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Estimates: Questions on changes to the eligibility criteria for social housing

During Parliamentary Estimates on Tuesday 15 December 2020, I asked about an apparent change in the social housing eligibility criteria.

You can read the answers below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).

Mr BERKMAN: I do. Thank you, Chair. At the outset, I would like to table a couple of documents for these questions. The first is the document titled ‘Social Housing Eligibility Criteria’ dated 2018. I have copies for the committee and for the director-general.

CHAIR: As you are a member of the committee, member for Maiwar, you are able to table that document.

Mr BERKMAN: Thank you. The second is a webpage printout called ‘Check your Eligibility’ which is dated 2019. Again, could a copy of each of those be given to the director-general for the purposes of this next question?

CHAIR: Member for Maiwar, I will just give the director-general and the minister a moment.

Mr BERKMAN: Indeed. Just let me know when you are ready for me to ask a question about those documents, Ms O’Connor.

Ms O’Connor: Yes. Are there two documents or one?

CHAIR: Yes, it is coming, Director-General.

Ms O’Connor: Sorry.

CHAIR: Have you got the second document, Director-General?

Ms O’Connor: No.

CHAIR: Thank you, it is coming now.

Ms O’Connor: Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: Member for Maiwar?

Mr BERKMAN: I will just describe the elements I am most interested in. In the 2018 document under heading 3, ‘Intake eligibility criteria’, you will see there is a fairly clear correlation between the subsequent headings 3.1 to 3.6 and those equivalent headings in the second document, the 2019 criteria. What I would put to you—and if you can confirm—is that these two documents represent two iterations of essentially the same eligibility criteria over different years.

CHAIR: Member, could you put the question please?

Mr BERKMAN: Do you agree? Is that the case?

Ms O’Connor: My understanding is that these documents were issued. Each document has some similarities. You are going to ask questions about the document?

Mr BERKMAN: Indeed.

Ms O’Connor: Minister, I may have to refer to the deputy director-general at some point; is that all right?

Ms ENOCH: Yes, depending on the question.

Ms O’Connor: Yes, that is right.

Mr BERKMAN: Certainly. If I can take you, director-general, or the deputy director-general specifically to ‘complex wellbeing factors’ under heading No. 7 in the second of those documents, the 2019 criteria, particularly the ‘complex wellbeing factors’ listed in six dot points.

CHAIR: Member, can we just ask the question, please?

Mr BERKMAN: The dot points three, four and five under ‘complex wellbeing factors’ do not appear anywhere or have an equivalent in the 2018 eligibility document, do they?

Ms O’Connor: I am just looking now, member. It is a bit of a test.

Ms ENOCH: Through the Chair, I will call forward the Deputy Director-General of Housing and Homelessness to assist with answering that question directly.

CHAIR: Thank you, Minister. I call the deputy director-general.

Ms Woolley: I think what the member is asking about is the detail that sits under No. 7 and why it is set out in that way and not appearing in the earlier document?

Mr BERKMAN: Yes, specifically under ‘complex wellbeing factors include’, the third, fourth and fifth dot points represent criteria that do not appear anywhere or have an equivalent in the 2018 eligibility
criteria, do they?

Ms Woolley: To assist with your question, I think you are referring to these as eligibility criteria; these are considerations when people are applying for social housing and receiving housing assistance through the department. The department would utilise this information to talk with customers or people presenting in a housing service centre about the sorts of factors which might assist the department in determining an appropriate form of housing assistance as opposed to eligibility criteria.

Mr BERKMAN: I am referring to this first document, the 2018 document, broadly as the ‘eligibility criteria’; that is what it says in the title. I am asking you: do those three dot points appear or have an equivalent in this earlier 2018 document? On my reading they do not and I would like, if you can, to show me where in the 2018 document they appear.

Ms Woolley: I thank the member for the question. These are practice guidance for staff in working with customers when they approach the department for housing assistance. The department has undertaken a lot of work through its housing service centres to think about how it can be more person centred in the way it works with customers to provide better information, and that is what this document represents. It is a different document to the 2018 document and it serves to try to assist people applying and working with the department.

Mr BERKMAN: Can I take you to the very head of the 2019 document under the heading ‘Check your eligibility’. The second sentence says, ‘You must meet all of the eligibility criteria to receive social housing.’ In practice, this is a list of criteria that people will consider themselves having to meet in order to be eligible. Is that not what purpose this document serves?

Ms Woolley: No, that is not the purpose of this document. If the minister is okay, I might just refer the member to question on notice No. 668 where I think this question was answered about whether there is a material change in eligibility criteria, and the answer is ‘No’.

Mr BERKMAN: Thank you. In that case could you please point to where in the 2018 document I will find those three dot points—three, four and five under the heading, ‘Complex wellbeing factors include’? Where will I find those in the 2018 document?

Ms Woolley: Member, you will not find those in that because—

Mr BERKMAN: But that does not constitute a change.

Ms Woolley: No.

Mr BERKMAN: So words appear in one document but not in another. ‘Complex wellbeing factors’ appears in one but not in another, but that does not represent a change?

Ms ENOCH: Through the Chair?

CHAIR: Thank you.

Ms ENOCH: The deputy director-general has made it clear that these are two different documents, one of which is a document to support the work that HSC staff do in working with clients who present at housing service centres or are looking to meet the eligibility criteria. The question has been answered. It is in a question on notice. The deputy director-general has just provided further information to support the answer.

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