Invest in integrated support for children and families
The 2015-16 Victorian State Budget contains positive measures aimed at supporting vulnerable children and families, and better integrating services for them. These include capital funding for early learning facilities and integrated children’s centres, expansion of the Child FIRST and family services system, and more flexible childcare services.
Vulnerable families often have difficulty finding out about and accessing the services they need. By integrating a range of services, families can more easily access these services, including maternal and child health, early childhood education and intensive family support services.
VCOSS looks forward to working with government to build on this investment through increasing the reach of maternal child health services (MCH) and innovative playgroups, and expanding place-based approaches to match local community needs, to help families build brighter futures and break cycles of intergenerational disadvantage.
Initiatives at a glance
- $50m in capital funding over four years to build and upgrade early learning facilities and integrated children’s centres, with $5m in 2015-16. Priority will be given to communities with areas with rapid population growth and those with high levels of disadvantage. VCOSS called for more integrated children’s service and this funding will help improve children’s and families’ wellbeing and education in geographic areas experiencing entrenched social disadvantage.
- $48.1m over four years to expand the Child FIRST and family services system, with $12m in 2015-16 – to increase access to early intervention services to support vulnerable families. Under this initiative about 70 positions will be created in the non-government sector and flexible funding will be available to support individualised plans. VCOSS called for an expansion of Child FIRST and Integrated Family and Support Services in its 2015-16 State Budget Submission and welcomes the government’s investment in these services.
- $8.56m over four years as part of the National Occasional Care Program, jointly funded by the federal and state government ($3.85m from the Victorian government). The first round of funding will support 117 children’s services, mostly in regional and low socio-economic areas. This is a welcome initiative to help disadvantaged families access more flexible childcare services at subsidised rates.
- $2m over three years in additional funding for Go Goldfields. This is part of the Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund. Go Goldfields is an innovative alliance of organisations, created to deliver locally relevant responses to complex and long-term social issues and continued investment in this initiative is welcome. VCOSS looks forward to working in partnership with the community sector and the government to utilise the best evidence about ‘what works’ and to encourage place-based approaches to be further trialled and evaluated across the state to help prevent and respond to disadvantage for children, young people and families.
Future policy directions
- Because the early years of life are so crucial for children’s later outcomes, expanding the reach of universal and targeted MCH services for disadvantaged families is crucial to ensure they can access the important health and wellbeing support and the pathways into the broader service system that MCH provides.
- The state government can further support vulnerable children and families by expanding the Supported Playgroups and Parent Groups Initiative (SPPI), and other innovative supported playgroups across Victoria. This will increase opportunities for vulnerable children to learn and develop through play, and for parents to expand social networks and link in to other services.
- VCOSS welcomes budget funding that will expand Victoria’s Child FIRST and family services system to better support vulnerable children who may be at risk of entering the child protection system. We look forward to working with the government to build on this investment in intensive prevention and early intervention programs, to support vulnerable children who may be at risk of entering the child protection system and to prevent developmental vulnerability.
- VCOSS welcomes the investment in integrated children’s centres made in the 2015-16 state budget. Many children and families face complex problems with multiple and interconnected causes that are beyond a single organisation’s ability to solve. The government can build on its investment by expanding and resourcing integrated service models from the early years through to secondary school, and expanding these across the state in a way that matches local community needs.