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Victoria heading in right direction with reforms in family support

Catholic Social Services Victoria welcomes the reform that is underway in Victoria to improve the way children and families receive support, and help build communities where children are safe and nurtured, and families are supported.  But there are complex issues still to be faced, and it will be a continuing challenge to Government and to the community to maintain the momentum of this work, and provide adequate resources.

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An extensive reform program is underway in Victoria to assist and support children in need. The Government’s Roadmap for Reform: strong families, safe children shifts focus towards prevention and early interventions to assist parents and families to deal with challenges.  Increased support to Aboriginal children, their families and their communities recognises the right of Aboriginal people to self-determination in relation to the care of Aboriginal children.  Support and Safety Hubs across Victoria will improve help and support for families experiencing family violence.  A process is underway to reform how out-of-home care is provided.  

Supporting families through investment in early interventions will help reduce the number of children and young people coming into contact with the child protection, out-of-home-care and youth justice systems. It is important that leaders across the community services sector can continue to contribute to the design, development and implementation of Roadmap initiatives.

The establishment of 17 Support and Safety Hubs across Victoria is underway. These will give local communities access to a range of social services, including those related to family violence and housing. The first hubs in Barwon, Bayside Peninsula, Inner Gippsland, Mallee and North-East Melbourne will be operational from November 2017.  Careful planning needs to occur to ensure that children and families are not adversely impacted by changes to service provision during the establishment of the hubs.

A process is also underway to reform how out of home care is provided.  This must include providing parenting support to families before, during and after involvement with the child protection and OOHC systems. Greater recognition of the support required for carers is particularly important, especially kinship carers (the fastest growing form of OOHC for children). Service providers and families will need to be consulted in the development of the funding model for these services, to address concerns and inconsistencies relating to carer allowances.

Additional steps are required to ensure Aboriginal children and families receive care and support that is culturally appropriate and safe. The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services has the power to authorise an Aboriginal agency to care for an Aboriginal child, under Section 18 of the Victorian Children, Youth and Families Act 2005. t is now a priority to ensure there are no further delays or barriers to the implementation of Section 18.

The Children and Families Research Strategy 2017-2019  and the investment in learning system grants to promote innovation and the establishment of OPEN (Outcomes, Practice and Evidence Network) demonstrates a commitment to research and evidence based practice. It is important that Victorian research is sufficiently funded to inform program development and continuous evaluation.

The Victorian Government is urged to maintain the momentum of this important work, to support communities where children are safe and nurtured, and families are supported.

 

Contact: Denis Fitzgerald, Executive Director, tel 0418 136 372, dfitzgerald@css.org.au.





 
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