There has been considerable innovation in social policy in many developed countries since the mid-1990s, with a move towards more individualised packages of support for people who require assistance due to older age, disabilities, health issues and a range of other vulnerabilities. The aims of such reforms are to: give people greater control over their own lives; promote personal responsibility; develop a diverse range of services which can meet needs in a more customised way; diversify service provision through the involvement of a range of private and not-for-profit providers; and make government assistance more cost-effective.

This study sought to understand how housing assistance policy in Australia might respond to, and link with, social policy innovation around individualised welfare assistance. The review of international and Australian housing and care-related programs highlights some key lessons emerging from the implementation of individualised housing and social support programs. These were:

  • Housing programs which are able to offer both demand and supply-side approaches to addressing social policy problems are most effective.
  • Provision by private sector providers can generate cost savings but monitoring and regulation of service quality is required.
  • Some people have limited capacity to exercise choice and fulfil conditionality requirements.
  • Housing assistance clients can participate in service design and delivery but their capacity to be involved varies and requires resourcing and support.
  • A long-term commitment is required to work with clients requiring investment in programs over extended periods of time.

The project makes suggestions about improvements that could be made to individualised demand-side assistance in conjunction with supply measures, client-focused services and service responsiveness, involvement of clients in service design and delivery and sustainable government investment in housing and other forms of assistance.

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