The Victorian State Budget was announced on Tuesday, May 5, without too many surprises for the community services sector.
We have been campaigning for some time to see increased resources directed to child protection and out-of-home care.
We were therefore very pleased to see an announcement of $160 million to increase capacity, to offer better support to children and young people in care and to improve the response to child protection emergencies.
Most importantly, we have seen a commitment from the Brumby Government to investigate new ways to deliver care to the most traumatised and challenging children in state care.
The Government will recruit 100 new live-in carers to provide intensive one-on-one care to children who cannot safely stay in residential care with other children due to their behaviour. This will offer better chances for those children to address serious issues associated with severe abuse or neglect and it will protect other children from their potentially harmful behaviour.
Less pleasing was the lack of additional funding to support disability carers. Thousands of Victorian parents are forced to care for their children at home with very little government support. Often, these children are grown adults and their parents have been carrying out the extremely demanding job of looking after them full time for their entire lives.
Obviously, this is a challenging role and limits a parent’s ability to live their own life and fully enjoy their relationship with their child. These carers deserve greater levels of support including respite and professional help to improve theirs and their child’s quality of life.
Mental health is another area that needs significantly increased funding. While the State Government has committed increased spending to employ more mental health workers and improve early intervention measure, more needs to be done to identify those with mental health concerns and link them with appropriate services.
Anglicare Victoria’s soon to be published Hardship Survey uncovered a serious and disturbing link between emergency relief service users and serious mental health issues. It is clear from this research that many serious mental health issues go undiagnosed in the community and action is required to better identify these people and connect them with the right services.
Community Agencies like Anglicare Victoria can play a role and work together with government to meet this challenge.
Employment was a big focus in the State Budget and the Brumby Government claim 35,000 jobs will be created through new spending initiatives. However, only 25,000 of those jobs will be directly created by the Victorian Government with another 10,000 expected to be employed down the supply chain.
Regardless of how many jobs are created, it is a sad fact that many more will be lost. The Brumby Government projects unemployment will rise to 7 per cent in 2009-10 and 7.75 per cent in 2010-11.
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