A new Victorian Skills Authority
$17.7m in 2021-22 ($85.9m/5 yrs)
The Victorian Government has identified the care economy as a priority industry for job creation. A strong partnership between the new Authority and our industry will help ensure that our sector can depend on the post-secondary education and training system to deliver the skills we need.
Enabling the mental health and wellbeing workforce to deliver a reformed system
$55.1m in 2021-22 ($206.3m/4 yrs) to commence building the pipeline of workers required to deliver the mental health reforms. The package includes expansion of the mental health nursing workforce, new allied health graduate positions, and initiatives to support and increase the lived experience workforce.
Recovery together: jobs for Victoria’s multicultural communities
$4.4m in 2021-22 ($4.5m/2 yrs)
The package includes funding to develop a cross-government bicultural worker strategy aimed at recruiting and supporting bicultural workers to assist CALD communities to navigate government services.
Embedding early intervention in government service delivery
4.1 million in 2021-22 ($15.5m/4 yrs)
Funding is provided to lead and implement an early intervention framework across government to support reforms that invest early for better and fairer outcomes.
Partnerships Addressing Disadvantage
$6.3m in 2021-22 ($25.7m/4 yrs)
Funding is provided to expand the Partnerships Addressing Disadvantage initiative to a fifth program that will be focused on solutions to address homelessness.
Funding is provided to pilot a new employment program, Frontline Victoria, which will fast-track degree qualified career changers into a career in the children and families sector. This program will provide participants with financial support to complete graduate-level qualifications and paid placements with child and family services providers to develop their practical skills.
Building better connected communities
$1.8m in 2021-22 ($3m/4 yrs)
The package includes funding for Justice Connect Not-for-profit Law to continue providing free and low-cost legal advice and support for community service organisations to understand the law and achieve good governance.
Family Violence Graduate Program
$0.5 million in 2021-22 ($1.2m/2 yrs)
Funding is provided to support up to 80 new graduates to receive training and other development support while working to become specialists in a range of family violence services.
Maintaining the foundations of the child and family system
This large package includes funding to continue the expansion of the child protection workforce and continue assistance to ensure the sustainability of community service organisations at risk of financial stress.
Over the next five years, the social assistance sector is predicted to be one of the fastest growing industries in Australia. Major investments, including in early learning and in reforming the mental health system, will supercharge the demand for skilled and qualified workers.
The community sector, like many other industries, is facing new challenges and disruptions because of COVID-19. Demand is growing at the same time as organisations have lost fundraising income and volunteer capacity. Some had to invest in digital infrastructure so they could shift to remote service delivery. And the costs of personal protective equipment and enhanced cleaning quickly added up. Some organisations had no choice but to draw on financial reserves to meet the additional costs.
Services need extra funding to adapt to ‘COVID normal’ arrangements. Without this support, fewer Victorians will get the help they need, and the diversity and sustainability of vital community sector organisations will be at risk. Small and medium-sized organisations especially are struggling to meet extra costs.
The continued investment in the sustainability of community service organisations in the child and family services sector is very welcome, and could be expanded across the community services industry.
Several budget initiatives show the Victorian Government is thinking about the future workforce needs of the community services industry. The mental health package places workforce development at the centre of reform planning. Frontline Victoria and the family violence graduate program will also support a pipeline of workers into the industry.
Low indexation rates in recent years, short-term funding extensions and a significant widening of the scope of the portable long service leave scheme have left organisations struggling to make ends meet. In the next budget, the Government can help make sure community need is met by providing community service organisations with a fair indexation formula incorporating wage rises, the superannuation guarantee and portable long service leave, and dedicated funding to meet growth in demand.
More can also be done to improve security of employment in the community services industry. If the Government continues to only fund community service organisations through short-term contracts and extensions, these organisations can’t offer staff long-term, secure work. Only with secure and long-term funding can the industry offer more attractive wages, better conditions, decent hours and proper training to keep people in jobs and keep the community safer. VCOSS supports the Productivity Commission recommendation to extend community service contracts to seven years.
With demand for social assistance high, the workforce needs of the sector are growing. Student placements are part of the solution. They provide students with practical on-the-job training and create a pipeline of new workers for employers. Many community organisations want to take on students but can’t because they don’t have the resources for placement administration, student supervision or training. Additional support is needed to build the capability of community service organisations to provide supported student placements.
VCOSS also welcomes the commitment to early intervention that has been demonstrated across this Budget, including through the development of an early intervention framework.