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Stronger People Stronger State

State Budget Submission 2012-13 Victorian COUNCIL OF SOCIAL SERVICE (VCOSS)


VCOSS STATE BUDGET SUBMISSION 2012-13

Š Copyright 2011 Victorian Council of Social Service Victorian Council of Social Service Level 8, 128 Exhibition Street Melbourne, Victoria, 3000 For inquiries: Kate Colvin Policy and Public Affairs Manager E: kate.colvin@vcoss.org.au T: 03 9654 5050 Media inquiries: John Kelly Media Coordinator E: john.kelly@vcoss.org.au T: 0418 127 153 www.vcoss.org.au ISBN: 978-0-949748-81-2








Victorian Council of Social Service The Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) is the peak organisation of the social and community services sector in Victoria. Our members reflect the diversity of the sector and include large charities, peak organisations, small community services, advocacy groups and individuals. VCOSS raises awareness of the existence, causes and effects of poverty and inequality, and advocates for the development of a sustainable, fair and equitable society. As well as promoting the wellbeing of those experiencing disadvantage, VCOSS works to strengthen the community sector through advocacy, partnerships and training.

CONTRIBUTORS We were grateful for the contribution of the following organisations in the development of this State Budget Submission: Anglicare Victoria Association for Children with a Disability

Energy and Water Ombudsman (Victoria) Family Care Goulburn Valley

Association of Neighbourhood Houses and Learning Centres

Federation of Community Legal Centres

Australian Education Union

Foundation House

Bendigo Community Health Service

Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Cooperative

Berry Street Brotherhood of St Laurence Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare Centre for Multicultural Youth City of Port Phillip – Housing and Homelessness Services

Gippsland UnitingCare Grampians Community Health Service Inner South Community Health Service Kildonan UnitingCare Kindergarten Parents Victoria

Community Child Care

MacKillop Family Services

Community Housing Federation of Victoria

Mallee Family Care

Consumer Action Law Centre Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre Council of Single Mothers and their Children Council on the Ageing (Victoria) Doutta Galla Community Health Service EACH

Melbourne City Mission Moreland Energy Foundation North Yarra Community Health Service OzChild Peaks and Statewide Networks Forum Pilch Connect

Ruth Wraith Society of St Vincent de Paul St Luke’s Anglicare Travellers Aid Australia Victoria Legal Aid Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association Victorian Community Transport Association Victorian Secondary School Principals Association VICSERV Volunteering Victoria Western Region Community Health Centre Wimmera UnitingCare Youthlaw Youth Affairs Council of Victoria Youth Connect


VCOSS STATE BUDGET SUBMISSION 2012-13

Table of contents About us and contributors......................................................................................................................... 3

INTRODUCTION.......................................................................................................................... 5 THE BASICS................................................................................................................................. 8 Concessions............................................................................................................................................ 10 Energy and water efficiency..................................................................................................................... 12 Smart meters........................................................................................................................................... 16

CHILDREN AND FAMILIES....................................................................................................... 18 Aboriginal families.................................................................................................................................... 20 Early childhood services and schools ...................................................................................................... 24 Supporting families.................................................................................................................................. 27 Out-of-home care ................................................................................................................................... 29

COMMUNITY SECTOR SUSTAINABILITY............................................................................... 31 A sustainable and fairly paid workforce.................................................................................................... 33 Service delivery........................................................................................................................................ 36 Build capacity.......................................................................................................................................... 38

EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT, EDUCATION AND SKILLS ....................................... 40 Early childhood development................................................................................................................... 42 Flexible learning options........................................................................................................................... 46 Learning support programs...................................................................................................................... 49 Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL)....................................................................................... 51 The middle years..................................................................................................................................... 53 The cost of education.............................................................................................................................. 54 Employment support............................................................................................................................... 56 Vocational education and training............................................................................................................. 58

EMERGENCIES.......................................................................................................................... 59 Long-term physical and psychosocial support......................................................................................... 61 Heatwaves............................................................................................................................................... 64

HEALTH AND WELLBEING....................................................................................................... 66 Aboriginal health and wellbeing................................................................................................................ 68 Primary health.......................................................................................................................................... 72 Mental health........................................................................................................................................... 75 Alcohol and other drugs........................................................................................................................... 78

HOUSING.................................................................................................................................... 80 Children in housing crisis.......................................................................................................................... 83 Older Victorians....................................................................................................................................... 86 Employment participation......................................................................................................................... 88

TRANSPORT.............................................................................................................................. 90 The bus network...................................................................................................................................... 92 Accessible public transport...................................................................................................................... 94 Joined-up services................................................................................................................................... 97

YOUNG PEOPLE...................................................................................................................... 100 Generalist youth services....................................................................................................................... 102 Mental health......................................................................................................................................... 104 Youth justice.......................................................................................................................................... 106




Introduction

INTRODUCTION




VCOSS STATE BUDGET SUBMISSION 2012-13



Introduction After delivering a decent Budget last year that kept its election promises, the State Government is sending strong signals to expect a tougher approach in 2012-13. In the face of goods and services tax (GST) formula changes, threats of an economic downturn and, in particular, a decline in stamp duty revenue, it may be tempted to cut into programs whose deep and long-term value are not always recognised. That would mean ignoring significant trends that are changing the Victorian social and economic landscape and threatening future budgets. If that’s the case, then savings in this Budget would be illusory and their impact counterproductive. Victoria does not have the mineral reserves of other Australian states and territories. Our economy relies on the education, skills, health and wellbeing of our workers, and we need to invest in them if we are to achieve a smarter and stronger future.

Currently our state is at the crossroads. One investment pathway would pare back services for people and communities. This would entrench new and growing locations of need – particularly on the urban fringes of our cities and in rural and regional Victoria. Devastating in itself, this will also translate into a future economy with lower workforce participation and poorer productivity – as well as a skill set across the community unsuited to future demands. Under this approach, future budgets would need a blank cheque for crisis responses like prisons and hospital emergency beds. The smarter alternative is to strengthen productivity and participation by improving the lives and potential of all Victorians, particularly those in the families and places usually left behind. Investing in the infrastructure, services and supports needed will deliver a stronger community with more highly productive workers. It will also mean fewer people excluded from work, achieving the increased workforce participation our economy is crying out for. We understand that money is tight. But resources are always scarce and, in any circumstance, should be carefully directed to where they will deliver the most return.


Introduction

In the 2012-13 Budget, Victoria must respond to a number of short and longer-term challenges: • A population explosion on the fringes of our cities that has not been matched with growth in supporting infrastructure and services. The public transport deficit alone means many people struggle to get to work or learning opportunities. Further gaps in health and community services mean many families are struggling unnecessarily and that we are inviting a generation of fractured lives and communities. • Growing gaps in health and education outcomes for rural and regional Victoria that see young people struggling to do well at school, alarming growth in the incidence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, and communities that are increasingly cut off from opportunity and will be first and worst affected by the projected increase in frequency and severity of emergencies. • Strong exchange rate pressures on our manufacturing sectors and agriculture and broader economic change that are reducing job opportunities for relatively unskilled workers, and increasing demand for a highly skilled workforce. • Population ageing that means that, within a generation, we will have too few workers to power our economy, increasing the need to ensure all Victorian children and young people develop the skills and qualities needed to engage in work. • An approach to crime that comes with an exorbitant price tag, both in social terms and in the cost of prisons and police. Key to this has been the failure of the state to be a good parent to children who have suffered abuse and neglect. These challenges call for a Budget that develops the resource potential of all Victorians to create a stronger, smarter and more economically resilient future for the State and its people.




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THE BASICS

‘Victorians, especially those on fixed incomes, are struggling with day to day living costs that are increasing at an alarming rate,’ Ted Baillieu, Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition Media Release, 24 November, 2010


The basics



Introduction Rapidly rising prices for energy and water continue to put pressure on Victorian families – making it even tougher to balance household budgets under attack from cost increases of other essentials, including housing and food. Smart meters have only compounded these pressures, adding an extra fixed cost to bills. Energy and water price hikes exact an even heavier toll on low-income families, who pay a greater proportion of their income for these important everyday provisions. They are also least able to maximise their energy and water efficiency, because they cannot afford the upfront cost of efficient fixtures and appliances. While the Victorian Government has little control over energy pricing, it can assist Victorian families with concessions, tighter regulation and robust consumer protections, and efficiency measures.

Growth in costs versus income In Victoria over the last five years, electricity prices have risen by 53 per cent, gas by 41 per cent, and water by 49 per cent. In the same period, rents have increased by 43 per cent; while average weekly earnings have increased by 25 per cent, pensions by 46 per cent and allowances such as Newstart by just 16 per cent.

This Budget should deliver measures to improve the impact of the energy concession, including helping households improve their energy efficiency, and addressing issues around smart meters.

  All figures calculated from the Essential Services Commission’s Energy and Water performance reports for 2005-06 and 2009-10   Office of Housing Rental Indices, March 2006-March 2011, for two and three bedroom metropolitan houses http://www.dhs.vic.gov. au/__data/assets/excel_doc/0009/589644/March-2011-Rent_Indices_ timeseries.xls   ABS Average Weekly Earnings (6302.0), May 2006 and May 2011, full time adult ordinary time earnings   Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) Age and Invalid (Disability Support) Pension – Historical Rates (single rate, September 2006 and 2011) http://www. fahcsia.gov.au/guides_acts/ssg/ssguide-5/ssguide-5.2/ssguide-5.2.2/ ssguide-5.2.2.10.html   FaHCSIA, Single Unemployment and Sickness Benefit – Historical Rates (over 21 years, September 2006 and 2011) http://www.fahcsia. gov.au/guides_acts/ssg/ssguide-5/ssguide-5.2/ssguide-5.2.1/ssguide5.2.1.20.html


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Concessions The issues While many Victorian families have benefited from the Government’s generous expansion of electricity and water concessions, prices have risen so sharply that families are still faced with higher bills. This has meant that energy and water hardship has grown even with concession increases. Significantly, both energy and water retailers report anecdotally that growing numbers of customers in hardship are working families who have never been in hardship before. And while water-related hardship affects considerably fewer families than energy-related hardship, the numbers are growing. Between 2008-09 and 2009-10, the number of domestic water restrictions increased by 7 per cent, hardship grants by 3 per cent, and the number of Utility Relief Grants paid for water arrears increased by 58 per cent. Together, this suggests greater growth in both the incidence and severity of hardship. With water, there remain significant problems with the concession, which delivers different benefits to different households depending on their housing tenure, level of consumption, and where they live. For example: a one-person rental household gets a 37 per cent concession in western Melbourne but a 48 per cent concession in Bendigo. A five-person rental household gets only 14 and 18 per cent respectively.

  Essential Services Commission, Performance of urban water and sewerage businesses 2009-10, 2010   Victorian Utility Consumption Survey, Department of Human Services, 2008; Essential Services Commission’s Water Pricing Estimator (2011)

Growing hardship Growth in Utility Relief Grants 2008-09 to 2009-10 Electricity

32 per cent

Gas

31 per cent

Water

58 per cent

Growth in disconnections 2008-09 to 2009-10 Electricity

40 per cent

Gas

54 per cent

Water

7 per cent

NB. While this covers the period before the new concession was introduced, data on wrongful disconnections and Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria (EWOV) disconnection cases suggests the trend has not abated.

Ombudsman cases for June and July 2011 were 37 per cent higher than for the same period last year; and, for the first time ever, there were more reports of disconnection cases than high bill cases.10

  Essential Services Commission, Energy retailer’s comparative performance report – Customer service 2009-10, December 2010; Essential Services Commission, Performance of urban water and sewerage businesses 2009-10, 2010   ibid 10  EWOV report to the Essential Services Commission’s Customer Consultative Committee, 1 September 2011


The basics

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The way ahead

The evidence

Addressing unfair outcomes and improving the overall effectiveness of the water concession should be the priority for concessions in the 2012-13 Budget.

Inequitable effect of water concession

For Melbourne households, the imposition of the Melbourne Water and Parks Victoria charges in single blocks once a year means that these families face bill spikes that the capped concession does little to soften. Spreading these costs evenly across the whole year would make them easier to manage.

The water concession is, in effect, a fixed discount that bears no relationship to the size of the bill, and how the effective concession rate decreases as household size and consumption grow. Effective concession for different sized households in western Melbourne

However the main problem with the existing concession is that most families’ bills are high enough to hit the concession cap (currently $33 on each of the fixed and variable components of each bill), which effectively means they are receiving a fixed rather than percentage reduction on their bill. A fairer result would be achieved by delivering a lower uncapped percentage reduction. This would also allow other government or water business initiatives addressing specific problems (such as extra assistance to large households and water efficiency for vulnerable customers) to be more effectively designed and better targeted.

Source: Consumption data from the Victorian Utility Consumption Survey, Department of Human Services, 2008; tariffs from the Essential Services Commission’s Water Pricing Estimator (2011)

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1.

provides an uncapped 30 per cent water concession and requires that the Melbourne Water and Parks Victoria charges are levied in equal instalments across all bills.


