Housing and health sector silos contribute to ‘cycle of crisis’

By Shannon Jenkins

Monday June 3, 2019

Source: Getty Images

Public sector silos are contributing to poor housing and ill-health for people living with mental health issues, argues the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI).

Housing, homelessness and mental health operate under “essentially separate” policy systems which rarely interact, despite the strong and complex links between poor mental health and homelessness, according to a study by Mind Australia and AHURI.

Privacy legislation and a lack of information sharing act as “barriers” to collaboration and service integration, meaning workers cannot refer consumers to the support services they need.

There is a lack of availability and diversity of services for those in remote areas, varying stages of life and different backgrounds, presenting another barrier to accessing support services.

These breaks in the system only worsen poor housing and health outcomes.

“Several service gaps contribute to inadequate housing and exacerbate mental health issues for people with lived experience of mental ill-health”, AHURI says.

“While housing can affect mental health, a person’s mental ill-health can have a negative impact on their housing situation.

“A general lack of integration between support sectors was perceived to contribute to a cycle of crisis, inpatient treatment, and discharge”.

A better understanding of people’s movement through the systems is needed, AHURI says, but those experiencing both homelessness and mental health issues are a difficult group for service providers to reach.

The main service gaps identified by AHURI are:

  • Location: Appropriate programs to help those who need housing and mental health support are not available in most jurisdictions, particularly in regional and rural areas.
  • Discharge planning: Some jurisdictions have protocols for post-discharge arrangements from psychiatric facilities, however similar protocols for mental health and tenancy support for people exiting other institutional care settings are underdeveloped.
  • Insufficient integration: Agreements between mental health and housing departments are often restrictive and are not integrated.
  • Housing supply gaps: A lack of sufficient housing puts people at risk of homelessness and mental health issues, especially those checking out of residential mental health programs or hospitals.
  • Eligibility and capacity: Many people who require effective services miss out due to limited places or because they are deemed ineligible to receive support.
  • Barriers to collaboration: Privacy protocols can prevent service providers from discussing consumers, which presents a barrier to receiving necessary support.
  • Information collection and sharing: Information about consumers is often not shared across agencies.

“The housing, homelessness and mental health systems are not well integrated and do not meet needs,” the report argues.

“This is compounded by housing affordability, social housing shortages and insufficient supported housing.”

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