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By Ché Stockley.
Published on the VCOSS Voice on 3 May 2017.
The 2017-18 Victorian Budget provides welcome new funding for early intervention with vulnerable families and children. Children’s early years are a critical period for their development, and positive and negative experiences in these years have lifelong effects. Hence support interventions for vulnerable families in children’s early years are crucial.
The budget holds some new child protection initiatives, including funding for 450 more child protection workers and additional out-of-home care placements to keep pace with growing demand. However it did not provide much needed leaving care support or enhanced resourcing for kinship and foster carers.
The budget commitment for enhanced supports for adults who grew up in care is a good first step, pending the development of a formal redress scheme for people who were abused while in state care.
Early intervention supports for parents
Unsupported young parents, parents of premature babies and families facing disadvantage, including family violence, will be better supported though an expanded Enhanced Maternal and Child Health (MCH) service. Initiatives will include an additional MCH nurse home visit for some families and more supported playgroups run by trained facilitators. Maternal and Child Health nurses will also receive training to help them work with vulnerable families.
Cost: $11.9m in 2017/18 ($81.2 over four years)
Intensive support for vulnerable families
Early intervention for an additional 1200 families (up to 200 hours) within the family services program to receive intensive support.
Cost: $29.2m in 2017-18
Children in statutory child protection
An additional 450 child protection workers will join the child protection workforce. After-hours services capacity will be increased for emergency child protection responses. We welcome the extension of the trial that has seen legal guardianship of Aboriginal children moved from the Secretary of DHHS to Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations.
Cost: $72.2m in 2017-18
Children in out-of-home care
The budget provides for 100 additional Targeted Care Packages (TCP) to provide support and accommodation to assist young people leaving residential care. This is a welcome expansion of the TCP program, which provides young people with tailored care, support and accommodation. This amount also provides for an additional 1,982 out-of-home care placements in response to demand.
Cost: $59.6m in 2017-18
Family Drug Treatment Court
The trial of the Family Drug Treatment Court, working to reunite families, will be extended for 12 months. The Court works with parents whose children are in care to address substance misuse.
Cost: $1.4m in 2017-18
Alcohol and other drug treatment and counselling for parents
To manage the demand created by new permanency legislation, treatment and counselling will be provided for 3,800 parents a year working towards family reunification. This is part of a larger initiative to respond to increased demand for these services from a range of sources.
Cost: $7.5m in 2017-18 ($34.8m over four years)
Support for adults who grew up in care
Interim measures to deal with civil claims for historical institutional abuse will continue for 12 months, pending the development of a formal redress scheme, which is likely to be recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse.
Cost: $2m in 2017-18 (civil claims)
Care leaver advocacy organisations Open Place and the Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN) will be funded to provide additional support to adults with a care experience. Open Place will be able to provide brokerage for care leavers in hardship and CLAN will be funded to support Victorian institutional care leavers.
Cost: $1m in 2017-18 ($2m over two years) (Open Place and CLAN)
Further support for foster and kinship carers
VCOSS has called for more funding to support and resource foster and kinship carers, who are caring for children already in out-of-home care. Foster care and kinship care allowances do not meet the real costs of caring for children and young people, and carers require training, development and therapeutic support.
Empower young people leaving care
Young care leavers are vulnerable and face significant risks when they reach 18 years, and are left without formal support to transition to independence. This budget has not allocated resources to allow young people to remain in home-based care or supported accommodation beyond the age of 18. The Victorian Government can empower young people leaving out-of-home care by providing holistic support and care until at least age 21.