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Energy and water efficiency The issues While prices continue to rise – with no clear plateau in sight – improving household energy and water efficiency is an effective means to help families to contain their energy and water costs. In addition to helping families balance budgets, household efficiency also achieves broader savings – both in the concessions budget and in capital expenditure, by saving on the very high cost of expanding our water storage and energy generation capacity. At present the suite of Victorian Government energy and water efficiency programs does not meet the needs of low-income households who cannot pay the upfront cost of efficient appliances and fixtures. The successful Kildonan UnitingCare audit program and, to a lesser extent, those conducted by energy retailers, as well as assistance provided by emergency relief workers and financial counsellors, relied heavily on the former Home Wise program. Home Wise most often replaced two of the most significant causes of high energy and water consumption – faulty refrigerators and washing machines – as well as leaky pipes, faulty hot water systems and heaters, and inefficient cookers. The Water Wise program also made a real difference to vulnerable families’ consumption and wellbeing. It was regarded by water businesses as more cost-effective than case management of hardship customers and also helped them identify customers at risk of hardship. The curtailment of these programs midway through 2011 has left a significant service gap that should be filled in this Budget.

Kildonan UnitingCare’s energy audit program Kildonan UnitingCare’s energy audit program, undertaken in cooperation with energy retailers and targeting low-income households with affordability problems, highlights how energy consumption can be most effectively reduced. Between 2004 and 2006, Kildonan conducted 347 audits and comprehensively evaluated the 126 households for which reliable pre- and postaudit billing and consumption data was available. Of this sample, 32 per cent were owner-occupiers and 40 per cent tenants; 57 per cent had dependent children; 40 per cent had four or more household members. Two thirds had previously received Utility Relief Grants. Three quarters of audited households were able to reduce their electricity usage, with a mean saving of around 1,600 kWh – equivalent to a quarter of average Victorian household consumption of 6,400 kWh. Ten households saved over 6,000 kWh; two saved over 12,000 kWh. Despite significant increase in electricity prices over the period, 69 per cent of audited households made cost savings on their electricity bills, with the mean annual bill reduction being $212 and the highest $1,682. These remarkable outcomes do not include gas and water savings (which were not measured) and occurred despite the significant barriers preventing many of the households – especially the tenants – from addressing all of the problems: inability to afford a replacement fridge, install insulation, and/ or replace heaters or hot water units. Source: J Borrell & S Lane, Kildonan Energy Audit Program Evaluation (2004-2006 Data), Kildonan UnitingCare, 2008.


The basics

Low impact of energy retailer audits Energy retailers are required to undertake energy audits and provide replacement appliances where appropriate when dealing with customers in severe hardship. But this does not appear to be undertaken consistently or widely. While the number of audits undertaken in 200910 almost doubled, compared to 2008-09, the vast majority were undertaken by just two retailers. Almost 200 replacement appliances were provided (six times the number provided in 2008-09), but all but four were from one retailer.11 At the same time almost 18,000 Home Wise grants were made.12 Of the 1,188 audits undertaken by energy retailers, there is no way for VCOSS to determine how many were onsite and how many were conducted over the phone; but we do know (via emergency relief workers and financial counsellors dealing with clients in energy hardship) that many customers have received brief phone-based audits (inquiring about their appliances and a few basic habits like how long they shower and whether they heat one room or the entire house) from their energy retailers – despite the much greater value of site visits and conversations (rather than simple questions), as evidenced by Kildonan’s experience.

11  Essential Services Commission, Energy retailers comparative performance report – Customer service 2009-10, December 2010 12  Department of Human Services, State concessions and hardship programs 2008–09 and 2009–10, Victorian Government, 2010

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The way ahead While stronger obligations are required on retailers to improve their effectiveness at delivering energy audits and replacing faulty appliances, the best results to date have been achieved by targeted government-funded programs. These programs will continue to be essential to complement and provide best practice models for retailer efforts. In the 2012-13 Budget, investment is needed in programs that deliver: • no-cost replacement of essential appliances that are inoperable or inefficient, and • comprehensive on-site energy and water efficiency audits, based on the Kildonan model. In order to effectively target this assistance, and avoid the complexity around eligibility that plagued Home Wise, a new program could be restricted to households which are participating in hardship programs because of bill payment difficulty or whose after housing income is not enough to service a No Interest Loan. This would mean that concession households who can afford No Interest Loan repayments could instead use existing rebate programs in combination with a No Interest Loan. For this to be feasible, additional capital funding would be needed for No Interest Loans providers to meet increased demand. The impact of housing and fixture quality, identified as a barrier to efficiency gains by the Kildonan project, must not be overlooked. To get the most value out of the proposed program, the Government should also implement a minimum standards schema for rental housing that covers thermal efficiency and built-in appliances. The standard should be phased in, with transitional assistance for low-income landlords to meet the cost of required works via ‘PACE’ (property assessed clean energy) style loans, whereby repayments are made via property rates and the debt remain with the property if sold.


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The evidence Barriers to lowering energy and water consumption Low-income households usually consume less energy and water than similar households with higher incomes. According to the most recent Utilities Consumption Survey undertaken by the Department of Human Services, concession households use 15 per cent less water, 16 per cent less gas, and 24 per cent less electricity (on average) than non-concession households. However, we know that some over-consume significantly, with a detrimental impact on affordability. Kildonan UnitingCare’s evaluation of its 2004-06 energy audit program identified numerous factors adversely affecting household energy consumption, including thermally inefficient houses and inefficient appliances such as heaters, hot water systems, and refrigerators. Source: J Borrell & S Lane, Kildonan Energy Audit Program Evaluation (2004-2006 Data), Kildonan UnitingCare, 2008.

Poor heating = high bills Case study 1: Sally lives with her teenage daughter Laura in a rented double storey unit in Box Hill. The built-in electric heater broke down and her landlord, who lives overseas, did not respond to her requests to fix it. So Sally and Laura rely on portable electric heaters, which were cheapest to buy, to keep warm in winter. Being forced to use such energy guzzling appliances meant Sally quickly fell behind in her energy bills and had been disconnected a number of times before being referred to Kildonan UnitingCare for assistance. Her electricity bill was costing an average $103 every fortnight and she was $6,380 behind on her energy bills. As the home has no insulation, it is very difficult to heat with portable heaters, so Sally and her daughter live upstairs in one room over winter to try to keep costs down. Case study 2: Bruce and Mary rent a three bedroom house in Clayton. Of fibro board construction, the house has no insulation and 2-3 centimetre gaps around the front and back doors. The gas heater stopped working but the landlord refuses to fix it, so Bruce and Mary use two portable electric heaters to keep warm in winter. The house has a gravity-fed day-rate electric hot water system, of which only one of the two elements works. Electricity consumption is around 5,500kWh (costing $900) a quarter over the winter period – at least half of this is due to the faulty hot water service and inefficient portable electric heaters. Source: J Borrell & S Lane, Kildonan Energy Audit Program Evaluation (2004-2006 Data), Kildonan UnitingCare, 2008.


The basics

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The evidence Decent not dodgy – VCOSS study of rental households The study by VCOSS of low cost rental accommodation in Melbourne and Geelong found that one in 10 dwellings available for rent had no fixed heating and one in five were not connected to reticulated gas Source: Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS), Decent Not Dodgy: ‘Secret Shopper Survey’, VCOSS, 2010

Ceiling insulation in rental housing Just 33 per cent of rental housing in Victoria has ceiling insulation (compared to 89 per cent of owneroccupied housing) with 40 per cent unknown, and 65 per cent of landlords spend less than $1,000 annually on maintenance, leading inevitably to a decline in thermal efficiency over time. Condition of ceiling insulation in Victorian homes

Reticulated gas in Melbourne and Geelong homes by tenure

Source: Department of Sustainability and the Environment, Housing Condition/Energy Performance or Rental Properties in Victoria, 2009 Source: Department of Human Services, Victorian Utility Consumption Survey, 2008

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2.

funds a program of no-cost replacement of essential appliances that are inoperable or inefficient for low-income households, and implements a program of comprehensive on-site energy and water efficiency audits for households experiencing hardship, based on the Kildonan model.


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Smart meters The issues

The way ahead

While the price of energy is largely outside of State Government control, there is one factor that is not: the smart meter program.

Mitigating the cost of the smart meter rollout and helping those households who most need to take advantage of the greater information and control enabled by smart meters will materially ease the affordability problems faced by many low-income families.

At around $20 a bill (almost half the concession discount on the average bill), the costs of the smart meter rollout have added significantly – and regressively – to low-income families’ energy costs. Meanwhile, opportunities to use smart meters to reduce energy consumption and cost are likely to be largely out of reach for many of those who need it most. With low levels of Internet access or even access to a home computer13, these households have few options to access real-time information about their electricity usage in order to most effectively compare different market offers or take advantage of time-variant tariffs. This is doubly inequitable. It’s time to revisit the cost pass-through arrangements and consider how vulnerable and disadvantaged households can be assisted to realise benefits from smart meters.

13  ABS, Household Use of Information Technology, Australia (8146.0) 2008-09; this issue is discussed more fully in our submission to the AMI Review http://www.vcoss.org.au/documents/VCOSS_docs/ Submissions/2011/SUB_110627_review_of_the_ami_program.doc


The basics

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The evidence Numerous international studies have documented the potential electricity consumption savings made possible by households’ demand response to dynamic tariffs. These studies demonstrate that having access to real-time in-home consumption information increases the potential savings – to the extent that, even with flat tariffs, in-home displays (IHDs) lead to savings. Provision of IHDs to lowincome households will ensure they have the opportunity to share in the benefits of smart meters.

Electricity usage savings enabled by in-home displays (IHDs)

Sources: A Faruqui, S Sergici and A Sharif, The impact of informational feedback on energy consumption—A survey of the experimental evidence, Brattle Group, 2009; A Faruqui and L Wood, Quantifying the Benefits of Dynamic Pricing in the Mass Market, Brattle Group, 2008

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2. 3.

fully subsidises the smart meter pass-through charge for concession households, provides free in-home displays for concession households, and revises the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Cost Recovery Order in line with the Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) distribution price determination framework, to limit the cost of the rollout and provide better value for all Victorian consumers.


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CHILDREN AND FAMILIES

‘Just as a health system is more than hospitals so a system for the protection of children is more than a statutory child protection service.’

  Council of Australian Governments, Protecting Children is Everyone’s Business: National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020, Commonwealth of Australia, 2009


Children and families

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Introduction We know that having a positive start in a loving and caring environment sets children on the best possible path in life. But for many families providing this environment is difficult. And while having the right supports at the right time can make a real difference, the reality of inadequate funding is that most families who need help only get it once they reach crisis point.

Given the consequences of not delivering the right supports to families, when and where they need them, this is the most important reform to be achieved in the 201213 State Budget.

This means, simply, that many children experience abuse and neglect that could be avoided. As a community, we still allow this to happen despite knowing the trauma caused and of the clear links between those experiences in childhood, and poor physical and mental health and poor educational attainment in later life.

• improving outcomes for Victorian Aboriginal children and families,

Providing all families with the supports they need, when they need it, to do the best job they can is the most effective way of helping children gain the skills and capacities necessary to reach their full potential – and to participate as productive members of the community.

  Ombudsman Victoria, Own motion investigation into Child Protection – out of home care, State of Victoria, May 2010

This submission identifies four critical areas of focus for children and families:

• strengthening the role of universal early childhood services and schools, • strengthening early support for families, particularly in growth suburbs and in rural and regional Victoria, and • delivering better outcomes in out-of-home care.


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Aboriginal families The issues Victorian Aboriginal children are much more likely than non-Aboriginal children to be removed from their families and/or be subject to child protection notifications. There is overwhelming evidence that many Aboriginal families need extra support and that this support is most effective where it is delivered by organisations with the knowledge, experience and cultural skills to work with Aboriginal families and communities. Yet despite that, interventions to strengthen Aboriginal families continue to be piecemeal, inadequate and largely delivered by mainstream organisations, some of which have limited or nonexistent cultural knowledge.

The lack of Aboriginal-specific family services means in practice that responses to Aboriginal families are often insensitive to their needs when they most need help. While such serious gaps remain it is no surprise that the state has failed to improve the life opportunities and health outcomes of Aboriginal children.


