Experts tackle issues placing families at-risk of homelessness

5 Nov 2018

International experts in law, poverty and social policy will gather at The University of Queensland this week to address some of the key issues associated with homelessness in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

In both Australia and the UK, increasingly strict conditions on the receipt of welfare support are placing disadvantaged individuals at risk of homelessness and impacting those who are currently homeless.

The Symposium, The nexus between conditional welfare and homelessness, will help identify gaps in existing research in welfare support for homelessness and set an agenda for future research.

UQ Law School's Professor Tamara Walsh said the Symposium would bring an international and interdisciplinary approach to assess the impact these strict requirments can have on disadvantaged individuals and families.

“The research and legal communities are concerned that placing harsh and unrealistic conditions on welfare payments can tip vulnerable people over the edge, and can contribute to homelessness,” Dr Walsh said.

“There are many reasons why people might struggle to meet the conditions attached to their social security payments,” she said.

“These people may be unwell, they may have caring responsibilities or they may be in crisis and their lives may be unpredictable.

“It is important that the system is able to show compassion as it supports people to find appropriate employment where that’s a viable option for the individual.”

Figures show that homelessness in Australia is rising with the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics Census recording  116,427 people being  classified as homeless – a significant increase since the 2011 census.

UQ School of Social Sciences’ Dr Andrew Clarke said policy makers in Australia and abroad place increasingly strict conditions on vulnerable people’s access to welfare support.

“It is imperative that we understand the impact this has on homelessness,” Dr Clarke said.

“This means considering how welfare conditionality contributes to making people homeless, for example through benefits sanctions and the removal of support,” he said.

“And we also need to understand how it impacts upon the lives of people who are currently homeless, for example by making them jump through a range of hoops before addressing their housing exclusion.”

Some of the other topics covered at the Symposium include homelessness and the law; Indigenous perspectives; community and NGO perspectives; women, young people and families; mental health and disability, and research and policy activism.

The Symposium will form the basis for joint publications between collaborators, and joint funding applications for ongoing, large-scale research collaborations.

It will comprise a public lecture on the evening of Monday 5 November and full-day workshop on Tuesday 6 November 2018.

Media: or +61 7 3443 1321.