Tenants shocked by loss of local services
Redfern and Waterloo tenants were shocked to hear that Housing Communities Program (HCP) worker Laura Kelly and Tenants Participation Resource (TPRS) Worker David White would depart by late November. Counterpoint Community Services has run the Redfern-Waterloo HCP project for 14 years and Inner Sydney Voice (ISV) has been the TPRS provider for 23 years, having run the HCP project prior to Counterpoint. Last year the area also lost the UNSW Community Development Project (CDP).
Family and Community Services (FACS) funding for TPRS and HCP will be redirected into a new Tenant Participation and Community Engagement (TPCE) program, with FACS targeting larger operators to provide economies of scale. Counterpoint and ISV applied for the TPCE funding, but even as existing providers neither rated an interview. The name of the successful TPCE provider, which will service tenants from the upper north shore to Sutherland, is expected late October.
Hypercritically, FACS reviewed its tenant participation programs without talking to any tenants and without talking to the place-based HCP providers. Only existing TPRS providers were involved in any evaluation before FACS made a decision to disband both TPRS and HCP and bundle funding into the new TPCE program. Counterpoint’s complaint to the head of FACS about this process went unanswered.
HCP is very different from TPRS and TPCE. HCP was a place-based program in areas of concentrated public housing. In Redfern-Waterloo it was embedded in the local community centre, The Factory, and consistently met and exceeded its FACS reporting requirements. Tenants could easily walk through its doors if they had issues. Many issues were identified early because the organisation was connected to the estate in a multitude of ways. Tenants may still walk through The Factory doors but post-HCP it will not be funded to deal with many issues.
While the HCP funding just covered a worker, it allowed many activities in the area to happen by leveraging small grants for events like the annual Volunteer Awards, Summer on the Green and Redfern Neighbourhood Day. Many activities are now at risk. The ability to leverage additional resources was one of the TPCE funding criteria.
Counterpoint, ISV and REDWatch are pushing government for a place-based approach in Waterloo and Redfern for human services and tenant support. At the same time another part of FACS is taking resources (which have been crucial to what has already been achieved) out of the area because it prefers not to deal with smaller local providers.
It will take a long time for a new provider to establish local connections and trust. Irrespective of what happens with a new TPCE provider, the area has lost a place-based program just when it is most needed.
FACS needs urgently to assess the impact of its decision and recommit to place-based community development in Redfern and Waterloo.
“Inserting a new and unknown provider into Redfern and Waterloo, and removing staff that the community has built up trust with when the area is undergoing the biggest transformation in social housing history is short-sighted and breaks the government’s own promise of no loss of services for the area.
“The new program and provider may bring reduced hours in support for tenants and community groups as they will be focusing on a wider area and without a place-based community development focus. The lack of understanding of a community centre’s role in this space of work is disheartening, and the notion that larger providers are better than local ones is based on a very flawed understanding of the NGO sector” (Michael Shreenan, Counterpoint Community Services).
“Having worked in the tenant participation space for over 23 years, supporting social housing tenants to have input into the decisions affecting their lives, Inner Sydney Voice is saddened to say we were unsuccessful in the tender for the newly packaged Tenant Participant Community Engagement program. This means we will have to say farewell to David White who has been in the role of Tenant Participation Resource Officer for over 15 years.
“We are striving to ensure there are no impacts on our other social housing based projects such as the Community Resilience, Waterloo Capacity Building and Aboriginal Liaison roles.
“The current program will run until November 30, ready for the new provider to start on December 3.” (Charmaine Jones, Inner Sydney Voice).
Geoff Turnbull is the spokesperson for REDWatch. He works part-time for ISV and is the treasurer of Counterpoint.