Children and families

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The way ahead A two-fold response is needed to address these past failings. First, the specialist role of Aboriginal-specific family services needs to be strengthened. At the same time, because mainstream services will continue to deliver many programs to Aboriginal families, it is critical to improve the quality and cultural responsiveness of their services. Getting the service model right by building on best practice examples is an important step toward delivering better outcomes. The Moondani Aboriginal family centre being established in Thornbury is a good example of a service model based on the principles of delivering a culturally secure, safe and inviting environment that promotes wellness and Aboriginal culture. Moondani is intended to provide a suite of universal and specialist services for Aboriginal families. The principles inherent in this model provide a framework that would usefully be applied to services developed across Victoria, particularly in locations with large Aboriginal populations. Use of specialist therapeutic approaches that recognise the significant impact of individual and community trauma – often multigenerational – on Aboriginal children and families is also important. In order to build this approach

into all services, Aboriginal community controlled organisations require a skilled, culturally competent therapeutic clinician to inform practice with traumatised Aboriginal children and young people. More flexible funding models are also needed to allow for more proactive outreach services, and programs that engage families through creative means, such as art. As with all families, we know that better supporting Aboriginal families early delivers the best results for children. Currently Aboriginal specific child and family services are so stretched by demand that they are almost exclusively only able to support children and families already subject to child protection orders. Additional resources are needed to enable Aboriginal organisations to effectively engage Aboriginal families and deliver the supports needed to prevent problems developing, as well as to intervene early to prevent minor difficulties escalating into crises.

Aboriginal guardianship Aboriginal community controlled organisations (ACCOs) need to be able to take effective action to protect children and make direct arrangements for their welfare where legal intervention is necessary. This was clearly recognised in the legislative reform process that led to the inclusion of Section 18 in the Child, Youth and Families Act 2005 – which allows the Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary to authorise the principal officer of an Aboriginal Agency to exercise specified powers in relation to a protection order for a child. Section 18 sits within a continuum of responses to Aboriginal children that aim to maintain connection to family, community and culture and to empower community decision-making. DHS has been working with ACCOs since August 2007 to develop an Aboriginal guardianship program that will give effect to Section 18, yet it is still not implemented. The Government needs to ensure implementation within two years and resource ACCOs to fully develop the capacity to assume these powers.


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The way ahead

The evidence

The Child FIRST (Child and Family Information Referral and Support Teams) program – which provides single entry points for assessment and referral support services for children, young people and families – is now in place across Victoria. Where Child FIRST partnerships include strong participation from Aboriginal community controlled organisations (ACCOs) they have proved to be a relatively successful initiative to strengthen supports for Victorian Aboriginal families – but many ACCOs do not currently have the capacity to engage statewide.

Rates of notification and child protection

Additional resources are needed to ensure ACCOs can actively engage in Child FIRST across all local government areas, with the most urgent priority being Melbourne’s north and west region, where a large number of Aboriginal families live. Alongside initiatives to strengthen Aboriginal-specific service delivery, investment is urgently needed to strengthen the cultural competence and safety of mainstream services that respond to Victorian Aboriginal children, young people and families. The development of the Aboriginal Cultural Competence Framework and cultural competence training for community-based child and family services is a good step forward. But so far the training has only been provided to organisations that have sought it out. Training needs to be extended to all funded organisations that support Victorian Aboriginal children, young people and their families and to universal services, including early childhood education and care services and schools.

Victorian Aboriginal children and young people are: • 10 times more likely to be the subject of child notification substantiation, and • 14 times more likely to be subject to care and protection orders or to be in out-of-home care. Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Child protection Australia 2009–10, Child welfare series no. 51, Cat. no. CWS 39, AIHW, Canberra, 2011


Children and families

The evidence

* Survey allowed multiple response answers Source: Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, State of Victoria’s children 2009: Aboriginal children and young people in Victoria, 2010, State of Victoria, p. 157

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

strengthens the capacity of Aboriginal community controlled organisations (ACCOs) to provide preventative and early intervention supports to children and families, strengthens the capacity of ACCOs to incorporate specialist therapeutic approaches within their responses to children and families, develops an Aboriginal Child FIRST presence in Melbourne’s north and west region as a first step to expanding ACCOs participation in Child FIRST statewide, extends cultural competence training to all services that support Aboriginal children, young people and their families, including both government and non-government services, and universal services, such as early childhood education and care services and schools, and commences Section 18 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 within two years.

23


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Early childhood services and schools The issues

The way ahead

Early childhood services and schools have a significant role to play in ensuring improved support for vulnerable children and young people.

While access to universal maternal and child health and kindergarten services and services for vulnerable children is improving in Victoria, a recent audit by the Auditor General concludes there are still barriers to participation for vulnerable families.

Most children and families who are vulnerable will not walk into the relevant support service and ask for help. They may not know support exists, nor where to find it, nor that they need it. That’s why universal services, such as schools and early childhood education and care services, are critical because they are often the only formal institutions that struggling families engage with – they can be the place where the moment of need is revealed, in the behaviour of a child, in an illness or injury, absence, difficulty with learning, or in other ways. That is a life-saving and life-changing role, but it is only effective if universal services such as maternal and child health and schools are networked and integrated with a range of community services which can then look at the wider issues facing the child and family. Even so, there are still many children and families who are missed even by this safety net because they do not maintain contact with universal services. Schools need more flexible learning environments (see education section) and to work more closely with local social services. These programs and partnerships need investment to be most effecitve.

VCOSS supports the Auditor General’s report and has welcomed the Government’s intention to implement all of its recommendations. It needs to urgently allocate funds in this Budget to ensure the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) is better able to identify vulnerable children, and ensure they can access these high quality early years services. The Best Start program is improving the health, development, learning and wellbeing of children aged 0-8 years, particularly those who are vulnerable, and has improved service cooperation. It needs to be extended so it is available in all metropolitan growth areas and in areas of rural and regional Victoria with high levels of vulnerability. Mature and committed collaboration with community sector organisations can assist schools to be more inclusive of very vulnerable children and young people. However, these partnerships need investment to enable both schools and organisations to build and maintain the relationship.

‘Every part of the system needs to have antennae to pick up vulnerability.’ Naomi Eisenstadt, former United Kingdom Social Exclusion Task Force Director, VCOSS Congress, Melbourne 2011

 Victorian Auditor-General, Early Childhood Development Services: Access and quality, State of Victoria, Melbourne, May 2011  A Nolan, C Semple, D Dunt, M Kelaher, P Feldman, Statewide evaluation of Best Start – Final report, University of Melbourne, 2006, prepared for the Department of Human Services and the Department of Education and Training, available at http://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/ edulibrary/public/beststart/2007/bs_eval_report_Sept2006.pdf


Children and families

The evidence Case study: Bairnsdale Neighbourhood House Community Kindergarten The Bairnsdale Neighbourhood House Community Kindergarten – a partnership between UnitingCare Gippsland and the Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Cooperative (GEGAC) – commenced operation in February 2008 after extensive consultation with local Aboriginal families. The Kindergarten aims to increase the attendance of Koorie children by addressing the barriers they face to participating in other local kindergartens, including with fees, transport, their perceptions that Koorie culture is not accepted within kindergartens, and complex family issues that make it difficult for families to support their children’s engagement. In the first year the Kindergarten enrolled 24 children – a 71 per cent increase in the number of local Aboriginal children attending kindergarten. The Kindergarten has established a culturally safe environment by building relationships with Aboriginal families, employing Aboriginal staff through a trainee program and working with Aboriginal workers in other organisations. Source: VCOSS, Submission to Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry, April 2011, available at http://www.vcoss.org.au/ documents/VCOSS%20docs/Submissions/2011/SUB_VCOSS_Protecting%20Victorias%20Vulnerable%20Children%20inquiry.pdf

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The evidence Overall lessons from Best Start Best Start has been a considerable success. Sites embraced the opportunities provided by the partnership arrangements to work together locally across the early childhood sector. It contrasted with earlier experiences of most organisations and agencies in most sites of working in isolation or sometimes competing against each other. This strategic planning also made possible service cooperation between organisations and agencies across the early childhood sector that was wider than just their involvement in Best Start partnerships and projects. Early positive effects of projects can be confidently identified for breastfeeding and attendance at Maternal Child Health (MCH) and, more cautiously, for perceived increases in physical activity, some literacy-related activities and communities that are perceived to be more childfriendly.

Barriers to access for early childhood services The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) does not have an adequate understanding of what delays and barriers eligible children and families experience in accessing its early childhood services. This limits its ability to develop targeted strategies to remove the barriers. In the last few years DEECD has sought to address to the issue by primarily funding one-off projects rather than working purposefully and in partnership with service providers to address barriers identified during ongoing service planning and monitoring. Given that most of these projects are yet to be finalised, it is too early to assess their effect. Source: Victorian Auditor General, Early Childhood Development Services: Access and Quality, Melbourne, May 2011

Source: Taken from Statewide Evaluation of Best Start Final Report, University of Melbourne, 2006

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2.

expands the successful early intervention program Best Start across Victoria, and supports the learning of vulnerable children and young people through stronger links between schools and local community sector organisations, and between the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Department of Human Services.


Children and families

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Supporting families The issues

The way ahead

Family support services are reporting increasing demand from families with very complex issues and children who are at high risk. These, understandably, are given high priority.

A part of the problem is that funding for the family support system is currently based on notification rates and socioeconomic disadvantage measures – aligning resource allocation to the needs of the tertiary or crisis system. Investment needs to be linked to population growth and the cost of service delivery in order for more families to be supported earlier and for longer, and to stop the spiral into crisis responses.

But the result is that many other families miss out on the right support at the right time – that is, before issues escalate to crisis. Currently, family services provide ‘earlier intervention’, not ‘early intervention’, and are unable to provide outreach and parenting support in many cases. This is particularly pertinent to services in outer metropolitan and fast growing regional cities, where supports for families and children have not kept up with dramatic population growth – up to 9 per cent in some metropolitan growth municipalities compared to 2 per cent for Melbourne overall, and with Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong accounting for 36 per cent of the population growth in regional Victoria. The result is pressured services which have to close their waiting lists and deny families access to critical early intervention support. Victoria’s significant and sustained population growth over the past six years and the anticipated continued growth demands strategic short and long-term responses.

  Department of Planning and Community Development, Victorian Population Bulletin 2011, State of Victoria, Melbourne, 2011 .

The Victorian Government also needs to develop a population-based funding framework for child, youth and family services and better utilise data to forecast growth and emerging needs. The critical issue is to establish funding models that respond to need rather than rationing output models. Funding models need to enable services to develop a locally determined service mix to respond to local need.


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The evidence The impact of disadvantage on the developing brain

Projected demand for out-of-home care placements 2009-10 to 2013-14 The Department of Human Services is already struggling to meet demand for out-of-home care, which is projected to continue to grow at a substantial rate. This highlights the need for earlier supports – for both children and their families – to ensure issues do not become complex and entrenched.

Source: Based on the research of The ChildTrauma Academy (www. ChildTrauma.org) led by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D. Image found at: http://www.earlyhomelearning.org.uk/brainDevelopment

Source: Ombudsman Victoria, Own motion investigation into Child Protection – out of home care, State of Victoria, May 2010


Children and families

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Out-of-home care The issues

The way ahead

Children and young people removed from their family have experienced profound trauma and need care models that best support their recovery. While therapeutic, traumainformed models are accepted best practice, these are not delivered to most children in out-of-home care in Victoria.

The 12 Therapeutic Residential Care pilots funded by the State Government have demonstrated the value of the therapeutic approach. The initial impacts include improved engagement with school and education, better meeting of age-appropriate milestones and increased trust between young people and their carers. Interviews with the young people involved found that they expressed more favourable opinions of the therapeutic residential care system than other experiences of the out-of-care system. Those pilots now need to be expanded statewide to ensure the out-of-home care system not only helps to heal existing trauma, but does not re-traumatise children and young people due to a lack of responsiveness to their needs.

Research continues to demonstrate that young people leaving care struggle more than other young people, having lower education outcomes and higher unemployment rates, unstable employment patterns, higher levels of homelessness, early parenthood and ongoing poverty.

Therapeutic care Therapeutic care aims to address the trauma associated with abuse and neglect and to promote healing and recovery. The underpinning principle of therapeutic care is that the relationships children and young people develop with carers, schools, professionals, and the interrelationships between these stakeholders is key to promoting stability and positive and sustainable outcomes.

The Government’s responsibilities for young people living in care should not stop when they leave it. Young people leaving care urgently need support, including priority access to housing, health, education services, and other specialist services, until they are at least 25 years of age.

Rather than providing basic care and managing behaviour, therapeutic care emphasises relationships and considers and responds to the child’s underlying needs. Source: Berry Street Victoria, Therapeutic foster care: Integrating Mental Health and Child Welfare to provide care for traumatised children, Melbourne, 2007

  For example, P Mendes, ‘Graduating from the State Care System: A Comparison of the Australian and New Zealand leaving care debates’, New Zealand Social Work Review, Autumn/Winter 2003; S Raman, B Inder, & C Forbes, Investing for success: The economics of supporting young people leaving care, 2005, Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, Melbourne; G Johnson, K Natalier, P Mendes, M Liddiard, S Thoresen, A Hollows, N Bailey, Pathways from out-of-home care, 2010, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Melbourne

  VERSO Consulting, Evaluation of the Therapeutic Residential Care Pilot Program: Interim Report, 2010   Department of Human Services, Essential Service Design Elements: Therapeutic Residential Care, Victorian Government, 2010, See http://www.cyf.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/475108/nationaltherapeutic-residential-care-essential-elements.pdf


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Literacy and numeracy for children in out-of-home care

Source: Ombudsman Victoria, Own motion investigation into Child Protection – out of home care, State of Victoria, May 2010

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2. 3.

develops flexible funding models for family support services that respond to community need identified at the local level and to Victoria’s growing population, expands the therapeutic approach of the Therapeutic Residential Care pilots statewide, and improves outcomes for young people leaving care by providing support until at least the age of 25, including priority access to services such as housing, health and education.

