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Release of the SHS program evaluation

DCJ has recently released a full report of its SHS program evaluation.  

The evaluation, conducted by Ernst & Young, aimed to understand the SHS system and the outcomes it is achieving, as well as providing strategic direction and advice for the program’s future. Specifically, the review examined whether the SHS program was currently meeting its objectives and was providing value for money.  

The following is a summary of the report’s findings.  

 

What is working well?

The evaluation found that the SHS Program has had some success in achieving short-term goals. Approximately 30% of clients in need of short-term accommodation were able to access it, with 28% transitioning to community housing and over 20% moving into public housing after receiving SHS support. Additionally, the program effectively met the needs of over 80% of clients seeking assistance with domestic and family violence services in FY 21/22. 

 

Areas for improvement

Despite these successes, the evaluation highlighted several areas where it believes the SHS Program currently falls short.  

High rate of repeat visits

The evaluation found that 60.3% of clients returned within the same year, often due to unresolved housing issues, domestic violence, or relationship breakdowns. 

Gaps in meeting client needs

  • Only 30.4% of clients needing short-term accommodation had their needs met. 
  • Similarly, 21% for medium-term housing and a mere 1.7% for long-term housing found suitable options. 
  • In FY 21/22, the success rates for meeting mental health needs were modest: 26% for psychological services, 27% for psychiatric services, 36% for general mental health services, and 46% for specialist counselling. 
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients faced challenges, with only 31.3% receiving adequate mental health support. 

Economic benefit of the program  

The evaluation indicated that it was unable to fully provide recommendations on the economic efficiency of the program due to limited data. However, based on available data, including the low rates of met need and high rates of repeat presentations for the same service, the evaluation found that the SHS program had a benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of 1.02, indicating only a small economic benefit.

 

Recommendations 

Based on these findings, the evaluation put forward 23 recommendations focusing on: 

  • Accessibility 
  • Client cohorts and needs 
  • Client centricity and integration 
  • Networks and governance 
  • Data collection and reporting 

These include:  

  1. Monitoring and refinement of assessment processes: Monitor the implementation of the refined Link2Home assessment process and align it closely with the SHS Common Assessment tool. Enable full sharing of assessments with service providers to improve the referral process. 
  2. Enhancing data management: Prioritise compliance with recording and maintaining Vacancy Management System (VMS) listings. Review and optimise the VMS user interface and provide additional training for standardised vacancy assessments. 
  3. Improving service accessibility: Enable mainstream service providers to access information about SHS services through technological solutions. Develop standardised frameworks for prioritising clients and improving efficiency in assessment and intake processes. 
  4. Investment in Accommodation Services: Prioritise investment in SHS accommodation services based on evidence of unmet needs and client characteristics. Review factors influencing the use of the Temporary Accommodation (TA) scheme and explore alternative models for providing TA in rural areas. 
  5. Collaboration and Training: Strengthen collaboration between SHS providers and health service providers. Revise the SHS mental health training curriculum to ensure relevance and efficacy. Implement a regular SHS data training calendar and promote online training options for staff. 

 

What will be done with the evaluation?  

DCJ has indicated that it will collaborate with relevant stakeholders to review and consider each recommendation identified in the evaluation. They have also indicated that the findings and recommendations will guide the SHS program approach in preparation of the commencement of the five-year contracts starting in July 2026. 

 

Homelessness NSW’s response to the evaluation  

  • We believe the report provides evidence of the extent of unmet need in the sector, particularly in relation to accommodation. It is important to emphasise that this is not due to failure of services to provide adequate care, but due to under-resourcing of services.  
  • Inadequate data, particularly in relation to medium-term and long-term outcomes, means that the economic analysis of cost: benefit ratio may not be reliable. There are significant potential benefits that cannot or have not been quantified. 
  • The evaluation also has not placed sufficient weight on the strong qualitative data which demonstrates that SHS clients are receiving a client-centred and an integrated response to their support needs.
  • Clarity is needed on what constitutes a positive outcome for a person who accesses SHS support. While the high rate of repeat visits is reported as an area for improvement, it may also indicate that people value the services and the support they provide. 

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