MEDIA RELEASE: Funding loss will have devastating impact on homeless women

July 31 2019

At a time when the Royal Commission into Mental Health is hearing heartbreaking evidence of a broken and inadequate service system, McAuley Community Services for Women has been stripped of nine per cent of its Victorian government funding.

McAuley will lose $334,032 by December 2019. ‘The funding loss will completely undermine our ability to give women who are very unwell, dealing with family violence and homelessness the full range of support they need,’ said McAuley’s CEO, Jocelyn Bignold.

‘It will also mean fewer beds – this at a time when homelessness services are already stretched to breaking point. Unbelievably, in parts of Victoria, women are now being offered tents as accommodation, and yet McAuley’s state-of-the-art accommodation and proven support model is being gutted.

‘We are dismayed at this short-sighted decision and call on the Victorian government to immediately reinstate this funding. The women supported by McAuley have had very difficult lives and need much more than a roof over their heads.

‘McAuley House Footscray is our flagship site, and a critical part of our suite of accommodation for more than 500 women and children.

‘Most of the women supported have mental illness and a background of family violence and trauma.’

Ms Bignold said McAuley’s approach, bringing together all the help women need in one place, is essential to their recovery and ability to build new lives.

‘Every day the Royal Commission into Mental Health, which is costing over $13 million, has heard about systems failures and gaps. It is almost certain that the solutions they will propose are for more holistic and targeted services —exactly like those McAuley has been delivering, which will vanish before the Royal Commission even delivers its report.

‘It is extremely disappointing that the Victorian government has made this decision. The dollar amount is tiny in the context of Victoria’s overall mental health spending. But the impact on some of the most disadvantaged in our community will be huge.

‘Without McAuley’s help there will be more strain on already over-stretched emergency, legal and health services. We know that money invested in homelessness support can reduce these other costs by $8920 per person.

Ms Bignold said the decision was more astounding because the Victorian government had in 2016 contributed $4 million to build McAuley House Footscray— Victoria’s first purpose-built accommodation for women who are homeless.

‘They are in effect wasting their own resources which were contributed, not to a mere building, but to the overall support with all the other challenges women are facing.’

Media information:

Jocelyn Bignold is available to speak to the media.

Media contact: Kerrie Soraghan, 0422 966 513


Background: the funding loss

The funding loss is a consequence of a decision made by Victoria in 2014 to transfer Mental Health Community Support Service funding into the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Victoria was the only state to do so. As the NDIS rolls out across Victoria, with the Melbourne western metropolitan region being the last one to transition, there has been a systematic loss of community based mental health support services.

Despite our advocacy about the effect of the impending loss, the Victorian government has not reversed the decision and has now withdrawn $83,500 of McAuley’s mental health funding; the first of four instalments. A total of $334,000 will be lost by December 2019.

NDIS and community mental health supports are quite different and in no way ‘like for like’. In any case, the NDIS will be available to support only 10 per cent of even those with serious, enduring mental illness. The NDIS support model was never intended to provide the array of early intervention, community-based supports that are vital to women supported by McAuley.

Impact of the funding loss

The direct and immediate impact will be on the capacity of McAuley House Footscray to support around 50 women who have been homeless, and who have many complex needs. In 2017/2018, 83 per cent also had a diagnosis of mental illness, 80 per cent had experienced family violence, and almost half had experienced sexual abuse and/or childhood trauma.

McAuley’s ability to support another 20 women who have now moved to independent housing will also be lost.

About McAuley

Last year McAuley directly accommodated 563 women and children and a further 600 were supported at court, or through our employment support program.

McAuley contributes around $15 million in property towards the support of women and children who have experienced family violence and/or homelessness.

McAuley is funded 65 % by government and achieves the remainder of funding through its own fundraising and philanthropy.

Read a summary of our submission to Victoria's Royal Commission into Mental Health Services.