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Key shortfalls identified by Auditor General for vulnerable children and families

Victoria’s support services for vulnerable children and families are being overwhelmed by rising and more complex demands, according to a report released today by the Victoria Auditor General.

The VAGO report, Early Intervention Services for Vulnerable Children and Families, also finds that this rising demand is forcing services to concentrate efforts on assisting the most at-risk children and young people. This in turn means that some vulnerable children and families may not always be able to access services when needed or maintain engagement with services once these are provided.

“The growing gap between the need for early intervention and the ability of the service system to respond to all vulnerable families who need support is of significant concern,” said Emma King, CEO of VCOSS.

“Many families face complex challenges and it is important that support is available early before problems escalate and require the involvement of child protection services. Victoria now needs to continue efforts to reduce the number of children entering child protection in the first place.”

“The Andrews Government has made welcome moves to strengthen Victoria’s service system by focusing on prevention and early intervention since coming into office. These include substantial investments in measures to help reduce the number of children and young people entering the system, greater support for carers and children in out-of-home care, and continued support for young people to transition from residential care to independent living and education, which were included in the recent state budget.”

“The VAGO report notes that community service agencies are delivering substantially more services than they are being funded for. This confirms what VCOSS has been hearing from our members about the inadequacy of funding to meet escalating levels of demand across the social services system.”

“The community sector generally is struggling with insufficient funding to cope with increasing demand for services and increasing complexity in the issues people are facing. Wages and prices both rose faster than the funding indexation rate over the 2012-15 period, which, along with a failure to fully fund mandated superannuation increases, has left organisations with an estimated 2.6 per cent real funding cut. While indexation for 2015-16 has been provided on the same basis as the previous three-year funding and service agreement, VCOSS welcomes the state government’s commitment to work together on future years’ indexation as part of ongoing service agreement discussions.”

“The report from the Auditor General gives us an important insight into the rising level of need for vulnerable children and families.”

“VCOSS welcomes the commitment from Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos to accept of all the recommendations made by the Auditor General. We look forward to working with Minister Mikakos and ministers in other relevant portfolios to improve the service system in order to offer Victoria’s vulnerable children the best possible start in life.”