Federal funding for WA's homeless appears safe after Tony Abbott said he had heard Premier Colin Barnett's plea to maintain vital services for the State's most vulnerable people.
While welfare agencies are still seeking details, the Prime Minister used his first day of campaigning ahead of the WA Senate election re-run to offer "important words of comfort".
"I'm not announcing Budget commitments today but I have heard the plea from the Premier on this issue and I just want to assure the Premier and the people of Western Australia that we are not going to let them down on this particular matter," Mr Abbott said yesterday as he opened the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.
Funding under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, worth $14.5 million a year for WA, runs out on June 30, leaving the State Government and the welfare sector anxious about the future of services. About 6000 people, including single mums, domestic violence victims and young children emerging from child protection, use the services every year.
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews told _The West Australian _ that welfare agencies working in homelessness should be reassured that the Government was mindful and "very appreciative" of their work.
He said the Government wanted to make homelessness a key element of a broader housing strategy. "It's really a series of complex inter-related issues. It's not just housing supply, there's mental health issues, there's family violence issues, post-prison issues, family breakdown, even what homeless people receive in relation to aged care," Mr Andrews said.
"Our view is that housing and homelessness should be treated in a holistic way and that's what we are intent on doing."
One option is to reinstate a national housing agreement integrating homelessness services but because this would likely require a new Council of Australian Governments agreement, Mr Andrews may have to roll over the NPAH for one more year.
WA Council of Social Service acting chief executive Chris Twomey said the PM's comments were welcome. "We are hopeful that this is a sign that some sort of agreement will be announced by the end of the month," he said.
Child Protection Minister Helen Morton said the comments were reassuring but WA needed "more clarity and certainty" for people using the services, welfare workers and employers.