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VCOSS welcomes budget boost to support vulnerable families Analysis

VCOSS welcomes budget boost to support vulnerable families

VCOSS welcomes those commitments in today’s state budget that will help tackle poverty and disadvantage in the Victorian community.

Today’s state budget contains a number of positive measures aimed at improving education, child protection, employment, public transport and reducing family violence.

“This budget is a good first step by the Andrews Government to create a solid foundation for vulnerable Victorian families and communities, and opens the way to further investment to build a Victoria without poverty over future budgets,” said Emma King, CEO of VCOSS.

Education

“The budget contains important initiatives to keep young people engaged in education and training. VCOSS is pleased to see new initiatives which will help families meet spiralling school costs and help ensure children and young people do not miss out on educational opportunities,” Emma King said.

These include:

  • $148.3 million for the Camps, Sport and Excursion Fund
  • An additional $15.7 million for the State School Relief Fund for affordable school uniforms
  • $13.7 million for Breakfast Clubs in the 500 most disadvantaged government primary schools, to help children get a good start to each school day.
  • $8 million for youth participation and engagement, helping reconnect young people to education and employment pathways
  • $1.6 million for a mentoring program for disadvantaged students

“The budget has reconfirmed its commitment to the Gonski School funding agreement until the end of 2017, helping provide some certainty to students, principals and parents.”

The $50 million in capital funding announced today for early learning centres, including 3 and 4 year old kinder programs, child and maternal health services and occasional care is welcome.

Tackling unemployment

“The government has emphasised the importance of tackling unemployment in this budget and the broad public transport and infrastructure packages outlined today by the Treasurer will be a stimulus for job creation, with many of the jobs located in regional and outer-suburban Victoria.”

“Increased funding for measures outlined in the government’s Back to Work package will assist people at risk of unemployment.”

Welcome initiatives include:

  • A significant infrastructure and transport program, investing billions of dollars into job-boosting projects
  • $10.6 million for Melbourne’s North Innovation and Investment fund, to help create employment opportunities in communities affected by manufacturing closures
  • $500 million for Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund, helping to improve job prospects for regional communities
  • $200 million for the TAFE Rescue Fund, which will help TAFEs focus their efforts on building skills required for local jobs, and improve access to TAFE campuses previously closed
  • $32 million for Local Learning and Employment Networks to work with young people who are disengaged or at risk of disengaging from education, and put them on a pathway to work.

“The funding boost to TAFEs announced today, along with the review of Vocational Education and Training currently underway, will help keep young people engaged in education and create important pathways to employment for Victorians facing disadvantage. It will also provide a boost to local regional economies.”

“The renewed $32 million commitment to Local Learning and Employment Networks will boost job prospects for young people in regional Victoria. This is an important platform for expanding future support for young people to stay engaged in jobs and training.”

Community sector

VCOSS welcomes the certainty for funding for community sector organisations in this year’s Budget. The government has contributed $935 million towards the mandated Equal Remuneration Order (ERO).

The Government has agreed to work with VCOSS on future years’ indexation as part of ongoing service agreement discussions, and has also agreed to work with VCOSS to monitor ERO implementation.

We also note that there will be further cost pressures on the community sector particularly as a result of the National Minimum wage order, which is on top of the ERO. We note that indexation has been provided on the same basis as the previous 3-year funding and service agreement.

Preventing family violence

The State Budget has allocated funding of $81.3 million to services preventing and responding to family violence, and we look forward to seeing further commitments coming out of the Royal Commission process. Key initiatives include:

  • $36 million allocated to the Royal Commission on Family Violence
  • $16 million in the Family Violence Fund for urgent responses to victims of family violence arising from the Royal Commission
  • Expanded legal assistance for victim of family violence
  • $2.5 million for men’s behaviour change programs

“Victoria’s historic Royal Commission into Family Violence will also give the government future opportunities to expand support for services and programs that address the underlying causes of violence against women and children.”

“Family violence services already face growing demand and it is likely that publicity around the Royal Commission will encourage more people experiencing violence to seek help. These funds will help services respond to those growing requests for assistance.”

Public Transport

This Budget represents a huge investment in public transport, which will help Victorians, including people experience disadvantage, connect to jobs, education, health and community services and participate in their communities. We particularly welcome:

  • Funding the bus package, which provides $100 million in new bus services over 4 years
  • Allocating funds to major public transport projects, including the Metro Rail Tunnel, level crossings and the Caulfied-Dandenong project, and planning funds for Mernda Rail
  • Over $2 billion in new trains and trams, which will be built in Victoria
  • $50 million towards a trial of 24-hour public transport on weekends, helping people get home safely after an evening out.

We look forward to working with the Government to secure further improvements to the accessibility of public transport for people experiencing transport disadvantage in the future.

Homelessness and housing

The Budget has included some initiatives to reduce homelessness, including the allocation of $40.3 million to continue to fund homelessness innovation action projects.

This initiative can be built upon in future with a more expansive affordable housing strategy that aligns policies, maximises the supply of affordable housing and ensures those who require affordable housing can access it. We are aware the State Government understands the enormity of the affordable housing problem in Victoria, and look forward to working with them on this issue in the future.”

A good start to build upon in the future

“Today’s budget is a good start and a positive first step for the Victorian Government in delivering on key election promises aimed at supporting vulnerable Victorian families. We look forward to continuing to work with the government so that future budgets build further on this, supporting people to overcome disadvantage and become part of strong, cohesive, self-reliant communities, and working to build a Victoria without poverty.”