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07 Dec 2020

Strategy Welcome but Housing is Available | Lisa Tierney

Thursday marked International Day of People with Disability. A time to celebrate the abilities of the many Australians living with a wide variety of disabilities but also a time to shine the spotlight on the issues facing people with a disability.

One issue is young people with a disability having to live in aged care facilities. Aged care is no place for young people, or for some older people with disabilities. Compass Housing was recently able to help a man, who experienced a severe stroke three years ago, to move into one of our new five-bedroom specialist disability accommodation group homes on the Central Coast.

There are still almost 5,000 people under 65 and 130 aged under 45 living in residential aged care. The reality is almost all of those people have a disability.

Our new resident’s family said that staff at the aged care facility treated him well, but he was living with older people with dementia. He is now sleeping better, eating better and has his spark back.

Like other families, they thought aged care was their only option. Younger people with disabilities are often placed in aged care from hospital or other places because of a lack of awareness of existing housing options or consultation with housing providers.

But community housing providers and specialist disability accommodation providers have vacancies in properties.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has deemed this an urgent issue. Recommendations put to it include reviewing hospital discharge protocols, and the NDIA publishing an annual Specialist Disability Accommodation National Plan setting out priority locations. The Australian Government recently announced a strategy to help keep younger people with out of residential aged care. The strategy aims to have no one under the age of 45 living in residential aged care by 2022. There is also funding for up to 40 system co-ordinators to directly help younger people who are living in or, at risk of, entering residential facilities.

The priority must be to help people to gain appropriate NDIS plans or access to NDIS support workers who can make their move to age appropriate accommodation happen. We need a central system for housing providers to be able to notify authorities about available housing.

People with a disability living in aged care and their family members need to know that there are more suitable and supportive housing options for them.  


Lisa Tierney is the Group Chief Operating Officer at Compass Housing Services

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30 Nov 2020

​Housing stress to rise as local rents remain solid despite pandemic

The Hunter’s private rental market has been largely unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic with rents across the region showing solid gains in the year to September.

Compass Housing economist, Martin Kennedy, said the local market has been remarkably resilient compared to Sydney where rents in some areas have fallen by as much as 20%.

Mr Kennedy said that data from the NSW Government Rent and Sales Report September 2020 quarter shows that, overall, rents in Newcastle are up by 3.7% compared to the same time last year. Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens have performed even better with rents up roughly 5%, while in Cessnock median rents have jumped by 7.3% over the course of the year.

“This is obviously good news for landlords, but bad news for renters, particularly those on lower incomes, who may have lost their jobs due to COVID-19,” Mr Kennedy said.

Across the Hunter region roughly 16,000 more people are out of work compared to the start of the year. The unemployment rate in Newcastle increased to 9% in September after falling to 7% the previous month but remains below the June peak of 11.1%.

Mr Kennedy said the combination of higher unemployment and rising rents was concerning.

“We know that JobKeeper and the coronavirus supplement were the only things keeping a lot of people’s heads above water,” he said.

“With those payments being phased out, and rents still rising, there is a strong chance we could see an increase in housing stress.

“That’s not just bad for the individuals and their families, it’s bad for the wider economy as well because people struggling to keep the roof over their head have less to spend on other things which hurts local businesses.” 

He said the resilience of local rents highlighted the need for greater state and federal investment in social and affordable housing.

“Even before the pandemic, approximately 40% of renters in our region were in housing stress and around 2,000 households were on the waiting list for social housing.”

“As well as the obvious social benefit, investing in more social and affordable housing is a proven job creator so it’s a genuine win-win.”

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24 Nov 2020

Compass wins four 2020 Australian Business Awards

Compass Housing Services has taken out four ABA100 2020 Australian Business Awards. The awards were for:

  • Employer of Choice
  • Training Excellence
  • Community Contribution
  • Sustainability

The Sustainability Award was a first for Compass. It took out awards in the other categories in 2019.

These awards are on the back of Compass being a finalist in two categories in the 2020 Hunter Business Awards for sustainability and contribution to the region.

Group Managing Director Greg Budworth said the accolades are a credit to Compass staff.  

“We strive to be a workplace where people can develop their skills and be successful so that they can better provide our tenants with affordable housing and support services,” Mr Budworth said.

“We have invested in new training systems and have focussed on building future leadership capability,” he said.

Having all people living in appropriate and affordable shelter and engaged in sustainable communities is Compass Housing’s business vision.

Mr Budworth said Compass has a long-standing commitment to social, environmental and economic sustainability and strongly believes real success in any of these can only be achieved when all three are addressed.

“We have aligned our business plans to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and our goal is to be carbon neutral by 2030.”

“Our sustainability programs are managed by our Sustainability Manager and they involve management. staff, and tenants.”

Compass has Gold Status in the NSW Government's Sustainability Advantage program. It was also the first NGO in the Hunter region to sign up to the Plastics Police soft plastic recycling program which encourages recycling of plastic for reuse as plastic furniture.

The annual Australian Business Awards program recognises organisations that demonstrate the core values of business innovation, product innovation, technological achievement and employee engagement via a comprehensive range of award categories.

