This is a long-form analysis of the Victorian Government’s investments in wellbeing approaches. For a quick summary of specific Budget program expenditure in this space click here.
VCOSS has been advocating for Victoria to become a wellbeing economy. In our State Budget Submission, we called for a formal declaration in the budget papers that future Victorian budgets will take a wellbeing approach for funding initiatives and for immediate funding to develop a Wellbeing Framework that captures communities’ unique needs and goals.
The 2022-23 State Budget includes an Early Intervention Investment Framework (EIIF), which commits $504 million for 16 initiatives including ‘Sustaining student mental health services for schools’ and ‘Supporting community legal centres’. The EIIF was introduced in the 2021-22 Budget to fund programs that reduce usage of acute services and to measure the resulting savings.
Two aspects of the EIIF that bear similarities to wellbeing approaches implemented internationally are the focus on participant outcomes and the pool of funding for programs that meet specific goals. The Budget also includes $0.6 million for data collection so the benefits from early interventions can be accurately measured, which is comparable to using wellbeing indicators to track progress and ensure a wellbeing approach is working.
The EIIF is a solid start but there are key components of wellbeing economies that are missing. For example, a Wellbeing Framework would be developed after thorough consultation with the community and be published publicly to improve transparency and buy-in. The EIIF was created within the bureaucracy and is still only accessible for departmental representatives.
A Wellbeing Framework would also state a set of holistic priorities matched with desired outcomes that the whole of government would be tasked with progressing collaboratively through new and innovative ideas. This is in contrast to early intervention, which describes an approach rather than an outcome.
The EIIF is a solid start but there are key components of wellbeing economies that are missing.
As an example, one of the initiatives funded under the EIIF is ‘Investing to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring’. Although $51.3 million for reforming the specialist homelessness service system is welcome, in a wellbeing economy this would be just one of a suite of holistic measures across government to address homelessness, including building new social housing, improving housing affordability, and reforming land tax.
There are countless initiatives in the State Budget (outside the EIIF) that would form part of a wellbeing economy. The word ‘wellbeing’ appears 90 times in Budget Paper 3 – Service Delivery, which shows that Victorians’ wellbeing is front of mind for the Victorian Government. It is time to package these initiatives in a coherent way and imbue the budget with priorities linked to what Victorians care about most.
VCOSS has been undertaking a Listening Tour around Victoria. This has uncovered common challenges being felt across the state, such as financial insecurity, access to safe, affordable and fit-for-purpose housing, loneliness, and digital access. These wellbeing priorities would be an excellent start, while deepening the consultation, building upon the EIIF and developing a Victorian Wellbeing Framework for future budgets.