Appalling boarding houses put lives at risk

Fri, 2012-03-30 09:40
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The NSW Government’s failure to enforce boarding house standards is placing residents’ lives at risk, according to the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS).

‘The NSW Department of Family and Community Services – Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC) must take urgent action to address the appalling conditions that exist in many of the state’s boarding houses,’ said HPLS policy officer, Mr Louis Schetzer.

The need for action is highlighted by the coronial inquest into the deaths of Shaneen Batts, Ilona Takacs, Dorothy Hudson, Ian Birks, Donald MacKellar and Mohammed Ramzan. All of these people died between 2009 and 2010 at a boarding house in Marrickville.

‘The NSW Ombudsman has previously identified serious human rights violations for people living in licensed boarding houses in NSW,’ Mr Schetzer said.

‘Yet nothing has been done to protect these vulnerable residents. Significant numbers of homeless people rely on boarding house accommodation and many of these people have physical and intellectual disabilities, or a mental illness.

‘We urgently need better regulation of licensed and unlicensed boarding houses. We also need the ADHC to get serious about its responsibilities to monitor boarding houses and ensure compliance with existing law,’ Mr Schetzer said.

Mr Schetzer noted that unlicensed boarding houses are subject to few safeguards or minimum standards.

‘As more licensed boarding houses close or relinquish their licenses, it becomes even more crucial for a comprehensive regulatory framework that also covers unlicensed boarding houses,’ Mr Schetzer said.

The Homeless Persons’ Legal Service is a joint initiative of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCHNSW.

CONTACT: PIAC senior media & communications advisor, Dominic O’Grady: 0478 739 280.

Read the NSW Ombudsman’s report

Related coverage: NSW Government ‘failed’ boarding house six, aap, 12 March 2012

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