Father curled up on the sofa with his two daughters. They are watching a movie with popcorn.

Children and families

The 2018/2019 Victorian Budget builds on previous budgets to improve the lives of vulnerable children and families. It includes investments to improve service delivery, prevent child abuse and neglect, and better support children and young people in out-of-home care.

Almost all of a child’s brain development occurs during their first five years of life. This means there is a small window of opportunity in the early years to support children’s learning and development and better prepare them for school.

VCOSS was pleased to see that this year’s budget includes continued support to transfer the management of Aboriginal child protection and out-of-home care to the Aboriginal community, funding therapeutic approaches for children in care with complex needs, and improving home-based care for children in out-of-home care.  A stable placement is key for good outcomes for children and young people in out-of-home care.

Funding is provided to extend the trial in Gippsland and south-east Melbourne to better support young people transitioning from care up to age of 21. In the lead-up to the state election there is an opportunity for Victoria to follow the lead of the Tasmanian and South Australian Governments, who recently committed to extending support to young people leaving out-of-home care up to the age of 21.

VCOSS will also be looking for commitments to increase the foster and kinship carer allowances so carers are not out of pocket or at risk of leaving the system.

 

Positive initiatives

  • Kinship care
    A new model of kinship care was introduced in March 2018 to enhance placement quality, stability and support for children in kinship care and to support the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle.
    Cost: $13.3m in 2017-2018 and $20.2m in 2018-2019 ($33.5m/2 years)

 

  • New Aboriginal Children and Families Agreement
    The Wungurilwil Gapgapduir (Strong Families) – Aboriginal Children and Families Agreement, was launched last week. Funding is provided to continue to transfer management of Aboriginal child protection and out-of-home care service to the Aboriginal community through the new agreement.
    Cost: $15.5m ($47.3m/4 years)

 

  • Supporting young care leavers
    Extension of the Better Futures trial in Gippsland and south-east Melbourne to support young care leavers until they turn 21 through the provision of a support worker.
    Cost: $2.3m

 

  • Therapeutic approaches for children in care with complex needs
    Children and young people who cannot live safety at home will be supported to maintain or transition to home-based placements through a range of therapeutic options including continuation of the Treatment Foster Care Oregon model, providing intensive supports to children and their birth families and 162 Targeted Care Packages to reduce reliance on residential care and increase capacity to access family or home-based care.
    Cost: $52.1m ($140.6m/4 years)

 

  • Better assisting children in the statutory child protection system
    The Government maintained its commitment to expand its child protection workforce by an additional 450 workers (first announced in the 2017/2018 Budget).
    Cost: $72.9m ($225.5m/3 years)

 

  • Improving home-based care for children in out-of-home care“This Budget continues the welcome shift in the way child and family services are delivered in Victoria, making prevention a priority.’’ Paul McDonald, Anglicare Victoria Funding will be provided to the out-of-home care placement system to manage the demand for statutory services across all home-based care types. Continued support will also be provided for the Carer Kafe training program, and flexible support for foster, kinship and permanent carers to promote stable placements for children and young people in care.
    Cost: $69.7m ($214.3m/3 years)

 

  • Improving the quality of services provided to prevent child abuse and neglect
    Funding will be provided to expand evidence-based program trials that aim to prevent the abuse and neglect of children. These programs will provide intensive weekly support to parents, and engage families where child protection has been involved, including children already removed from parental care for whom reunification is a goal.
    Cost: $5m ($9.8m/4 years)

 

  • Child information sharing reforms
    “We welcome government support to bring child and family service providers and researchers together. This will mean better practice and innovation in caring for vulnerable children.” Deb Tsorbaris Centre for Excellence in Child and Family WelfareFunding to support the child information sharing reforms will help support prescribed entities to appropriately share information about children and families. Cost: $13.4m ($43.4m/4 years)

 

  • New Aboriginal Children and Families Agreement

    Support to continue to transfer management of Aboriginal child protection and out-of-home care service to the Aboriginal community through the new Aboriginal Children and Families Agreement.
    Cost: $15.5m ($47.3m/4 years)

 

  • Intervening earlier to strengthen responses to families
    Early intervention family service programs will be funded to continue to support vulnerable families facing challenges through Child FIRST assessments. Funding will be provided to support a range of programs focused on early years intervention, including Cradle to Kinder, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies and Right@Home.
    Costs: $44.9m ($92m/2 years)

  

Future policy directions

  • Further support for foster and kinship carers
    “This budget leaves carers facing financial stress. They (carers) already do so much, they provide the heart and the home, day and night. We can’t continue to expect them to be out of pocket or wade through bureaucracy whilst they do it.” Katie Hooper, Foster Care Association Victoria
    VCOSS has long advocated for increased funding to better support and resource foster and kinship carers. The current foster care and kinship care allowances do not meet the real costs of caring for children and young people. Further reform is needed to increase foster and kinship carer payments by at least $88 per week and to better streamline and align payments with children’s needs.

 

  • Better support young people’s transition to adulthood
    Upon turning 18, young people in out-of-home care are required to become independent, with little funding or support from the Victorian Government in their transition. Both the Tasmanian and South Australian Governments have recently committed to extending support to young people leaving out-of-home care up to the age of 21. The Victorian Government can follow suit to ensure that all young Victorians in out-of-home care receive assistance with housing and wrap-around support services until they turn 21.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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View VCOSS media release