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Examining the recommendations of the Protecti. . .

Examining the recommendations of the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry report

By Paula Grogan.
Published on the VCOSS Voice on 28 February 2012.

‘Expansion’, ‘improvement’ and ‘reform’. These are the broad themes across the recommendations in the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry report tabled in Parliament today.

In launching the report, the Premier, Ted Baillieu, committed the Victorian Government to a comprehensive, cross-government approach to strengthening responses for vulnerable children and young people. In a welcome and significant step, Premier Baillieu announced that the Government will act immediately on the overarching recommendation of a whole of government Vulnerable Children and Families Strategy, which will be developed by a high-level committee of Ministers who will report to the Premier.

The Minister for Community Services, Mary Wooldridge, indicated that the key frame they will use for developing key reforms will be to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and families.

At three volumes, over 1000 pages and 90 recommendations, there is a lot of information and analysis to digest and it will take some time to consider the detail of the report. Over the next two to three weeks VCOSS will be developing a more detailed analysis of the report which we will publish online and which will frame our response to Government.

For too long, vulnerable children and young people have been seen as the sole responsibility of the Department of Human Services. The Panel’s report recognises that responsibility is shared across government: that improving outcomes for vulnerable children, young people and families requires a whole of government approach, across a range of portfolios, including Human Services, Early Childhood and Education, Health and Justice. The whole of government Vulnerable Children and Families and Strategy and the establishment of a Ministerial Cabinet Committee, reporting to the Premier, will help to drive these reforms to promote responses across government.

Minister Wooldridge has noted that the reforms will be implemented in the context of a range of initiatives that the Government has already begun, including the restructure of the Department of Human Services announced last week and the structural changes outlined in the Case for Change paper, whereby DHS will test new ways to deliver a more joined ‘joined-up’ human services system to ensure Victorians can access the care and support they need, when they need it.

Of the 90 recommendations in the PVVC report, VCOSS has identified a number of reform areas which we believe should be acted on as a matter of priority to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and young people. These include:

  • Early intervention: Improve the ability of all Victorian families to access the supports they need, when they need them, including early childhood services, family support, drug and alcohol, housing and homelessness, and mental health services; and enhance the ability of these services to work more effectively with vulnerable families.
  • Education: improve how schools meet the learning and development needs of vulnerable children and young people, including developing more flexible learning environments, and improve linkages between schools and local community sector organisations.
  • Adult and universal health services: increase the ability of universal health services and specialist adult services, such as mental health, drug and alcohol, and homelessness services to be more responsive to the needs of children in their work with the parent or carer.
  • Funding: Enhance funding for all services that support the wellbeing of vulnerable children, young people and families – including mental health, drug and alcohol, family violence, homeless, and child and family – by linking funding models to Victoria’s population growth and ensuring funding reflects the full cost of service delivery, and ensuring that workers are fairly renumerated.
  • Out of home care: Extend the capacity of all services to provide therapeutic care to children and young people suffering  trauma associated with abuse and neglect, and to promote healing and recovery, and develop a new funding approach that encourages more flexible responses.
  • Workforce and training: Strengthening early intervention and prevention services demands skilled professionals across universal and specialist services and greater collaboration across professional boundaries. This includes child and family, drug and alcohol, mental health, and early childhood services.
  • Improving outcomes for Aboriginal children, young people and families: Improve the way mainstream universal and specialist services – including hospitals, early childhood services and schools – meet the needs of Aboriginal children, young people and families; as well as developing Aboriginal specific responses.
  • Young people leaving care: Increase the capacity of organisations to provide home based and residential care beyond 18 years of age and to provide post care support until a young person reaches 25, particularly ensuring young people have appropriate housing, health, training and employment supports.
  • Enhance the functioning of the Children’s Court: Roll-out New Model Conferences across Victoria, establish specialist sexual assault and Koori lists, and improve facilities at the Melbourne Children’s Court.
  • Strengthen the protection of Children’s rights: establish a Commission for Children and Young People and within that office, an Aboriginal Children’s Commissioner.

Over the coming weeks and months, VCOSS will continue to work with members and other stakeholders across all sectors – including child and family, housing, drug and alcohol services, legal, mental health, family violence, disability, and education and early childhood services – to help shape our response to the report. VCOSS believes that it is important that the community sector and stakeholders across other sectors work collaboratively with the Government to identify those recommendations that will make a significant difference to improving outcomes for vulnerable children, young people and families.

VCOSS acknowledges there will be a staged implementation process of key reforms. VCOSS welcomed the initial steps today, in the announcement of $61.4 million over four years to kick start improvements at the frontline (see govt media release link). It is critical to ensure the right resources are on the frontline where they are needed. As recognised by the Government, continued additional investment across the system is critical to achieve sustained and improved outcomes for vulnerable children, young people and families. The impact of abuse and neglect not only has an enduring effect on the individual and their family but has a significant cost to the community. The PVVC report cites Deloitte Access Economics data which suggests that the total lifetime financial cost of child abuse and neglect (of abused and neglected children in Victoria in 2009-10) is between $1.6 and $1.9 billion. The Government, in partnership with the community sector, must act now to prevent abuse and neglect, provide timely supports to those families that need it and importantly, turn recommendations into action.

More information:
PVVC Inquiry report
Vic Government media release
VCOSS media release
Link to VCOSS submission

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