The Hon. J.S. LEE (15:00): My question is to the Minister for Human Services about the South Australian Housing Authority's new antisocial behaviour policy. Can the minister please provide an update to the council about how this new policy will improve the management of antisocial behaviour in public housing?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (15:00): I thank the honourable member for her question. We know that we have a large number of complaints received through the Housing Authority every year—some 6,000 complaints are made, 2,500 of which relate to matters which properly could be dealt with through other neighbourhood matters, such as through local councils. On average, we receive complaints about 8 per cent of our tenancies. The vast majority of tenants comply with the agreements that they agree to when they become tenants, and they look after their properties very well, live peacefully, take great pride and are greatly appreciative of their Housing Trust tenancy.
However, we do have problems with particular antisocial behaviour. The policy under the previous administration I think would be fair to describe as reasonably woolly. Matters that may relate to noise and where people park their cars were conflated with much more serious matters. It was unclear what the effect was and how the tenants' behaviour related to their tenancy.
In August 2018, the authority began a review of its disruptive tenancy policy. It established a working group to develop clear, consistent and effective approaches to managing disruptive behaviour. The new policy needed to balance the responsibilities of tenants, the rights of neighbours and the broader community and the need to support tenants to sustain their public housing tenancies if they had particular matters that they needed assistance with.
The new policy, which came into effect yesterday, aims to implement greater controls and improved oversight in relation to the management of antisocial behaviour and complaints, achieve greater efficiency through appropriate triaging and allocation of resources according to the severity of the complaint, improve the quality and timeliness of investigations, improve staff knowledge and skills in managing and responding to complaints, expedite interventions and responses to antisocial behaviour, and achieve a cultural shift whereby authority staff and tenants understand their responsibilities and that antisocial behaviour in tenancies is unacceptable and will be swiftly and appropriately managed.
We have a system where there may be one verbal warning for minor matters. We have a range of behaviours that fall into that category, which generally relate to nuisance, noise, obscene language and accumulated rubbish, but where there is no potential injury to others; the moderate range, which could include physical intimidation, serious harassment, dangerous driving, or out of control parties, as well as damage to property; and, serious, which does include serious damage to property and which renders the place uninhabitable, or if criminal charges have been laid. Those three areas have made it much clearer. We appreciate that there are people who are vulnerable and who may need more assistance and so the senior managers will have the responsibility to intervene in those situations to see what supports we may need to implement for people.
Anybody who has had this portfolio would know that there are a lot of matters that are raised with ministers, written and through telephone calls to the office, and I would hazard a guess that the people who will welcome this new policy the most will be Housing Trust tenants who, as I have mentioned, in the main are respectful and appreciate the properties and look after them well. We believe that they have as much right as everybody else to live in peace and harmony and therefore, in those instances where people are engaged in antisocial behaviour, that their complaints will be managed appropriately.