help and direct assistance to those that need it.
These elderly people that have worked hard all their lives and contributed much to our society, with many having served to protect our country in conflicts, putting themselves at great risk. Yet now in their twilight years stingy governments do very little to help and protect the quality of life they have well earned.
The government has a moral and civic duty to deal with these issues properly and with understanding and compassion. I would put forward the following multi faceted solution towards mitigating and fixing this issues of homelessness.
Early and proper intervention is very important.
Full medical and psychological assessment and treatment.
Establishment of appropriate and safe accommodation centers.
Rest, treatment, hope, care, community, nurturing and learning.
Rehabilitation where possible back into a meaningful productive life.
Job and skills program for those able and willing.
In order for government and other stakeholder organization to help these people, I would propose that a new Diminished Responsibility Act be put in place that gives powers to allow for direct government intervention.
It should correctly recognize that people should not be living rough on the streets around Canberra and once they reach the point of not being able to care for themselves, that the Government then has the appropriate power to step in, when and if required, to help such people get back onto their feet by giving them a hand up.
In relation to our elderly and veterans, I would properly resource the Office for Ageing to properly provide hands on direct assistance to those vulnerable people in our community that most need help, not just pass them into the current endless trail of dead end disappointments.
This could involve assistance in dealing with other government agencies or housing issues or disputes with unfriendly neighbors or direct elderly abuse by relatives, friends and others.
Again Canberra could became a world leader in this area as well as many other area's.