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Community sector sustainability

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COMMUNITY SECTOR SUSTAINABILITY

‘We have found that employees in the SACS (social and community sector) industry are predominantly women and are generally remunerated at a level below that of employees of state and local governments who perform similar work.’

  Fair Work Australia Decision – Equal Remuneration Case, 16 May 2011, available at http://www.fwa.gov.au/sites/remuneration/decisions/ 2011fwafb2700.htm


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Introduction Community services are vital to the Victorian community, providing support to millions of Victorians, from advice and information in the local community, to financial counselling, specialised support for children at risk, assistance to people with disabilities, and much more. Many of these services are delivered by not-for-profit organisations on behalf of the Government. As well as delivering a stronger community and better possibilities in life for those who receive support, community services also provide the ‘stitch in time’ that prevents the need for more expensive interventions – such as policing, prisons and acute health care.

The challenge for the Victorian Government – in this State Budget perhaps more than any other in recent times – is to make some strategic interventions to ‘help the helpers’ and ensure community services are of the highest possible quality and are most effective in achieving better outcomes for individuals and families. The top priorities for change include full funding of the Fair Work Australia equal pay decision, price indexation that strengthens service delivery and organisational sustainability, and strategic support to improve the ‘back end’ and governance of organisations.


Community sector sustainability

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A sustainable and fairly paid workforce The issues

The way ahead

A family services worker working for a community sector organisation often earns up to $500 per week less than their counterpart in the Victorian Government delivering a similar service. This is clearly unfair for that worker, represents a general disadvantage for female workers who make up most of the community sector workforce, and stops many people from wanting to work in the sector – translating into a significant loss of key skills and expertise.

Community services are already stretched and face higher levels of demand than they can respond to. It could be catastrophic for the Victorian community if they had to pare back existing levels of service in order to fund the full cost of pay equity.

Later this calendar year, prior to the 2012-13 State Budget, Fair Work Australia is likely to hand down one of the most fundamental industrial relations decisions of the past decade – its equal remuneration order for the social and community services sector – and to require implementation over the next five years. The community sector strongly supports the significant increase in pay that is likely to result – for the sake of its workers and for the quality of its services. But that same decision poses a major risk for the sector and the wider community unless governments across Australia fully fund the increases. If organisations have to fund increased remuneration from their existing resources, then service delivery will suffer. The Victorian Government has promised $200 million over four years to fund the decision, but its own submission to Fair Work Australia indicates that the potential cost for services it funds could be as high as $1.7 billion. The Federal Government has announced a national allocation of $2 billion over six years to fund its share of services, including those delivered by state governments. Both levels of government need to fully fund these pay outcomes to ensure the continuing quality and viability of services to vulnerable Victorians.

Pay equity will not only deliver greater fairness to many Victorian workers, but could address long-term workforce challenges for the sector and directly contribute to improved service delivery. The Victorian results of the 2011 ACOSS Community Sector Survey found that low salaries and limited career paths are the sector’s biggest barriers to recruiting and retaining staff. Meanwhile, increasing complexity of need in the community means that, more than ever, staff must be multi-skilled and experienced to be effective – a challenge made easier by competitive pay and conditions. Improved service delivery also relies on addressing broader workforce challenges, to complement and enhance the impact of improvements in pay for sector workers. The Victorian Government has already made strategic reforms to the child protection workforce, and committed to a workforce strategy for the community sector. Action is also needed in the 2012-13 Budget to invest in developing this strategy in partnership with the community sector – using the collaborative approach exemplified in the Human Services Partnership Implementation Committee (HSPIC) Workforce Knowledge Base project. Resources for accredited training, to help community sector organisations meet the additional costs resulting from the previous Government’s reforms to Victoria’s training system would be one important element of this strategy.   Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), Australian Community Sector Survey, ACOSS Paper 173 Volume 8 Victoria, 2011   The HSPIC Workforce Knowledge Base project involves the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the community sector working together to develop baseline workforce data. Once completed, this will increase understanding of workforce issues by both Government and the sector and identify areas that need support – enabling more effective workforce and service planning and innovation.


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The evidence Fair pay SACS WORKER (WAGES PER WEEK)

COMPARABLE WORKER

Social worker, Class 2, Year 3

$902.50

Social worker in public hospital, Grade 2, Year 4

$1,239.00

Social worker, Class 3, Year 1

$922.26 Sole Community Health Nurse, Grade 4A, Year 1

$1,285.00

Child protection worker, Grade 5, Year 1, Department of Human Services (DHS)

$1,407.00

Social worker, Class 4, Year 1

$992.94

The Victorian Government’s submission to Fair Work Australia indicates that the potential cost of the pending pay equity decision by Fair Work Australia for State Government funded services will be between: •

$700–$800 million over four years if an 18 per cent increase in rates of pay is awarded (equivalent to 4.5 per cent per annum),

$1.1–$1.2 billion over four years for an increase of 27.5 per cent (6.75 per cent per annum), and

$1.6–1.7 billion for an increase of 37 per cent (9.25 per cent per annum).

Source: Victorian Government submission to Fair Work Australia, 29 July 2011. Retrieved on 22 September 2011 at http://www.fwa. gov.au/sites/remuneration/submissions/Vic_Government_Submission_29-Jul-2011.pdf

‘We’ve [the Coalition] been very clear: we’ll be making financial commitments in our policies in relation to supporting that claim and, if it’s more than that, then we will be funding and supporting it.’ Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge, interview with VCOSS, 24 November 2010, transcript available at http://www.vcoss.org.au/what-we-do/election/coalitionqa.php


Community sector sustainability

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The evidence Size and role of the not-for-profit sector

Turn away rates from social services – Victoria 2009-10

The community sector is not a cottage industry of charities filling a niche market. The not-for-profit sector is one of the largest and most diverse sectors in Australia – comprising over 600,000 organisations, making up 8 per cent of employment and contributing $43 billion to the nation’s GDP.

In the 2011 Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) Community Sector Survey (Victoria), survey respondents indicated that a substantial number of people were unable to access the social services they sought. For 2009-10, clients in Victoria were denied service on approximately 8,897 occasions – up 46 per cent on the previous year, a significant increase despite a limited sample size. This illustrates the importance of investing in and expanding the human services workforce – if jobs have to be cut as a result of inadequate financial support for the implementation of the equal remuneration order, more Victorians will miss out.

Source: Productivity Commission, Contribution of the Not-for-Profit Sector, Research Report, Canberra, 2010

Source: Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), Australian Community Sector Survey, ACOSS Paper 173 Volume 8 Victoria, 2011 available at http://acoss.org.au/images/uploads/ACSS_Report_Volume_ 8_Victoria.pdf

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2.

fully funds the outcomes of the equal remuneration case for Victorian Government funded services, and invests in the development of a sector-led community sector workforce strategy.


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Service delivery The issues

The way ahead

Community sector organisations are currently not funded for the full cost of service delivery, which includes investment in innovation and partnerships, as well as ‘back-end’ costs such as finance systems, human resources, infrastructure, compliance and evaluation, in addition to program delivery.

Guaranteeing stronger service delivery relies on sustainably funding services – and removing imposed operating deficits. This is all the more critical where government agencies are partners in service delivery.

While the ‘base prices’ paid for services have, in the main, been determined by a rolling program of price reviews that assess an adequate price, in many cases this price has subsequently not been funded by Treasury, leaving organisations filling the gap as best they can between the actual cost of programs and funding provided by government. Alongside the structural operating deficit this imposes on organisations, is the impact of inflation on organisations’ purchasing power. On 30 June 2012 existing funding and services agreements and the existing price index will expire and need to be renegotiated.

To achieve this, the 2012-13 Budget needs to fund prices assessed in current and past price reviews, and invest in reviews where cost structures have clearly changed, for example in alcohol and other drug services. The Budget will also need to allocate funding of the new rates of price indexation to be negotiated soon between the sector and the Government. Ensuring funding keeps pace with rising costs will prevent organisations having to cut back on service delivery – and enable existing service levels to Victorian families to be maintained. The Government has the opportunity in this renegotiation to address funding anomalies across services funded by different departments, by applying the 2012-15 price index across all Government funded community services.

  The 2009-12 price index applies only to services funded by the former Department of Human Services (DHS) (now DHS and Department of Health) and some Department of Education and Early Childhood Development funded organisations.


Community sector sustainability

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The evidence Inadequate price indexation for community services VCOSS commissioned the Allen Consulting Group to undertake an analysis of price indexation as part of negotiations for the 2009-12 Funding and Service Agreements. The report found that inadequate indexation did not allow community sector organisations to meet labour and operating costs and it recommended increased price indexation based on movements in the Wage Price Index (WPI) and movements in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This report also found that further productivity gains are unlikely without compromising outcomes. ‘Our funding is sufficient to deliver the services we are ‘required’ to deliver. It is not sufficient to deliver the services our clients need.’ ‘Our organisation is at a tipping point, if we receive less funding we will be forced to reduce our services.’

Is your organisation’s current level of funding sufficient to cover the services you are required to deliver?

Source: The Allen Consulting Group, ‘How many wheelchairs can you push at once?’ Productivity in the community service organisation sector in Victoria, Report to Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS), December 2008, available at http://www.vcoss.org.au/documents/ other%20docs/How%20many%20wheelchairs%20can%20you%20push %20at%20once_Productivity%20report.pdf

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2.

funds price indexation to cover cost increases, including the costs of participating in partnerships, accreditation processes and program evaluation, across all governmentfunded community sector programs, and funds prices assessed in current and past price reviews, and undertakes reviews where costs structures have clearly changed.


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Build capacity The issues

The way ahead

Many community sector organisations struggle to build the quality of organisational supports needed to maximise their effectiveness, such as ICT, legal advice, human resources expertise, training, management and financial services.

Over the last three years the VCOSS Training and Development Clearinghouse (Clearinghouse) has provided sector organisations with free and low cost training, and with strategic support such as advice, research and networks to strengthen and develop organisations’ ‘back-end’. A significant grant from the Office for the Community Sector last year enabled that support to be rolled out across Victoria, particularly to rural and regional organisations that are unable to access such expertise locally.

Targeted support to build this ‘back-end’ infrastructure can make a real difference to the quality of service delivery. Strengthening service approaches, and responses to complex social policy challenges is also a journey that requires a continual process of robust, informed discussion between government, the community sector and the broader public. Community sector peak bodies play an important intermediary role within this dynamic, supporting the discovery and realisation of effective new approaches, and facilitating engagement between the Government and a broad set of services.

This support has had proven impacts, and demand for it continues to grow. To build on that success, the 201213 Budget needs to include continued resources for the Clearinghouse over the next three years. The community sector also requires high quality legal advice to improve accountability and increase efficiencies. PilchConnect has delivered free and low cost legal services, including a legal information webportal, training, phone advice service and pro bono referrals for eligible community sector organisations. It needs ongoing funding in the Budget to continue this important work. The 2012-13 Budget is also an opportunity to build on the strength of peak bodies to contribute to the continual and critical process of service and social policy reform needed to strengthen our collective response to the challenges facing Victorian families.


Community sector sustainability

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The evidence Independent evaluation of the VCOSS Clearinghouse service

Economic contribution of PilchConnect legal service

The VCOSS Training and Development Clearinghouse (Clearinghouse) is a unique intermediary organisational support service meeting identified needs of community sector organisations across Victoria. Through partnerships with business, pro bono and philanthropic organisations, the Clearinghouse has delivered hundreds of training and development opportunities worth over $300,000 to more than 1,600 community sector employees and brokered more than $1 million worth of skilled volunteer placements to the community sector, delivering a 3:1 ratio of value delivered to dollars invested.

The economic contribution of PilchConnect’s legal services in 2010-11 was estimated to be approximately $4.3 million. This involved a direct contribution from program delivery of around $1 million, comprising about $300,000 from in-house functions (for example, the provision of training and telephone advice) and approximately $670,000 arising from brokering private sector legal advice provided on a pro bono basis. 77 per cent of PilchConnect clients were from outer metro and regional areas. The cost of the service for 2010-11 was less than $600,000.

