Returning independence to social housing in NSW

By Harley Dennett

July 21, 2014

Newly released details of maintenance contract restructuring at the New South Wales Department of Families and Community Services will pave the way for social housing tenants to act independently and cut delays.

The proposed changes are expected to come at a cost of 44 jobs from across the state, which has angered the Public Service Association. However, no FACS offices will close.

Starting in the second half of 2015, the FACS will allow tenants to take charge of arranging repair works, a role previously undertaken by co-ordinators in the department, with the savings being reinvested back into the social housing system.

A spokesperson for FACS says the changes will realise better value for money, but there will also be a greater focus on quality assurance.

“The changes will allow tenants to speak directly with contractors when they have a repair query, rather than going through the current call centre,” the spokesperson told The Mandarin. “This will result in more ‘first-time fixes’ for repairs.”

The remaining maintenance staff will now cover a larger area, as they will operate from 17 of the 39 local FACS offices. A review to ensure adequate skills and manpower needs across the state has begun. The spokesperson says close consultation with affected staff and the PSA will precede any finalisation of the structure.

PSA representatives have expressed concern this was “sprung” on staff, and that it comes after many previous rounds of outsourcing of services in the department.

Acting general secretary of the PSA, Steve Turner, told The Mandarin they had heard rumours that even greater outsourcing was coming to NSW public housing, on top of the involuntary transfer of disability support staff from the FACS to non-government organisations. The PSA is seeking assurance that the wages and earned benefits of all staff affected will be protected.

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