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In its first year of office the Andrews Government began articulating an ambitious vision, in which Victorians could rely upon strong public and community services to help them build meaningful lives, in thriving, inclusive communities.
VCOSS sees reducing poverty and disadvantage as central to that vision. If Victoria is to flourish, it cannot leave people behind. Poverty, inequality and disadvantage impose a heavy social and economic cost. When people cannot fulfil their potential, their valuable skills, creativity and labour go underutilised, social cohesion is fragmented, and people can struggle to achieve what is ultimately everyone’s aspiration: to live a good life.
Tackling entrenched social disadvantage in families and communities is difficult, because social problems are complex, with multiple, interrelated causes. There are no simple solutions; people need many services working together to change their life trajectory, and policy approaches need to reflect that. As long as we keep designing systems in discrete units, organised to treat one problem at a time, people will continue to fall through the cracks, and we are destined to fail in our aim of supporting people to overcome poverty and disadvantage.
The Andrews Government’s first budget focused on delivering on election promises, including welcome investments in education, vulnerable families, employment, public transport and tackling family violence. The 2016–17 State Budget can build on this, including through expanding models of progressive universalism, where inclusive and accessible universal services seamlessly connect with specialist, targeted services for people who require more intensive assistance. Investing in prevention and early intervention is proven to address the cause of people’s problems,
and manage them far more effectively and efficiently, than waiting until symptoms appear or crises occur.
The Andrews Government can develop an improved social policy framework that better reflects the many complex, interrelated causes of disadvantage and people’s experiences of it, to create lasting and effective social change. It can empower agencies to take more holistic and collaborative approaches by co-designing place-based initiatives and services with community organisations and the people who use them. It can better support people facing disadvantage by moving toward more person- and family-centred service systems.
The Victorian community sector currently employs about 97,000 workers, and generates an estimated $13 billion annually. With significant growth expected from investment in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and an ageing population, supporting community sector development can contribute to economic growth, create jobs and improve people’s wellbeing.
This submission identifies overarching strategies for creating lasting social change, and specific investment opportunities across a spectrum of social policy areas, including community building, tackling family violence, education, employment, housing and homelessness, children and families, health, disability, justice, the cost
of living and transport.
Underlying all this, the VCOSS State Budget Submission 2016–17 is about putting people back in the picture when designing social systems and delivering support.
Victorian Council of Social Service
Chief Executive Officer