Source: KPMG, Department of Planning and Community Development: VCOSS Clearinghouse Independent evaluation and evidence based business case, Final Report, KPMG, October 2009

Source: Deloitte Access Economics, The economic contribution of the PilchConnect program, Public Interest Law Clearinghouse (VIC) Inc, August 2011, available at http://www.pilch.org.au/Assets/Files/PILCH_ Stage%202%20Report_29%20August%202011-Final.pdf

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2. 3.

invests $2.5 million over three years for the development and expansion of the VCOSS Training and Development Clearinghouse to enable all Victorian community sector organisations to be able to access advice and support, invests $400,000 per year over four years to enable PilchConnect to be able to deliver specialised legal advice to community sector organisations, and continues current levels of investment in community sector peak bodies.


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EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT, EDUCATION AND SKILLS

‘As a society we must place children at the centre…and we must ensure that all children have access to services that nurture positive development … [and] provide young people with a strong, stable foundation for learning and maturing.’ Governor General Quentin Bryce AC – from PricewaterhouseCoopers, A practical vision for early childhood education and care, PWC, Melbourne, March 2011, p.5


Early childhood development, education and skills

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Introduction The future strength and prosperity of Victoria rests in its people. If we want young Victorians to leave school with confidence in their abilities and good results in their chosen areas and the capacity to move into work, onto higher education or into skills training, then we need to support their learning and development from the very start. Currently the learning and development of too many children and young people has more to do with how much their parents earn and where they live – and they do not get enough support for transitions at key life stages, such as moving to high school. This is a particular issue not only for children from disadvantaged backgrounds but for all families in rural and regional Victoria, with the evidence showing that the further a child is from a major city, the less likely they will be to complete Year 12. Victoria generally performs well compared to other states and territories. However, it has a relatively large number of people with very poor skills and groups of children and young people who miss out on formal and informal learning for a range of reasons beyond their control, such as children and young people in care, Aboriginal children and young people and young people with mental health issues. Many are then blocked in their efforts to re-engage later, because of funding gaps and eligibility requirements that may save dollars in the short term but cost more later on.

  ACIL Tasman, Victoria’s productivity, competitiveness and participation: interstate and international comparisons, prepared for the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission, Melbourne, June 2011

A quality, flexible, integrated and accessible system that supports lifelong learning and development is fundamental for people to be able to find employment and contribute to their community, as well as to promote economic growth and break intergenerational cycles of disadvantage. Funding for early childhood development, school education, and higher education and skills is an investment in Victoria’s ‘human capital’ and critical to sustaining positive economic growth in the long term. Key areas for intervention in this Budget are: • Early childhood development • Flexible learning models • Learning support programs • Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) • The middle years • Costs of education • Skills and training and employment support

  Access Economics, Potential benefits of a national strategy for child and youth wellbeing, February 2009


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Early childhood development The issues International research shows us that the best way to improve education outcomes later in life – when students are leaving high school for the workforce, university or further training – is to invest in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services, particularly for vulnerable children. Many young Victorians get that support through a range of universal early childhood services: maternal and child health, kindergarten and childcare. But too many still don’t use those services – regularly or at all. While we know certain groups of children who miss out – such as Aboriginal children, children with a disability and many children from low income families – we have no clear systems set up to find out which children in particular are missing out and why. That clearly limits how services can seek to engage them. While kindergarten and childcare services are very important to support parents’ working demands, they are not just ‘babysitting’, but learning environments equally as important as school for children’s long-term development. Ensuring the quality of the learning programs they deliver relies on having quality staff, and support for continual staff development. Victoria is currently the national leader in the development of the quality improvements in the National Quality Reforms, setting the standard for other states and territories and the Commonwealth. It is vital to maintain the current level of investment in the development of the people who work in these services.

  Department of Premier and Cabinet, Council of Australian Governments’ National Reform Agenda: Victoria’s plan to improve outcomes in early childhood, Melbourne, March 2007   PricewaterhouseCoopers, A practical vision for early childhood education and care, PWC, Melbourne, March 2011

The services also need to be able to operate efficiently, with growing demands to comply with mandatory reporting and emergency management guidelines and their overall quality improvement and accreditation requirements. Efficient and professional IT systems are critical to that capacity but funding for the Kindergarten IT Project ends in June 2012. Also vital is the need to provide quality occasional child care (OCC) services locally to meet the enormous need for flexible, short term, ad hoc and unpredictable care. In Victoria we are facing the loss of more than one-third of community-based occasional child care, with services in small rural towns and poorer areas of Melbourne under particular threat. The recent Federal Government announcement of the creation of 1500 new occasional and in-home child care places nationally will not plug the gap left by the withdrawal of Take a Break program funding. This issue is not about jurisdictional funding boundaries, it is about Victorian children being able to access Victorian services in their local community. Of course parents play a very important role in early learning and development for their children. However many struggle with issues like literacy and numeracy or parenting skills, and will struggle in turn to help their children. Funding gaps currently mean there is little scope to assist skills development for families who are not well equipped to support their children’s learning in the home. At the same time, literacy support in ECEC services is also being withdrawn.

  A Butlin, D Lambart, C Mauk, F Stewart, Occasional Care: Flexible child care for Australian families - final report, Amity Management Consulting Group, July 2007


Early childhood development, education and skills

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The way ahead Recent new investments have contributed to improving early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Victoria, including capital investment for early childhood centres, continuation of the kindergarten fee subsidy and increased resources for Early Childhood Intervention Services (ECIS) and to expand eligibility for Kindergarten Inclusion Support Services (KISS). This Budget should keep up that momentum. Maintaining at least the current level of investment in workforce development from both the Victorian Government and the Commonwealth is vital, particularly on the eve of new National Quality Standards. Investing in the skills, qualifications, professional development and leadership of the early and middle childhood workforce is the biggest priority. A capital program to upgrade, improve or deliver new early childhood centres in areas with large numbers of disadvantaged families is also required to support improved outcomes for vulnerable children. To ensure efficient operations, continuing support is also needed for the Kindergarten IT Project which enables all communityrun kindergartens to access information technology and helpdesk support, systems maintenance, internet and email connectivity so as to more effectively support their service and meet legislative requirements. We also need to find out – as the Auditor General has urged – why some vulnerable children and their families are not accessing services when they can. The first step is to improve identification systems, so we know who they are and can then determine the reasons why they are not accessing ECEC. From there, action can be taken to remove the barriers and make sure we are able to identify developmental issues or concerns before they are too advanced.

  Victorian Auditor General’s Office, Early childhood development services: Access and quality, May 2011

Improving the participation of Victorian Aboriginal children in early education is particularly important. Increased investment is needed in the Koorie education support workforce and in initiatives that engage Aboriginal parents and carers in all Victorian communities in their children’s learning environments. To support rural towns and poorer areas of Melbourne in particular, funding needs to be provided to ensure quality community-based occasional child care (OCC) is available locally to all Victorian children and their families. Currently many vulnerable children do not receive the support they need to develop good literacy. The Young Readers Program was designed to provide important literacy opportunities for every young child but funding has ceased. To address the concern that the program was not fully effective in reaching vulnerable children, a similar review to that undertaken for the Early Start Kindergarten program is required, to refocus elements of the program and fund a similar program that is more effective at reaching vulnerable families. Further funding is required for the Kindergarten Support Program to ensure that all children with a disability or developmental delay have access to a meaningful learning program at kindergarten.


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The evidence Value of early childhood services Literacy gains for different quality preschool programs at age eight years

Source: PwC, A practical vision for early childhood education and care, PwC Australia, March 2011, p22, available at http://www.pwc.com. au/industry/government/assets/ecec-Mar11.pdf

The role of children’s emotional development ‘Virtually every aspect of early human development… is affected by the environments and experiences that are encountered in a cumulative fashion, beginning in the prenatal period and extending throughout the early years.’ Source: JP Shonkoff, DA Phillips (Eds), From Neurons to Neighbourhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. National Academy Press, Washington, 2000, quoted in E Knusden, J Heckman, J Cameron, and P Shonkoff, ‘Economic, neurobiological, and behavioural perspectives on building America’s future workforce’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 103,10155-62, July 2006

Auditor General’s concerns on early childhood access systems Good quality early childhood programs not only promote a young child’s health, learning and skill development, but also positively influence their longer-term health, educational and social outcomes. This is particularly so for vulnerable and disadvantaged children. Access to universal maternal and child health and kindergarten services, and services for vulnerable children has improved in Victoria over the five years to 2010 as shown by increasing participation rates. While this is positive, DEECD cannot demonstrate that early childhood services are accessible when and where needed, especially for vulnerable children and families. The Department’s inability to reliably identify all vulnerable children and families means it does not know the extent to which children are missing out on the benefits of attending targeted services specifically developed and funded to meet their needs. Source: Taken from the report by the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office, Early Childhood Development Services: Access and quality, State of Victoria, May 2011


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The evidence Children in occasional child care

Access to early learning support

Victoria has the highest number of children using occasional child care (OCC), predominantly for work related purposes, with many shift workers and others in irregular or non-traditional employment relying on OCC for affordable, locally-based care. OCC also facilitates training and skills development as well as pathways to broader community participation.

Early Childhood Intervention Australia has highlighted that less than half of the children diagnosed with a disability or developmental delay get additional support to participate in early learning. Source: Early Childhood Intervention Australia Victorian Chapter, Our children can’t wait: State Budget Submission 2012-13, October 2011

Source: A Butlin, D Lambart, C Mauk, and F Stewart, Occasional Care: Flexible child care for Australian families - final report, Amity Management Consulting Group, July 2007

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

provides capital investment to upgrade, improve or deliver new early childhood centres in areas with a high proportion of vulnerable families, continues to invest in the skills, qualifications, professional development and leadership of the early childhood workforce, continues to implement the Victorian Auditor General’s recommendations to improve the participation of vulnerable children in early childhood education and care, invests in the Koorie Education Support workforce and expands parental engagement initiatives for all Victorian Aboriginal communities, provides funding to sustain community-based occasional child care services across Victoria, particularly in disadvantaged areas, continues to fund existing IT support for kindergartens beyond June 2012, reviews the Young Readers Program and invests in a literacy initiative that better reaches vulnerable families, and increases KISS funding to ensure that all children with a disability or developmental delay have access to a meaningful learning program at kindergarten.


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Flexible learning options The issues The traditional school model works well for many of Victoria’s primary and secondary school students. But it can’t be a one size fits all model – the risks and costs of losing those who don’t fit in are significant, for them as individuals and for the wider community.

Victoria needs more flexible, responsive, adaptive and high quality learning environments to be provided systemwide in schools, to respond in a way that recognises that the social, emotional, physical and personal aspects of learning are interwoven and interrelated.

Victorian schools need to be more flexible in the way they support the learning of all students – in the teaching styles adopted, the size of classes, and in content and curriculum. Evidence demonstrates that children and young people learn at different rates, in different ways and at different times. If they are not engaged, they will not learn.

These links are also why schools would benefit from working closely with community sector organisations which have expertise in providing support across social care areas – such as homelessness, mental health, drug and alcohol and family violence – and are already working with at risk children and young people.

This is particularly so for those who come from fractured home lives or have missed school for crucial periods of time or had to change schools many times due to homelessness or family violence. The ‘one size fits all’ model consistently fails a cohort of children and young people who struggle to flourish and then disengage, such as children and young people in care, those with mental health issues, Aboriginal children and young people, refugees, and others experiencing a range of social issues.

  Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Birth to 18 Integrated Assessment Strategy for Victoria, DEECD - unpublished   Ombudsman Victoria, Own motion investigation into Child Protection – out of home care, State of Victoria, May 2010

Supporting vulnerable young people to engage in education and learning also requires a range of support services which address health and wellbeing issues that can affect a young person’s ability to participate in their schooling. One positive example is the School Focused Youth Service (SFYS) but funding for this critical program ends at 30 June 2012.


Early childhood development, education and skills

The way ahead

The evidence

The Government’s Youth Partnership initiative and election commitments to improve retention rates in rural and regional areas and the pilot program for disengaged students are a valuable starting point for ensuring more flexible learning responses.

The impact of literacy/numeracy on employment

In this Budget, the Government should build on this work, as well as the policy framework developed by KPMG to support the change process to a strengthened, consistent and more coordinated approach to engaging vulnerable young people. Such an approach will require a higher level of resourcing per student but will deliver social and economic gains over the long term. Stronger collaborative relationships between schools and local community sector organisations will also support better outcomes, particularly for vulnerable children and young people. An outreach component, in partnership with the community sector, could be one way for DEECD to identify and support those children and young people who are currently not engaged in any form of education. An evaluation of the School Focused Youth Service (SFYS) indicated that the program has enhanced outcomes for vulnerable children and young people, including improved engagement with education. It has also facilitated partnerships between schools and community sector organisations which enable better service planning at a local level.

