Key reforms support Victoria's vulnerable children
From the Minister for Community Services
Key reforms support Victoria's vulnerable children
More frontline workers, greater help for families, improved intervention and diversion programs, expansion of places in therapeutic out-of-home care and innovative reform of the Children’s Court are just some of the 2012-13 Budget measures to better protect Victoria’s most vulnerable children.
Premier Ted Baillieu said the Victorian Coalition Government had allocated $336 million in the Budget for vulnerable children and their families.
“This is in addition to $98 million in funding to improve the child protection system that we provided in the last Budget to start the reforms,” Mr Baillieu said.
“This new funding will help to meet the needs of Victorian children in crisis today, and will allow for the expansion of an innovative approach that we know will improve outcomes for children and families.”
The Coalition Government has also released a directions paper – Victoria’s Vulnerable Children – Our Shared Responsibility – outlining the first-year initiatives, longer-term commitments and the areas requiring further consideration as a result of the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry recommendations.
Five action areas have been identified for targeted reform: Building Effective and Connected Services; Enhancing Education and Building Capacity; Making a Child Friendly Legal System; Providing Safe, Stable and Supportive Out of Home Care; and Introducing Accountability and Transparency.
Key highlights of the reforms and the 2012-13 State Budget include:
- Establishment of a new Children’s Court at Broadmeadows Court: using the decentralised site to model a range of child-focused and friendly approaches, including greater use of conferencing, less adversarial approaches, and redesigned physical layout.
- Child protection workforce reform: more frontline workers with improved skills and support, more senior staff working directly with children and improved retention and career pathways that will deliver better outcomes for children in the child protection system.
- Focus on placement stability and therapy: earlier identification and decision- making about family reunification prospects for young people in out-of-home care, combined with a significantly improved specialist response to needs of young people in out-of-home care, will assist in getting their lives back on track.
- Focus on connected services: vulnerable children and their families should be seamlessly connected to a range of services to respond to their often complex and diverse needs. We will rigorously evaluate our Services Connect trials and further develop the single-case manager and single-case plan approach for children in child protection and their families across all services.
- Establishment of a Commission for Children and Young People: improving transparency, accountability and oversight of the experiences and outcomes for vulnerable children. There will be a particular focus on Aboriginal children with the appointment of a commissioner with special responsibility for vulnerable Aboriginal children and young people.
“Our reform agenda and package of funding recognises the need for broad transformational change, as well as the improvement of existing processes and services that are not working or are poorly targeted,” Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge said.
A significant number of child protection programs were ‘pilots’ or ‘trials’ and were due to lapse in 2012. Each has been carefully considered and those that are having a significant, measurable impact have been continued, expanded or better targeted to areas of high need.
“We want all government-delivered and funded services to work better across portfolios and to formally accept the challenge of improving outcomes for vulnerable children,” Ms Wooldridge said.
To lead and drive the cross-portfolio change required, the Premier has established a high-level Ministerial Committee and committed to the development and oversight of a whole-of-government vulnerable children and families strategy, which is expected to be released in 2013.
The directions paper is available at www.dhs.vic.gov.au
Summary of budget initiativesBuilding Effective and Connected Services
Enhancing Education and Capacity Building
- $19 million to recruit 42 new statutory child protection workers
- $51.4 million to reform the child protection workforce
- $1 million to evaluate the ‘Services Connect’ case-management reform trials
- $1.9 million to continue the role of statewide Principal Practitioners
- $7.9 million for a Specialist Intervention Team to assist regional ‘hot spots’
- $7.3 million to significantly expand treatment places for children with problem sexual behaviours
- $2.2 million for early childhood development workers (in Grampians, Gippsland and Loddon-Mallee regions)
A Child Friendly Legal System
- $29.7 million to expand and develop the Stronger Families initiative
- $8.3 million to provide early childhood education for three- year-olds known to Child Protection
- $16.5 million to engage vulnerable families in early learning
- $4 million to strengthen the delivery of Student Support Services
- $16.3 million to sustain the Enhanced Maternal and Child Health Services
- $4.7 million to continue Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies
- $22.4 million to expand ChildFIRST and Integrated Family Services in areas of high demand
- $1 million for ‘zero-fee’ TAFE places for children exiting out-of-home care
Safe, Stable and Supportive Out of Home Care
- $17 million to establish a new Children’s Court at Broadmeadows Court
- $20 million to establish three new multidisciplinary centres for sexual assault and child abuse
- $23.7 million to expand New Model Conferencing
- $7.4 million to expand use of Family Group Conferencing and Aboriginal Family Decision-making
Accountability and Transparency
- $27.9 million to provide 34 new residential care placements
- $3.6 million for a Permanent Care and Stability project, including funding to expand the capacity to assess Aboriginal children to be placed permanently
- $29.6 million to significantly expand therapeutic residential care
- $3 million to establish a Commission for Children and Young People (including a Commissioner with special responsibility for Aboriginal children).
This list includes the $61.4 million in new initiatives announced when the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry report was released in February 2012.