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Social Policy
For a more just and compassionate Victoria
 
"Charity that leaves the poor person as he is, is not sufficient. True mercy, the mercy God gives to us and teaches us, demands justice, it demands that the poor find the way to be poor no longer." - Pope Francis
 
The Church, through social service agencies, improves the wellbeing of the more than 200,000 people who we work with in Victoria each year. Inspired by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, we focus on the dignity of each person, and work for the common good. We highlight the plight of those most in need. 

There are many Victorians who, over short periods or the long term, find themselves on the margins of our society, or with particular needs for assistance. It is those people we are called to help. Their voices, through the agencies that serve them, have been used to inform the social policy statements found here.

What follows are the policy positions we have developed to benefit our must vulnerable, and to support children, young people, families and our broader community. These will be updated over time, and supporting materials will be added.
 
 
Catholic Social Services Victoria acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Elders in each of the Communities where we work.
 

Alcohol and other drugs

As a community we need to counter vigorously the culture that accepts the use of alcohol and other drugs as a social norm and a mechanism for coping with health and social issues.
  • Alcohol harms all levels of the community. It is a major contributing factor in violence, and places great pressure on the health system, through use of ambulances, emergency departments, etc. It remains the primary drug of concern in our society.
  • ‘Ice’, or methamphetamine, is a growing problem. Its purity has increased three-fold in the last few years, greatly increasing the harm it causes.
Policy Action:
  • Increase resources to community services to reduce harms associated with ice, alcohol and other substance abuse.

Children in care

All children have the right to a safe and secure future.
  • Children who cannot live at home need high quality, safe care that addresses the effects of the trauma they have experienced.
  • Current residential care and foster care arrangements are under-funded, and do not always meet the standard that we as a community want.
Policy Action:
  • To ensure high quality care, service providers must be funded to meet the safety and therapeutic needs of children and young people; and some spare capacity is needed to ensure appropriate placements can always be made.

Closing the gap

Closing the gap for Aboriginal Victorians requires change in attitude and actions. A current priority, that impacts on measurable disadvantage, is recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Australian Constitution.
  • Aboriginal Victorians have high rates of imprisonment and contact with the criminal justice system, and high rates of children in out of home care, but they have limited access to prevention and early intervention services.
  • Aboriginal Victorians have poor outcomes in health, education and employment.
Policy Action:
  • Re-commit to Closing the Gap and tackling Aboriginal disadvantage, including demonstrating progress against target measures in all areas of Government responsibility.

Family violence

We must work together to ensure the safety of women and children, in our own families and communities, and in our influence on community attitudes.
  • Family violence is the biggest contributor to ill health, disability and death in 15 to 44 year-old women. There is a shortage of crisis and refuge accommodation for women and children fleeing family violence.
  • Victoria Police is working to respond effectively to family violence, but there is still much to be done.
  • Currently there is no individual follow up support available for children, so the trauma remains and feeds a cycle of disadvantage.
Policy Action:
  • Strengthen prevention of family violence as a high priority for Government, across all departments.
  • Increase funding for accommodation and programs for women and children who are victims of family violence.
Policy Backgrounders: 

Community infrastructure and regional disparity

Socially well-planned communities are the corner-stone of an inclusive, prosperous society.
  • Transport, open space, utilities, schools, churches, community amenities and recreation facilities build inclusive societies and avoid
  • social disadvantage.
  • Employment is a priority, especially in regional areas. Lack of public transport and mobile phone coverage can make finding a job even harder, and the cost cutting in the TAFE system has impacted heavily on rural and regional residents.
  • Without additional government funding and higher priority, residents in newer suburbs won’t access safe roads, public transport, local employment, recreation facilities and community services.
Policy Action:
  • The development needs of regional Victoria and the growth areas, which include distance and existing disadvantage in employment and services, need to drive priority investments in social and economic programs.

Good government

Homelessness and social housing

Safe, secure and affordable housing is critical to living a meaningful and fulfilling life. 
Policy backgrounders: 
  • To come. 

Including people with a disability

We all need to ensure that people with disability can participate fully in the social and economic life of the community. 
  • The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a landmark development, but it still leaves much to be done to include people with disability fully in our society.
  • In Australia many people with a disability struggle to find meaningful employment – only 54% participate in the labour force.
Policy Action:
  • Ensure continued funding at the State level for disability services that are outside the scope of the NDIS.
  • Establish a State government employment target for people with a disability.
  • Fully implement the State Disability Plan 2013 - 2016, so people with disability can fully access services such housing, education, health, justice, and mental health.

Justice

Broad community support is needed to enable a truly just response to crime in our society. This includes support for victims of crime, families of prisoners, and those who are seeking to build new lives.
Policy Backgrounders:  

Mental health

People with mental health issues are entitled to a quality of life equivalent to all other Victorians; we must improve access to services at an earlier stage for those people at risk.
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for young people, and 75% of mental illness emerges before the age of 25.
  • Underfunding of community-based mental health services leads to more people reaching crisis point, and presenting at hospitals for acute care. Recent changes in funding have left significant gaps in the service system.
  • Research has shown that people who are homeless have much greater rates of psychiatric disorders and traumatic events than the general population.
Policy Action:
  • Re-invest in specialist community-based supports for disadvantaged people with mental illness, including young people.

Vulnerable young people (including youth justice)

Children have a special call on our community; we must ensure that they can access adequate housing, education and employment.
  • 10,000 Victorian students in years 9 to 11 drop out of school every year and youth unemployment is at an unacceptable 12.4%.
  • 56% of children and young people in custody in Victoria have been suspended or expelled from school.
  • Each year approximately 400 young people turn 18 and leave care, risking homelessness because they do not have adult supports and lack safe, secure and affordable housing.
Policy Action:
  • Invest in building a high quality education system, fund supports to keep children and young people from slipping through the cracks, anddevelop diversion programs to put young people on pathways from the criminal justice system and back into learning and work.
  • Ensure appropriate safe and secure housing is available for young people leaving care until they are able to maintain an independent home.

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