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Roadmap to Reform package: an important step to better supporting the wellbeing of vulnerable children and families

The Roadmap to Reform: strong families safe children package announced today is an important step towards improving the wellbeing of vulnerable children and families.The child protection system, from early intervention right through to out-of-home care services, is being overwhelmed by the dramatic increase in reported cases over the last decade. Every effort needs to be made to strengthen and support vulnerable families, reduce the numbers of children entering out-of-home-care and secure brighter further for children and young people who are in care.

VCOSS welcomes the significant investment of $168.2 million over 2 years to reform the support service system for vulnerable children and families. The whole-of-government approach includes a mix of prevention and early interventions initiatives, along with measures to better support children and young people who have entered the out-of-home care sector. There is also investment in much needed supports for Aboriginal children and families.

In this blog, VCOSS summarises the key initiatives announced today and will provide further detail as it becomes available. This includes:

  • $33.88 million over 2 years to improve access to universal services in the early years for vulnerable families. This includes:
    • Establishing an intensive in-home early childhood support service for vulnerable families.
    • Co-designing a tailored and culturally responsive maternal and child health (MCH) service for Aboriginal families.
    • Expanding the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program to support more vulnerable women during pregnancy.
  • $16.48 million to improve outcomes for Aboriginal children in out-of-home care, including:
    • Developing a staged plan to transition the placement and case management of Aboriginal children from DHHS to Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACCOs)
    • Expansion of the Aboriginal Child Specialist Advice and Support Service (ACSASS).
    • Recruitment of Aboriginal foster and kinship carers.
    • Additional resources to ensure cultural support plans for Aboriginal children in care.
  • $5.65 million in 2016-17 for family support services to deliver interventions that build the capacity and resilience of vulnerable families.
  • $35.9 million to begin transforming residential care to a clinical treatment model.
  • $8.48 million to expand trauma informed interventions for children and young people.
  • $16.19 million to provide more support to children in home-based care and their carers, to help stabilise placement and delivery positive outcomes. This funding will help connect children to universal services and provide flexible support to meet their needs including access to treatment.
  • $34.16 million to meet placement demand in the out-of-home care system, including funding to increase the number of foster, kinship and permanent care places.
  • $5.76 million to enhance child protection, including one year funding for the ongoing operation of the Child Protection Specialist Intervention unit.
  • $11.7 million to upgrade residential care facilities across the state.

Alongside the Roadmap to Reform package, the Victorian Government released its response to the Royal Commission into Family Violence today. Information on the government’s response to the Royal Commission into Family Violence are detailed in this VCOSS blog.

VCOSS welcomes initiatives aimed at improving access to universal services for vulnerable families and the investment in intensive early years support. Prevention and early intervention strategies that strengthen vulnerable families and help them provide optimal environments for their children are the best ways to support children’s healthy development and minimise conditions that may lead to abuse and neglect. It is positive that in-home early childhood support with be based on evidence from the right@home, Cradle to Kinder and Aboriginal Cradle to Kinder programs.

VCOSS is also pleased to see a strong focus on better supporting Aboriginal children and families, both in the Roadmap to Reform and the Family Violence Package, including a focus community-led early intervention and prevention initiatives aimed at tackling family violence. Funding to help transfer guardianship of Aboriginal children to the care of ACCOs is an important step to improve the wellbeing of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care and retain their connection to culture.

Victoria has the lowest rate of children placed in foster care of all the states and territories making the recruitment and retention of appropriately skilled foster carers a high priority. We look forward to further detail on how the $34.16 million to meet placement demand in the out-of-home care system will be delivered. To provide vulnerable children and young people with stable, warm and supportive placements, carers need to be adequately resourced and supported. VCOSS welcomes increased investment in flexible supports for children in home-based care and looks forward to gaining more detail on this funding.

The expansion of trauma informed care and funding to transition residential care placements to treatment models is crucial to improving the health and wellbeing of children and young people in out-of-home-care, and help them recover from the trauma they have experienced.

VCOSS look forward to working with the government and the community sector to implement these initiatives and better support vulnerable children and families.