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Improving care for vulnerable children in Victoria

Work to transform the child and family system from a crisis response to early intervention and prevention is underway in Victoria. The reforms are addressing systemic issues so that children and families receive the support they need, when they need it. But there is still much work to do, according to Denis Fitzgerald, Executive Director of Catholic Social Services Victoria.

"We welcome the progress on reform initiatives outlined in the Roadmap for Reform: Children and families Progress and directions 2018 launched by Minister Jenny Mikakos on 11 May 2018. The reforms are addressing systemic issues so that children and families receive the support they need, when they need it,” he said.

“This important work sits within a context of rising numbers of children living in care: since 2012, the number of children living in out-of-home care (temporary or long-term living arrangements for children aged up to 17 years who cannot live in their family home) has risen from 6,207 to 10,312.”

The vision driving the reforms is that ‘All vulnerable Victorian children reach their full potential by living and thriving in safe and supportive families where they have strong attachments to parents, kin, carers and community and can embrace their cultural and spiritual identity.’ Government’s commitment to and investment in Aboriginal self-determination through the treaty process, family violence prevention and building capacity and infrastructure in local communities are also important elements underpinning these reforms.

Denis said the reforms are showing some early positive outcomes. The reforms include a new conceptual service framework ‘Pathways’ that focuses on pathways to support early help; targeted and specialist support; and continuing care. Each pathway will link families to other community resources available and combine service networks to ensure mix, level and intensity of services for each family. The objective is to deepen collaboration between service systems in human services, health, education and justice and to build the capacity of local community, to enable vulnerable families to build both formal and informal support networks.
Work is also underway to develop new funding models that will enable providers to work more flexibly to provide seamless and continuous service to children and families; tailoring and scaling services based on a child or family’s needs over time. Other developments underway include; workforce planning, developing a learning system for continuous service innovation and practice improvement, and the development of an outcomes based monitoring framework to measure impact.

“Critical to determining the effectiveness of the reforms will be the regular and transparent monitoring and reporting of impact for vulnerable children and families. Further investment is needed to ensure out-of-home care, child protection and support services are adequately funded to meet demand,” said Denis.

“The Government is moving in the right direction, but there is still much work to be done to implement and embed the system reforms in progress. The provision of services by staff who are stretched because of high caseloads, the need for sufficient ongoing support for carers and increasing numbers of Aboriginal children in care, continue to be significant challenges. We urge the Victorian Government to maintain the momentum of this important work: to support communities where children are safe and thrive, and families are supported.”
Read the full report, here.

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