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School leavers with low literacy and numeracy skills in Year 9 were almost three times more likely to be unemployed or not in the labour force than high achievers. Source: Foundation for Young Australians, How young people are faring 2008: An update about the learning and work situation of young Australians, FYA, Melbourne, 2008

School attendance and achievement of children in state care A recent pilot study conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has examined the educational outcomes for children on guardianship or custody orders. These children were considerably less likely to attain the national benchmarks for numeracy and literacy across almost all year levels. Aboriginal children on orders had much lower reading and numeracy scores than other children on orders. There was no relationship between sex, living arrangements or length of time on care orders with reading and numeracy scores (AIHW 2007). Data on the attendance and achievement of young people in out-of-home care in Victoria shows that enrolment levels of students in out-of-home care started to decline from age 13 onwards, reaching a low of 57 per cent for 17-year-olds. Comparative data for out-of-home care students and the general student population show that there were higher levels of absenteeism for out-of-home care students. Academic achievement in English and in mathematics was lower for out-of-home care students than for the general population at all year levels (2004 data).

  KPMG, Re-engaging our kids – A framework for education provision to children and young people at risk of disengaging or disengaged from school, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victorian Government, 2010

Source: Taken from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s The state of Victoria’s children 2008, A report on how children and young people in Victoria are faring, p.95, available at http://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/govrel/Policy/children/ sovcreport08.pdf


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The evidence Likely outcomes for young people failing to complete school A child or young person’s success in learning is dependent on their engagement and wellbeing. Concurrently, their future life opportunities are influenced by participation in education and training. Those children and young people who fail to complete school tend to be significantly more disadvantaged in later life with an increased likelihood of experiencing: unemployment; worse outcomes in health, accommodation, and social status; greater risk of offending behaviour; greater susceptibility to the influences of drug and alcohol misuse, homelessness, and anti-social behaviour; and lowered lifelong income. This also has associated social and economic costs to both the Victorian and Australian governments, in terms of increased demand for welfare support and government subsidised services. Source: KPMG, Re-engaging our kids: A framework for education provision to children and young people at risk of disengaging or disengaged from school, prepared for Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victorian Government, available at http://www. eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/stuman/wellbeing/Re-engaging_ Our_Kids_KPMG_Apr2010.pdf

Education participation for children in out of home care Research by Anglicare Victoria and Wesley Mission Victoria into children in out of home care identified that a high proportion of children had repeated a grade at school (24 per cent), had experienced a change of school (60 per cent), were not attending school on any days (18 per cent), had wagged school in the past year (30 per cent), or had been suspended in the past 12 months (15 per cent). Specifically, the case studies suggested that early intervention is critical to better outcomes. Other factors include stability of placement, an expressed, long-term commitment (beyond termination of wardship) of the carer to the young person and the ability of both the care and education systems to respond flexibly to the talent, ability and needs of the young person. Source: S Wise, S Pollock, G Mitchell, C Argus & P Farquhar, Care-system impacts on academic outcomes, Research report, Anglicare Victoria and Wesley Mission Victoria, Melbourne, 2010

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2. 3.

develops and funds more flexible and responsive learning environments system-wide, resources partnerships between schools and local community sector organisations to support better outcomes, and continues to fund the School Focused Youth Services program as part of addressing the health and wellbeing issues of vulnerable children and young people.


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Learning support programs The issues

The way ahead

As well as flexible learning, some young people need additional support through specialist Learning Support Programs (LSPs) such as homework clubs and tutoring programs. Out-of-school-hours LSPs have developed within local communities to provide catch-up learning, homework assistance, tutoring or broader enrichment activities in a well-resourced and supportive study environment. Young people from refugee families are in particular need of these services, as many have missed years of schooling due to conflict and dislocation in their home countries and may not be able to get learning support from their parents or carers.

A range of steps are required to further develop and improve the impact of LSPs, including a clear policy framework, funding, and infrastructure to maximise program quality.

However there is only limited and patchy funding for LSPs, despite research demonstrating that they are a valuable and low-cost preventative strategy.10

10  A Pate, A chance to experience success: An evaluation of four Melbourne Citymission Learning Support Programs for children and young people, Research & Social Policy Unit, Melbourne Citymission, Melbourne, September 2008; S. Bond, Learning support programs: Education reform beyond the school, Brotherhood of St. Laurence, May 2009; A Pate and S Bond, Partnering to Learn: the role of community organisations in supporting disadvantaged students – Summary of the Partnering to Learn Forum hosted by Melbourne Citymission and the Brotherhood of St. Laurence on November 12th 2009, Brotherhood of St Laurence, February 2011

A greater number of LSPs are required, prioritising areas with high numbers of disadvantaged young people, to better enable those who are vulnerable to remain engaged with education. Long term, systemic LSP funding needs to be provided, with programs integrated into mainstream school funding and being required to meet quality standards. Such opportunities are vital for young people who are at risk of low achievement, early school leaving and unemployment.11

11  Op cit. A Pate and S Bond


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The way ahead Learning beyond the bell

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The evidence Benefits of learning support programs

The Learning Beyond the Bell (LBB) program aims to better connect and engage newly arrived migrant and refugee young people at school. Nearly half of the young people in the evaluated projects had been in Australia for under two years – over half had had less than four years schooling, and over a quarter under two years schooling before coming here, despite around half being in years 9-10.

Learning support programs (LSPs) offer a broad range of benefits to young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. A 2007 Melbourne Citymission survey of 33 LSPs in disadvantaged suburbs found that three-quarters identified significant benefits for young people. The three broad dimensions of benefit were:

Outcomes of the program include:

• social and personal development outcomes – improved confidence, self-esteem, language skills and adjustment to their adopted country, and

• young people were better able to ask tutors specific questions about their homework and other school work and achieved improved marks on assignments and tests, • young poeple were better able to understand and complete their homework, and • a majority of tutors identified improvements in young people’s attitude and behaviour.

• academic outcomes – school retention, improvement in grades and/or engagement in learning,

• family or community gains - improved relationships with parents. Source: M Horn & D Fewster, A profile of learning support programs in north-west Melbourne, Melbourne Citymission, Melbourne, 2007

Source: John Mc Consulting, Learning Beyond the Bell Evaluation: 6-month report and recommendations, Centre for Multicultural Youth, Carlton, February 2011

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2.

increases the number of learning support programs in disadvantaged areas, and continues the Learning Beyond the Bell program funding.


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Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) The issues

The way ahead

Developing future pathways to trades and vocations is critical for those young people who are not going to go on to university from school.

VCAL provides practical work-related experience, literacy, numeracy and personal skills that are important for life and work. The program provides young people with the skills employers are looking for and keeps them engaged in learning. The coordination of this program is a critical element that helps ensure the particular education needs of young people are effectively met.

The rapid growth in the number of young people completing the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) shows its importance and potential in keeping young people engaged with learning at school and providing them with skills to enter and advance in the workforce. But it is under threat. The decision by the Government to cut funding for VCAL coordination will undermine the ability of many young Victorians, particularly those living in rural and regional areas, to continue in education and training. The role of VCAL coordinators is to develop links between young people and employers and other education institutions, and to tailor VCAL programs to each individual young person’s needs, including the development and monitoring of their individual learning plans. The loss of coordination funding will have a particular impact on community VCAL providers, many of whom have built extremely effective connections with social support programs for young people with some programs unable to continue once funding is withdrawn.


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The evidence VCAL pathway from school 85 per cent of students who completed a VCAL only qualification and 87 per cent of students who completed a VCAL/VCE qualification have followed a pathway to education, training or work after their VCAL studies. Source: S Rothman, J Brown, K Hillman, G Marks, P McKenzie, and C Underwood, The On Track Survey 2010: The Destinations of School Leavers in Victoria – statewide report, Transition and Post-School Education and Training, Melbourne, 2011, available at http://research. acer.edu.au/transitions_misc/10

Growth in VCAL in Victoria VCAL has proved to be effective at engaging young people. In 2006 there were 12,326 students enrolled in VCAL courses offered by 41 providers; in 2010, 19,175 students were enrolled with 429 providers. Sources: Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Senior Secondary Certificate Statistical Information, 2006 and 2010

Year 12 trigger to employment School leavers who did not complete year 12 were over twice as likely to be unemployed as those who completed year 12 (19 per cent and 8 per cent respectively), and nearly nine times more likely to not be in the labour force (18 per cent and 2 per cent respectively). Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Are young people learning or earning? March 2010, ABS Social Trends 4102.0, accessed on 23/8/11 at http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/ 4102.0Main+Features40Mar+2010#2

Tough path from dropout to high school grad In five weeks, Meaghan Downie will achieve something that no adult in her family has yet to do: graduate from high school. The 18-year-old’s future looks bright. Next year she plans to study youth work and get a part-time job. She hopes to be running her own business by the time she is 21. But it has been a difficult journey to get this far, one peppered with family breakdown, personal loss and endless days hanging around Frankston with nothing much to do. The turning point, she says, came just after she dropped out of year 10 and heard about an education program run by the Brotherhood of St Laurence offering the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning, a vocational alternative to the VCE. “I just didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t really care,’’ she said. “I always had that goal to finish VCE but I didn’t get to year 11 … now I just have to take the longer steps around doing things. That’s probably what I’ve learned most here, that there’s still ways to get to where you want to be.’’ Source: D Cooke, The Age, 21 October, 2011, accessed at http://www. theage.com.au/victoria/tough-path-from-dropout-to-high-school-grad20111020-1mabc.html#ixzz1bMtMq2LG

Recommendation That the Victorian Government:

1.

reinstates coordination funding for VCAL to effectively support the ongoing engagement in education of vulnerable young people.


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The middle years The issues

The way ahead

Most services and funding arrangements for children and young people tend to band them into two major age groups – 0-8 and 15-24. While these are crucial ages, it means that children and young people aged between 9-14 years are falling between gaps in services.

Some of the critical issues identified for children aged 9-14 include physical development, particularly in relation to the onset of puberty, social and emotional development, peer relationships, self-esteem and body image, and the transition to independence.13

This becomes a particular problem when vulnerable children in this age group disengage from universal services such as school, as there are no flexible education and support models that meet their needs. Services working with young people over 12 are not funded to work with younger children, and may not have the specific skills needed.12

A focused strategy with targeted programs and supports that specifically address the needs of children and young people in the ‘middle years’ is required, including developmentally appropriate flexible education and social support programs.

‘Betwixt and between’ The middle years are associated with: • major physiological, neurological, cognitive, and psychosocial changes, • changing relationships with parents and families, • an increase in the importance and influence of peer relationships, and • major transition from primary to secondary school, which typically involves a move to a different physical setting, adjustment to a different social environment, and a different approach to teaching and learning. Source: Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), “betwixt and between” – A report on ARACY’s Middle Years Project focusing on the developmental needs of Australian children aged 9-14, 2011

Recommendation That the Victorian Government:

1.

develops targeted programs for children and young people aged 9-14 years, including flexible education and social support programs.

12  S Rizza, Tweenies: To gain an understanding of the service gaps that exists for children between the ages of 8-12, unpublished, Victoria University, 2006

13  Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), “betwixt and between” – A report on ARACY’s Middle Years Project focusing on the developmental needs of Australian children aged 9-14, ARACY, 2011


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The cost of education The issues

The way ahead

Most people assume that public education is free, but that’s not the case. Parents have to pay for uniforms, books, school excursions and a range of other costs, including fees.

Providing class sets of text books and no-cost camps and excursions would help to reduce the financial pressure on families while delivering critical educational opportunities to vulnerable children and young people.

Every year it can be difficult for low-income families who want to give their children the same chances as all their classmates and to not feel left out because they don’t have the right uniform or can’t go on camp or have the right books. And some years are more difficult than others – notably, when children first start school and need to buy everything for the first time, and then when they are in the upper high school years, when books and excursions can be more critical to their education and cost more.

The payment of the Education Maintenance Allowance needs to be extended to include dependent students who are 16 years and over who are in secondary school or vocational education equivalent.

It therefore makes no sense that the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which assists lower income families with the costs of sending their children to school, cuts out at 16 years and over. To date, this cut-off point in the EMA has been justified by the argument that 16 year old students are eligible for the Youth Allowance through Centrelink. However proposed amendments to the eligibility of Youth Allowance will preclude full-time students aged 16 and 17 (with some exceptions). The resulting financial pressure could mean many young people do not continue school at a crucial time.


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The evidence Education and socioeconomic background Educational attainment is more strongly correlated to socioeconomic background in Australia than in other countries, and more strongly in Victoria than in other states.

The relationship between education participation, school outcomes and family income

Source: National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), Program for Literacy and Numeracy (PISA) – as noted in: Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework: For all children from birth to 8 years, DEECD and Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Melbourne, November 2009

The costs of going to school The annual cost of full participation in education is $3,624 for primary school and $3,928 for secondary school. Source: S Bond, M Horn, The cost of a free education: Cost as a barrier to Australian public education, Brotherhood of St Laurence, Fitzroy, 2009 Source: Summary of Richard Teese’s findings detailed in T Kruger, The Standpoint Project in Good Policy: Newsletter of Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service Social Policy Research Unit, Volume 5, No 1, Winter 2009.

