Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs

Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Housing Affordability) Bill 2017

November 2017

The St Vincent de Paul Society (the Society) welcomes the opportunity to give feedback on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Housing Affordability) Bill 2017.

Schedules 1 and 2 of this Bill will amend social security law and family assistance law to allow for the Automatic Rent Deduction Scheme (ARDS). The major impact of the amendments is to provide that lessors of social housing may request that payments for rent and other household utilities be deducted from the social security or family tax benefit payments of tenants or other agreed adult household members. The first object of these parts of the Bill is to “reduce homelessness” (124QA (a) and 67B (a)). The statement of compatibility with human rights in the explanatory memorandum to the Bill concludes that the limitations to human rights are “reasonable, necessary and proportionate to achieving the legitimate objective of preventing evictions due to arrears and debt which may force a person, and their children, into homelessness.”

As a Society committed to standing with and supporting the most vulnerable in our community we are strongly supportive of measures that would reduce homelessness.

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be strong evidence that the measures in Schedules 1 and 2 will be effective in reducing homelessness. Furthermore, as this measure is likely to impact many people who are not at risk of eviction there is a danger that these measures will adversely affect them.

We therefore recommend that these two schedules are not passed until the Government can provide evidence that they will be effective in reducing homelessness, and that any gains in reducing homelessness are not offset by other adverse consequences to other recipients of social security and family assistance.