Budget welcome, but targeted funding needed to address long-term challenges facing child protection system

Monday, May 27, 2019
Berry Street has welcomed the 2019-20 Victorian Budget, which provides $1.45 billion for vital child protection and family services programs and initiatives.
Berry Street provides services to children, young people and families impacted by abuse, violence and neglect across Victoria, including out-of-home care.
CEO, Michael Perusco, acknowledged the Government’s significant investments in a range of parenting and early childhood programs, which will help strengthen families and ensure parents can receive support, advice and assistance, earlier.
“It’s vital that we invest in prevention if we’re serious about delivering for all Victorians, particularly children in disadvantaged families,” Mr Perusco said.
The Budget includes:
  • $882 million to begin the rollout of universal three-year-old kinder;
  • $214 million for new parenting centres, more maternal child health nurses, and around-the-clock sleep advice;
  • $36.6 million to continue reforms focused on early intervention, including trials of innovative new models of out of home care and support for Aboriginal children to stay connected to their culture;
  • $30 million for an extra 44 child protection workers (in addition to the 450 additional child protection workers provided for in the 2018-19 Budget).
Berry Street also recognises the Government’s investments in the School Breakfast Clubs Program and the Inclusive Kindergartens Facilities Program.
“We applaud the Government’s unprecedented investment in the early childhood years, which is a key part of strengthening families.
“The more we can do to provide wrap around services that support Victorian families, particularly vulnerable families, the better,” Mr Perusco said.
The Budget also provides $33.2 million to provide accommodation for Victorian children with complex disabilities, due to a failure of the National Disability Insurance Scheme – an issue Berry Street publicly campaigned for last month.
“We urge Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the newly appointed Minister for the NDIS, Stuart Robert, to fix the Scheme, which is currently forcing Victorian children with highly complex needs into the child protection system.”
While Berry Street understands the 2019-20 Budget is focused on delivering the Government’s election commitments, looking forward, the organisation calls on the Victorian Government to provide funding aimed at keeping children out of the child protection system.
“The number of Victorian children coming into the child protection system has increased every year over the last 5 years – last year by 12 per cent, to over 10,000 children. If things don’t change, by 2025, this is expected to increase to over 25,000 children,” Mr Perusco said.
“And, of the children removed from their families, half return home within 6 months. If these families were able to receive the right support at the right time, the emotional distress and disruption could be avoided.
“Victoria can do better than this for our most vulnerable children and families.”
Mr Perusco said there needs to be more targeted, secure funding for early intervention initiatives to keep families together, safely.
“The child protection system is already under immense pressure, and demand continues to increase. If we don’t look at this differently, and put greater focus on early intervention and prevention – the system will reach crisis point.”
Mr Perusco said the Government’s $1 billion Budget surplus creates the opportunity to provide a boost in funding that is focused and targeted on early intervention and prevention programs, to really address the long-term challenges the child protection system faces.
“The Government talks about giving children the best start in life and delivering for all Victorians. If it’s serious about this, then greater investment in programs to strengthen our most disadvantaged families is vital,” Mr Perusco said.


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