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2.

provides class sets of text books and no-cost camps and excursions, and extends eligibility for the EMA to include dependent students who are 16 years and over who are in secondary school or a vocational education equivalent.


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Employment support The issues

The way ahead

To drive a stronger economy, all Victorians who can work need the skills and capacities to do so. Making sure that young people stay in school longer – through provision of programs like VCAL and flexible education models – is an important step towards that goal.

Addressing issues for young people before they become severly disengaged from school or work requires focussed case management. This would be best delivered by youthspecific employment programs modelled on successful existing programs, including the Chutzpah Factory in Bendigo, for young people who have experienced homelessness or other serious disadvantage, the Whitelion employment program for young people leaving the youth justice system, and the Victoria Works program.

So too is support that strengthens the pathway from education to employment. Evidence shows that students who don’t work in the first year after leaving school are more likely to stay unemployed over the long term. This is not just an issue for the Federal Government. The State Government also has a critical role to play in employment support, particularly for highly vulnerable groups, such as those leaving out-of-home care and youth justice. Lack of work experience and confidence, early school leaving, physical and mental health issues and unstable housing can make it very difficult for them to get and keep jobs.14 However, despite the long-term consequences of their struggling to find work – in more likely long-term unemployment, homelessness, crime, and other outcomes – Victoria has very few youth-specific employment support programs for vulnerable young people.

Victoria Works Victoria Works (formerly the Workforce Participation Partnership Program) offered a range of programs for vulnerable groups, including young people, who face particular challenges in accessing employment, with a focus also on addressing areas of emerging labour and skill shortages. Its features included a strong case management approach to address the needs of the young person to ensure they were job ready, direct engagement of employers on how to engage and retain young people in the workplace, and responsiveness to local and regional needs and conditions. It enabled organisations to work with young people before they became more severely disengaged from education and employment. Funding for the program ceased in June 2011, although some providers have received part funding to continue the program for a further 12 months. It remains an effective model for future program proposals.

14  Youth Affairs Council of Victoria, ‘Swimming upstream‘: Young people and service provision under Job Services Australia, unpublished, Melbourne, 2011


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The evidence One in five not fully engaged Nearly one in five young people aged 15-24 in Victoria are not fully engaged in education or employment; that is, were working part time but not studying, unemployed or studying part time but not in the workforce. This figure is higher in some disadvantaged outer metropolitan and rural and regional areas; for example the teenage unemployment rate for 15-19 year olds in north western Melbourne was over 50 per cent. Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Are young people learning or earning? March 2010, ABS Social Trends 4102.0: http://www.abs.gov. au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features40Mar+2010#2 accessed 23/8/11

Importance of getting a job quickly Being able to get a job quickly can make a real difference: the evidence shows that those who don’t get a job in the first year out of school are more likely to stay unemployed for longer periods. Source: J Pech, A McNevin, L Nelms, Young People with Poor Labour Force Attachment: A survey of concepts, data and previous research, Australian Fair Pay Commission, Canberra, 2009, p. 7

Need for intensive employment support for vulnerable young people Research undertaken by Melbourne Citymission highlights the need for a more intensive employment support for vulnerable young people whose needs are not being sufficiently met by Job Services Australia. “We just need more opportunities for everybody, that would be good. Because now, I’m growing up now. No job, what are people going to do? Just start drinking? Assaulting somebody? If there’s more jobs it would solve a lot of problems. If everyone had a job, there would be no crime in this country. I was assaulted 15 months ago and I almost died, just for no reason.” John, 24 year old male The Job Services Australia (JSA) program fails to intervene early enough for young people – with intensive support not provided until after they have developed multiple and often complex barriers to employment. Source: E Cull, Finding the right track: a snapshot study of young people’s experiences looking for work with Job Services Australia (JSA), Melbourne Citymission, 2011, p.10

Recommendation That the Victorian Government:

1.

resources targeted, youth specific employment support programs.


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Vocational education and training The issues

The way ahead

Young Victorians who leave school early but later wish to return to study need more support.

The Government’s decision to reintroduce concession fee places for students studying at Diploma and Advanced Diploma level and to expand the eligibility criteria for government-subsidised VET places to include students up to the age of 25 was welcome. The availability of concession fees now needs to be extended to all students in all categories to effectively support the participation in education and training of all Victorians.

The Victorian Vocational Education and Training (VET) system plays a critical role in enabling this and in developing Victoria’s human capital. The Victorian Training Guarantee currently only provides government-subsidised places for students 20 years and over for a higher level qualification than any they currently hold. This actively discourages many from returning to study – courses costing over $10,000 are generally not a ‘viable’ alternative for disadvantaged students. This particularly penalises those with the most need to retrain, including refugees, people from newly arrived communities, as well as people with learning difficulties.

Young people also must not be discouraged from going back to study. Fees and charges should be structured to consider the impact on access to education and training, particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who have traditionally formed a significant proportion of students enrolled in TAFE.

At the same time, the VET concession rate has increased significantly in most courses, with Certificate I and II courses charging a minimum of $105 and Certificate III and IV courses charging a minimum of $188 from 2011 – more than three times the previous concession rate of $55. These increases are substantial and discourage vulnerable students from enrolling.15

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2.

reviews the eligibility criteria of the Victorian Training Guarantee so that students 20 years old and over remain eligible for a government-subsidised place for whatever level of qualification they wish to enrol in, and reintroduces concession fees for all students in all categories eligible for concession fees prior to the introduction of the Victorian Training Guarantee.

15  R James, National Report into Higher Education, Department of Education, Science and Training, 2008, p.187


Emergencies

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EMERGENCIES

‘In an emergency, the normal fabric of social life is rent and torn for a time, exposing tissues and structures normally buried beneath the routines and familiar patterns of life.’

  Rob Gordon, “Acute responses to emergencies: findings and observations of 20 years in the field”, The Australian Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 21 no. 1, February 2006


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Introduction Victoria has been struck by a series of devastating and costly natural disasters in recent years. The demands of changing environmental conditions – of the increasing frequency and intensity of floods, fires, dryness and heatwave – is projected to continue and will likely become worse. Emergencies are devastating, personally and financially, for individuals and families and they impact hugely on both local economies and more widely on local and state government expenditure and capacity. The impact, of course, is worse for communities that have already struggled with sustained drought or wider structural adjustment.

Community sector organisations are in the frontline of recovery efforts, yet, prior to the Victorian 2009 Bushfires and the 2010-11 floods, mostly had not been engaged in local municipal emergency planning. This caused a lack of clarity about their roles and responsibilities in response and recovery and limited their capacity to organise and provide sufficient emergency relief, support services such as counselling, accommodation options and accessible transport at times of serious need.


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Long-term physical and psychosocial support The issues One in six Victorians is likely to be affected by an emergency in their lifetime – and many will experience more than one. As a result, they are more likely to experience depression, anxiety disorders, complicated grief, substance abuse or other impacts. Many will recover quickly but, for some, recovery will take many months, if not years, particularly if their distress is compounded by the stress of homelessness, unemployment, financial difficulty, or other issues. Children and young people are particularly vulnerable – not just to the disaster itself, but to the way their parents or carers also respond. Both the social and economic impacts of emergency events on individuals and communities are long term. Often new needs arise long after the period of emergency has ended. However current emergency management arrangements tend to assume a return to ‘normal’ community capacity and economic activity in a relatively short timeframe. This undermines the social and economic recovery of Victorians and their communities by imposing inappropriate and unrealistic timeframes and expectations, leaving many individuals without the supports they need.

  A. McFarlane, ‘Psychiatric morbidity following disasters: Epidemiology, risk and protective factors,’ in G C López-Ibor, M Maj, N Sartorious, and A Okasha (Eds.), Disasters and mental health, Wiley, West Sussex, 2005, pp.37–63

The Victorian Government has made welcome investments in the emergency management planning capacity of local government by funding emergency management coordinators in high fire risk areas. However there remains a significant, systemic and ongoing lack of alignment between responsibility and capacity for emergency management planning, response and recovery, especially for large scale events. The emergency management green paper, Towards a more disaster resilient and safer Victoria, also identifies these issues, and this process has the potential to both provide greater clarity and identify areas for resourcing. Inefficient, and in many cases ineffective, reimbursement mechanisms further undermine the capacity of community sector organisations to effectively meet the needs of affected communities. These mechanisms currently penalise community sector organisations financially for their response and recovery effort.

  Department of Premier and Cabinet, Towards a more disaster resilient and safer Victoria, Green paper: Options and issues, Victorian Government, Melbourne, September 2011


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The way ahead In order to recover from emergency events families and communities need sustained investment in flexible supports that meet a range of needs, including for counselling, housing, family violence services, financial counselling and assistance, and drug and alcohol programs. Specific supports and approaches are required for children and young people, as they are particularly vulnerable following an emergency event. The evidence shows that the right interventions made early on prevent the need for more intensive mental health care in the medium and long term. To be most effective, the emergency management procedures and resources that follow an emergency event need to be sufficiently flexible so they can address needs as they emerge in the short, medium and long term. Improving our response to emergencies also relies on reform to address systematic flaws in Victoria’s emergency planning and preparation. Currently the important role played by community sector organisations in emergencies is not recognised in emergency planning frameworks, or in funding.

  Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Delivering a focus on children and young people in helping Victorian communities recover from the 2009 bushfires, prepared by the Children’s Services Coordination Board for the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority, DEECD, Melbourne, Victoria, 2009   D Forbes, M Creamer, et al , Australian guidelines for the treatment of adults with acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 41 no. 8, 2007, pp.637-648

In the 2012-13 Budget, resources are needed to enable community sector organisations to contribute to local government-led emergency planning processes, provide emergency training to their staff, and to develop the plans needed to directly respond to the needs of the highly vulnerable people that they work with, as well as to ensure the systems and resources are in place to activate these immediately if an emergency event occurs. To be most effective these resources need to sit within a clear framework for reform of emergency management. This framework should clarify roles and responsibilities and allocate resources accordingly. In particular, it should streamline the current inefficient reimbursement mechanisms which financially penalise community sector organisations involved in response and recovery. Victoria could draw on the model currently used in Queensland to develop clear mechanisms, including memoranda of understanding (MOUs), that guarantee community sector organisations will be financially reimbursed for providing a pre-agreed range of services for affected communities.


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The evidence WHO: post-emergency rise in mental health issues

Mental health service demand post2009 Victorian Bushfires

The World Health Organisation estimates that 12 months after an emergency there will be an increased prevalence of severe mental health problems – from 2-3 per cent to 34 per cent, and an increase in moderate mental disorders from 10-20 per cent.

Dr Margaret Grigg, Assistant Director, Bushfire Psychosocial Recovery Team, Department of Health, reported that mental health services in bushfire-affected areas had experienced increases in demand, particularly child and adolescent services: there was a 40 per cent increase in the number of people seen and a 34 per cent increase in time spent on clinical work between February and September 2009. The services for adults are more diverse, but there was an increase of 10 to 15 per cent in the number of people seen in bushfire-affected areas.

Source: M van Ommeren, S Saxena, B Saraceno, ‘Mental and social health during and after emergencies: emerging consensus?’, Bulletin of the World Health Organisation, vol. 83, 2005, pp. 71-76

The Country Fire Association, Department of Sustainability and Environment, Ambulance Victoria, and Parks Victoria also reported increased use by employees and volunteers of peer support programs, relevant training programs, counselling and chaplain services. Source: State Government of Victoria, 2010, Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission Final Report, Melbourne, July 2010, available at http://www. royalcommission.vic.gov.au/Commission-Reports

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2. 3. 4.

provides medium and long-term psychosocial recovery funding for individuals and communities affected by the 2010-11 floods and 2009 Victorian Bushfires, including specific support for children and young people, invests in increased emergency management capacity in local government and community sector organisations to plan for and respond to emergencies, funds community sector organisations to undertake risk management, planning and staff training specifically for emergency events, and ensures clear mechanisms, including MOUs, are in place to financially reimburse community sector organisations for the provision of a range of pre-agreed services for affected communities.


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Heatwaves The issues

The way ahead

The increasing number of consecutive hot days in Victoria threatens the health and wellbeing of vulnerable Victorians, including infants and those who are frail and elderly, or have a chronic illness or disablity.

Funding is urgently required in the 2012-13 Budget to:

In the summer of 2009, at least 374 people are estimated to have died as a result of heatwaves and Victoria’s health and emergency services were placed under intense strain. However heatwaves are not currently included under emergency management provisions. This limits the capacity of emergency services and local government to adequately plan for and respond to these events. Given that heatwaves are often linked to code red fire danger days, we need to ensure that critical systems such as health and emergency services are able to respond adequately and that significant infrastructure – such as our public transport network and electricity distribution network – have sufficient resilience to avoid failure. Further, the recently developed Statewide Heatwave Plan has not included funding to effectively support vulnerable Victorians. While it has provided welcome funding for local governments to develop heatwave strategies, no funding has been provided to: • review and improve these plans, • practically support vulnerable community members, • build the capacity of at-risk communities to prepare for and recover from heatwave, or • address the root causes of heatwave vulnerability.