The Award for Community Contribution recognises organisations that implement initiatives that have a positive impact on the community and generate outcomes that have a long term benefit. Those organisations awarded Employer of Choice have developed leading workplaces that maximise the full potential of their workforce through practices that demonstrate effective employee recruitment, engagement and retention. The Award for Training Excellence recognises organisations that have achieved outstanding results through initiatives that demonstrate excellence in workplace training and development. The Sustainability Award recognises organisations that have achieved outstanding results through initiatives that demonstrate excellence in human resource management.

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17 Nov 2020

NSW Budget Wish List – Compass Housing

Hunter based community housing provider, Compass Housing Services (Compass), is calling for the NSW Government to make major investments in social and affordable housing as well as programs to support people experiencing homelessness in the upcoming (November 17) NSW Budget.

Group managing director, Greg Budworth, said building more social and affordable housing will help tackle the shortage of housing stock in the region, and elsewhere in NSW, as well as provide effective economic stimulus and job creation. 

Mr Budworth said Compass keenly awaited detail of how many packages the Hunter and Central Coast will receive under the Government’s extension of its new Together Home project for rough sleepers.

“The NSW Government has flagged the construction and maintenance of social and affordable housing will be a budget priority, which is very welcome news,” Mr Budworth said.

“The Government has already shown a commitment to improving the amount of, and quality of, social and affordable housing - with record spending through programs such as the Social and Affordable Housing Scheme (SAHF) – but more is needed,” he said.

There is a shortage of more than 400,000 affordable homes nationally for low income households. Social housing waiting lists remain high with people waiting an average of five to 10 years for a place in the Hunter and Central Coast regions.

Mr Budworth said direct investment by governments in the construction of new homes is far more effective for the economy and society than ad hoc grants and schemes. He said new social housing brings a new pipeline of work creating new jobs for tradies.

“Many community housing providers and developers have shovel ready projects, so the stimulus is almost immediate.”

“Funding new affordable housing does more to reduce housing stress for both renters and buyers across the housing market.

“Homelessness is a growing issue for our region and the rest of NSW, exacerbated by COVID-19 as well as other systemic issues such as rising domestic violence rates.”

“When people have a safe and stable roof over their head, they are better able to focus on addressing their health issues, looking after their families, staying productive at work or training or finding work.”

Compass is building 493 new homes at 19 sites across the Hunter and Central Coast as part of the $1.1B state-wide SAHF program. It received 30 packages for the Hunter region under the Together Home project’s first round of funding in June 2020. The Government has announced it will increase funding for that project statewide by $29 million in the Budget.    

Compass is a, not for profit, Tier 1, community housing provider managing more than 7000 properties in NSW and Queensland. 


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12 Oct 2020

Sensory garden helps residents with visual disabilities enjoy their new home

Compass Housing Services (Compass) has teamed up with the Royal Botanic Gardens and New Horizons to build and plant a sensory garden at one of its new specialist disability accommodation properties in the Maitland area.

Residents of the new group home in Bolwarra will soon be enjoying home grown lettuce, tomatoes, herbs and bush tucker as well as citrus fruits. Additional trees will also be planted on the property. The garden was funded by Compass as part of its sustainability program.

Sensory gardens allow people to connect with nature by touching, rubbing, smelling and eating the plants. They use plants, water, and other materials with a variety of aromas, textures, colours, noises and shapes to invokes the senses of smell, taste, sight and sound. They are increasingly being used in public spaces, schools, in public housing, and for people with special needs to develop a range of new skills. 

Compass' Sustainability Manager, Jandy McCandless, said this garden has even more significance and value because the residents of the home are visually impaired.

Ms McCandless said community gardens are an important part of Compass’ tenant and resident engagement programs.

Compass built its first sensory garden in one of its disability housing properties in Newcastle in September.

She said in other community gardens installed in Compass properties, there have been positive results above and beyond the expected improvements in nutrition and social interaction.

“Community gardens can help tenants to develop life skills and bring residents together,” Ms McCandless said.

Compass Group Managing Director, Greg Budworth said residents of the Bolwarra home used to live at the Stockton Centre. The new group home is one of 69 being built across the region by Home4Life, a joint venture between Compass and BlueCHP. The homes will eventually house approximately 300 people.

Mr Budworth said that the NSW Government has selected six Supported Independent Living (SIL) organisations to provide, highly specialised, 24-hour support at the homes. New Horizons manages this home and its staff will help residents care for and enjoy the garden.

“This is a new way of delivering modern, quality, specialist disability accommodation,” Mr Budworth said.

This sensory garden is a small but important aspect of how we are working with the SILs to create homes for life,” he said.

Brenden Moore from the Royal Botanic Gardens has helped Compass to create other gardens for tenants in other parts of the Hunter and NSW. He joined tenants to build the sensory garden in Newcastle as well as a garden at a Muswellbrook social housing complex in September.

The Royal Botanic Gardens donates Brenden’s time and bring the hardware for building gardens, the plants and trees, and the knowledge to help residents to enjoy and make the most of their garden.

Compass is a Hunter-based, Tier 1, not for profit community housing provider and an NDIS Specialist Disability Accommodation provider. It manages almost 7,000 properties in NSW and Queensland, including properties for people with disabilities.

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