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Victoria must become a ‘wellbeing economy’

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VICTORIA should move away from traditional budget processes and become a ‘wellbeing economy’ with a bold suite of social policies to improve people’s day-to-day lives, according to Victoria’s peak social advocacy body.

The Victorian Council of Social Service has released A State Of Wellbeing, its formal submission to the Victorian Government ahead of next year’s state budget.

The manifesto includes specific policy recommendations on mental health, education, disability support, climate change and proper funding for community services.

But VCOSS CEO Emma King said the principle recommendation is for a complete rethink of how our state is run.

“Economic prosperity alone is bad measure of how our community is travelling,” she said.

“What’s the use in a Triple A credit rating if people are homeless? You can’t eat a growing economy, and surpluses don’t put a roof over your head.”

“Victoria needs a new way to conceptualise, pursue and measure progress.”

VCOSS is urging Victoria to follow New Zealand’s lead and become a wellbeing economy.

In broad terms, wellbeing economies put the pursuit of key social outcomes—like delivering the basic needs for food, housing, health, safety and a good education—on par with the pursuit of good balance sheets.

Governments are required to clearly articulate specific social goals and match them with concrete targets and timelines, then publicly report on progress at set intervals.

Ms King gives one example:

“For instance, Victoria might set a specific target for when it’s going to build enough community and public housing to wipe the 80,000 person housing waitlist. Currently, there isn’t a target or timeframe for this goal.”

“Relevant bureaucrats and minister would have to explain how any proposed new program would contribute to achieving this goal. If they couldn’t do so, then their program might not attract funding.”

“Over time, if Victoria struggles to meet its targets for achieving this goal, the government would need to publicly why and recalibrate policies or funding levels to get back on track.”

In addition to recommending a new overarching social framework for Victoria, A State of Wellbeing details specific policies VCOSS believes need to be implemented right now.

These include:

  • A BIG BUILD of public and community housing to end homelessness,
  • CLOSING service gaps for people with disability,
  • BOOSTING mental health funding before the Royal Commission’s final report,
  • MAKING homes ‘healthy’ (that is, safe and liveable) for low-income Victorians,
  • CONTINUING the pivot to crime prevention,
  • EXTENDING state care to kids until their 21st birthday, and
  • ENDING the damaging funding ‘drip-feed’ to community services.

“This is a roadmap for meaningful change, and for a fairer and better Victoria,” Ms King said.

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