Question: Housing Trust (12 September 2019)

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (14:34): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Human Services regarding the Housing Trust.

Leave granted.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: On Sunday evening, a 77-year-old woman suffering from dementia was found sitting on the street after waiting for police for four hours to take her to a refuge shelter. The government's Homelessness Gateway was contacted and it was explained that the woman had been evicted from her Housing Authority property late on Friday afternoon. In fact, when she had returned from a medical appointment, she found the locks had been changed on her home.

Unfortunately, because of the dementia suffered by the woman, the refuge was unable to accommodate her. The only option was to attend the Royal Adelaide emergency department. A hotel was eventually found for her at around 11pm. The elderly woman has no family and therefore has no other supports. My questions to the minister are: is the minister aware of this case and can she explain why this woman was evicted on a Friday afternoon without proper assistance in place?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:35): I thank the honourable member for her question. From recollection, that is not a situation that has arisen to me. I have spoken in this place previously in relation to the changed policy in terms of management for disorderly behaviour of tenants which has, as part of its component, to ensure that there is early assistance for people who may have particular vulnerabilities which under other circumstances may have led to evictions.

We have had a situation in South Australia with Housing Trust tenants where the policy hasn't been particularly clear. For those who wilfully misuse their properties, that has sent a clear message that you can get away with bad behaviour and enforcement action wouldn't be taken. On the comments that the member has made, that is certainly not the view that we would take in this particular case. I would dearly like to receive those details from the honourable member so that we can follow up how this situation has taken place and get some more information for her. But I would also advise that the South Australian Housing Authority isn't the only—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Members of the opposition, other members cannot hear the minister, so let's allow the minister to say what she has to say.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The South Australian Housing Authority isn't the only community housing provider, so it may well be that it's another provider, but without the honourable member providing me with the particular specific details I am unable to comment any further.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (14:37): A supplementary—and I can advise the minister that the details are being provided to her office—does the minister know of any other cases of people being evicted late on a Friday; and does her department have a policy of evicting on Fridays, noting that services are not available over the weekend?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:38): I think the honourable member misunderstands the situation because evictions are applied through the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, so cases are determined by them. They can decide whether somebody is evicted or not, and they are the organisation that actually makes the determinations about evictions.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (14:38): A further supplementary: is the minister saying that the orders to have locks changed on the home of a 77-year-old woman is not under the responsibility of the Housing Authority, from which she was renting the property?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:38): The honourable member, as is the wont of Labor members to try and put words into ministers' mouths—I have asked if she can provide me with those specific details and we will follow those up.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (14:39): A further supplementary: can the minister explain why there are no red flags to ensure that people with dementia, with health issues or who are aged—in this case 77 years old—are not evicted on a Friday with no supports available, so they are left to be found on Port Road on a cold night in the middle of winter—to do what? It could have been a tragic, tragic outcome. Can she explain why there are no red flags to stop that happening for this poor woman?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:39): I have outlined previously what the policy of the Housing Authority is; if she wants to provide me with those specific details. The Housing Authority is usually aware if people have personal challenges, and my understanding is that their policy is to treat those sensitively. Without being availed of the facts in front of me, I am unable to comment any further.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (14:40): Further and final supplementary: for the minister to say that it is their policy to consider this sort of situation sensitively is amazing. It was me who found this woman on Port Road on Sunday night.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ms Scriven, just ask the supplementary arising without introducing any facts.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: How can you possibly defend a policy that says three strikes and you are out without taking into account dementia, health issues and age?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:40): I commend the honourable member for taking care of this woman. I will provide her with my mobile number so that next time she is in this situation I will be able to direct whatever needs to be done.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: She can have—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: No, I said—

The Hon. C.M. Scriven: What about the policy so it doesn't happen to anyone else?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: My understanding, from what the honourable member has said to me, is that that is different to the policy that is my understanding. I would be more than happy for her to provide me with those details so that I can take those up with the agency immediately.