• develop a package of advice and subsidies to improve the thermal efficiency of homes for those households that are most vulnerable in heatwaves, particularly people with disabilities, medical conditions and chronic illnesses, • continue public housing upgrades to improve energy and thermal efficiency of homes, and • provide direct assistance for relocation to those Victorians assessed as needing to move in order to protect their health and wellbeing.


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The evidence Health impacts of the 2009 Victorian heatwave

Energy and thermal efficiency of Victorian homes The Department of Sustainability and Environment reports that just 33 per cent of rental housing has ceiling insulation (compared to 89 per cent of owner-occupied housing), with 40 per cent unknown. It also found that 65 per cent of landlords spend less than $1,000 annually on maintenance, leading inevitably to a decline in thermal efficiency over time. Its audit program found that a quarter of rental homes with ceiling insulation needed it to be topped up. Source: Department of Sustainability and Environment, Housing condition/energy performance of rental properties in Victoria, prepared for Department of Sustainability and Environment, July 2009

Source: J Carnie, January 2009 heatwave in Victoria: an assessment of health impacts, Department of Human Services, Melbourne, 2009

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2.

improves the capacity of community sector organisations and local governments to undertake heatwave planning and response, and improves the thermal efficiency of the homes of those Victorians who are most vulnerable in heatwaves, particularly those with disabilities, medical conditions and chronic illnesses.


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HEALTH AND WELLBEING

‘Health is important in itself, but it is also crucial for a strong economy... Healthy people mean a healthy workforce.’

  Department of Health, Victorian Health Priorities Framework 2012-2022: Metropolitan Health Plan, Victorian Government, Melbourne, May 2011


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Introduction Too often Victorians come into contact with health services too late – when a lack of access to prevention and early intervention services, information, and decent living standards means symptoms have escalated into complex, acute, and chronic conditions, such as diabetes. This is, in part, because investment in health has been skewed towards hospitals, with too little in preventative health and early intervention and in locally available services, particularly in rural, regional, and outer metropolitan growth areas. Victoria’s health system has also responded poorly to diversity in our community – with mainstream services such as hospitals still failing to provide culturallyappropriate services to Aboriginal Victorians. The Victorian Government has very recently released its Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2011-2015. This makes welcome commitments to focus on the health of people who are disadvantaged and experiencing poorer health than others in the community, and to strengthening systems for better health prevention. The 2012-13 Budget will be an important opportunity for the Government to fund these commitments and consolidate a new direction in Victorian health to build a stronger and healthier community.

But just as critical as direct health spending is the need to recognise that health prevention and early intervention extends beyond the healthcare system and into the other areas of government that affect people’s health – such as housing, transport, education, community safety, employment, and concessions. Despite the important part that these social determinants play in health outcomes, these services are often planned, implemented, and evaluated without regard to their health impacts. Making sure all parts of government work together to improve Victorians’ health – and thereby strengthen our economy – will require new accountabilities for all departments. Applying a ‘health lens’ – or Health in All Policies approach – across all areas of government will ensure that health and wellbeing is considered during the development, implementation, and evaluation of policies and services.

The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, age and receive health care. Source: World Health Organisation, World Health Report Primary health care: Now more than ever, WHO, 2008

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1.

funds the development and implementation of a Health in All Policies approach to ensure all parts of government consider health impacts and work together to improve Victorians’ health and wellbeing.

  Department of Health, Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2011–2015, Prevention and Population Health Branch, Victorian Government, Melbourne, Victoria, September 2011

  World Health Organisation, Adelaide statement on health in all policies: moving towards a shared governance for health and well-being, Report from the International Meeting on Health in All Policies, Adelaide, 2010, accessed 25 August at http://www.who.int/social_determinants/ hiap_statement_who_sa_final.pdf


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Aboriginal health and wellbeing The issues

The way ahead

Aboriginal Victorians continue to experience poorer health across all age groups and across all measures compared to non-Aboriginal Victorians. Currently, the life expectancy of Aboriginal Australians is 17 years lower than the general population. Shockingly, Aboriginal Victorians are also less likely to receive standard medical investigations when they present at hospitals.

The Victorian Government has made a welcome commitment to the Closing the Gap Strategy and developed an implementation plan to drive improvements in outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians.

Having Aboriginal community controlled health organisations (ACCHOs) at the centre of Aboriginal health care is vital to improving these outcomes. However, ACCHOs are experiencing increasing demands for partnership, training, research, and participation in hospital networks, and must manage increased data collection requirements for quality assurance, accreditation, and reporting. This is on top of responding to growing need for health services, and the ongoing need to develop their workforce. These pressures come without a matching increase in resources, support and funding. Improving the health of Aboriginal Victorians also requires improvements in mainstream health services. Cultural safety, cultural security and cultural respect must be present if a health service is to be accessible to any Victorian. An appropriate health service addresses all dimensions of health as conceptualised by Aboriginal people, as well as meeting the needs of those with complex and multiple health issues – a central priority for Aboriginal people.

  Productivity Commission, Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage: Key indicators, Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, Commonwealth of Australia, August 2011, available at http:// www.pc.gov.au/gsp/reports/indigenous/key-indicators-2011   S Mathur, L Moon, S Leigh, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with coronary heart disease: Further perspectives on health status and treatment, Cardiovascular diseases series no. 25, Cat. No. CVD 33, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), Canberra, 2006   N Priest et al, ‘Indigenous child health research: A critical analysis of Australian studies’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, vol. 33, 2009, pp. 55-63, quoted in Life is health is life: Taking action to Close the Gap, VicHealth, May 2011

In its efforts to achieve better outcomes within this framework, Victoria is fortunate to be able to draw on the expertise of the state’s 25 ACCHOs, but these organisations need support to build their capacity to respond to increased demands, including support for workforce and infrastructure. The Victorian Aboriginal Health Workforce Plan outlines important strategies to ensure there is a competent health workforce that has appropriate clinical, management, community development and cultural skills. The 201213 State Budget needs to fund priorities identified in the Plan, particularly developing and enhancing the available workforce and strengthening ACCHOs’ middle management and leadership skills. In tandem with this, the Government needs to fund and require mainstream health services, particularly hospitals and community health services, to improve their capacity to deliver culturally accessible services to Aboriginal Victorians. There are pockets of good cultural practice in mainstream health services, which need to be both recognised and extended across the whole system.


Health and wellbeing

Closing the Gap In December 2007 and March 2008, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to six targets for Closing the Gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. This included a commitment to Close the Gap in life expectancy within a generation and to halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children aged under five within a decade. On 19 August 2008, Victoria signed a Statement of Intent to close the age gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. The Coalition Government reaffirmed the State’s commitment to Close the Gap on 24 March 2011.

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The evidence Life expectancy at birth Indigenous Australians

All Australians

Gap

Males

59

77

18

Females

65

82

17

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, 4704.0, 2008, p.104

Incidence of diabetes in Aboriginal people

The Victoria Closing the Health Gap Implementation Plan 2009 –13 identifies three critical aspects to making a difference in Aboriginal Victorian health outcomes. They are: • ensuring Aboriginal Victorians and their representative bodies, including Aboriginal controlled community health organisations (ACCHOs), can participate in Closing the Gap on Aboriginal health outcomes, • ensuring mainstream health services are available, culturally accessible, affordable and of good quality, and • ensuring measurement, monitoring and reporting on joint efforts. Source: Department of Health, Victoria Closing the Health Gap implementation plan 2009–13, Aboriginal Health Branch, Victorian Government, Melbourne, March 2011

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey, 2004-05, ABS, Canberra, 2006


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The evidence Case study: Smoke-free workplace With only five non-smokers among its 63 staff, having a cup of tea and a cigarette was part of the culture at the Njernda Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation. Staffers Anne Munzel and Kelli Bartlett decided the service should be a better role model. Disappointed when their first attempt foundered, Anne and Kelli boosted the smoke-free workplace committee with representatives from the local hospital and the Primary Care Partnership and began consulting with staff about the best way to approach the change. With the support of the CEO, staff were offered support to quit, including a financial incentive for those able to stay smoke-free for six months. Njernda paid for eight staff members to have hypnotherapy, and funded other quit options including nicotine patches, medication and ‘whatever could work’. ‘It took 12 months but we now have a totally smoke-free workplace,’ Anne says. With the workplace policy locked in, the committee has expanded the focus of its anti-smoking campaign to the wider community. The ‘quit’ theme has been embedded in all interactions at Njernda, from telephone hold messages through to display posters of staff members who have been successful in giving up cigarettes, and one that highlights the fact that the average smoker spends $45,000 on their addiction over 10 years. Source: Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth), Life is health is life: taking action to close the gap, Department of Health, Melbourne, May 2011

Impact of smoking Smoking is responsible for one in five of all Indigenous deaths and is the most preventable cause of poor health and early death among Indigenous people. Source: T Vos, B Barker, L Stanley & A Lopez, Burden of disease and injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: summary report. Brisbane: Centre for Burden of Disease and Cost-Effectiveness, School of Population Health, University of Queensland, 2007

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Health and wellbeing

The evidence Top ten causes of hospital admissions

Source: Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, The state of Victoria’s children 2009: Aboriginal children and young people in Victoria, Victorian Government, 2010, available at http://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/directions/ children/annualreports.htm

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2.

funds priorities identified in the Victorian Aboriginal Health Workforce Plan, particularly developing the available workforce and building middle management and leadership, and funds and requires mainstream health services, particularly hospitals and community health services, to further develop their capacity to deliver culturally accessible services.

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Primary health The issues Many Victorians do not have the information, knowledge or sense of empowerment required to support their own health and wellbeing, and to act early on emerging health issues. At the same time, primary health services, such as community health – which are well placed to help people build this capacity – are seeing increasing numbers of people with complex histories, conditions and circumstances. As a result of this increasing demand, many Victorians are missing out on the chance for early support. Others miss out because services aren’t available or able to provide language or cultural supports.

‘Health systems need to respond better – and faster – to the challenges of a changing world: primary health care can do that.’ Source: World Health Organisation, World Health Report – Primary health care: now more than ever, WHO, 2008, available at http://www.who.int/whr/2008/en/index.html

‘An effective prevention system, along with a strong and responsive healthcare system, can help reduce the growing burden of chronic disease and injury ... and support people to enjoy a greater sense of wellbeing.’ Source: Department of Health, Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2011–2015


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Improve outcomes through partnerships Outcomes for Victorians have been improved through a broad, integrated service system approach, highlighted in the collaborative work undertaken by disability services and primary care partnerships (PCPs). A survey of 300 people with an intellectual disability found that, on average, each person had eight chronic health conditions. A care coordination project brought together disability services and PCP agencies to better coordinate care and services. ‘Rebecca’s’ case study shows how this approach enhanced the care of an individual and integration of the overall system. ‘Rebecca’ has an intellectual disability and required an enteral feeding tube, but was experiencing frequent hospitalisation due to recurrent complications and no supporting services. The care coordinator, using service coordination practices and tools, communicated with the GP, engaged district nursing and organised training for the support staff. Since these interventions, Rebecca’s care is well managed and she has not needed to return to hospital. Support staff feel more confident to manage the feeds and to reduce the risk of complications. Source: Department of Health, Primary Care Partnerships achievements 2000 – 2010, p9

The way ahead The Victorian Health Priorities Framework highlights the critical importance of the social determinants of health and how primary health and preventative approaches are central to improving health outcomes. This Budget needs to put the framework into action and begin to redress past underinvestment in primary care, such as community health services, to ensure services are available locally when people need them and to more effectively respond to the increasing complexity of need in Victorian communities.

Many Primary Care Partnerships (PCPs) have proved effective in supporting preventative, early intervention and integrated health care responses. This capacity needs to be further strengthened and developed to ensure improved primary health care for Victorians. Strategies are also needed to improve health literacy, as research highlights that informed users of health services are able to make better choices about their health care and that of their family.

Critical to this is ensuring community health services have the proper resources to provide a family-centred approach that delivers integrated support, promotes early intervention and links vulnerable people to specialist services – across child and family, mental health, drugs and alcohol, homelessness, and family violence. This would require an expansion of existing community health service programs, building on community and consumer input, and for community health services to be prioritised in capital planning and investment – particularly in areas with poor or no services, including many rural and regional locations and metropolitan growth services.

  Department of Health, Victorian Health Priorities Framework 2012– 2022: Metropolitan Health Plan, Victorian Government, Melbourne, 2011

  DH Howard, J Gazmararian, R Parker, ‘The impact of low literacy on the medical costs of Medicare managed care enrollees’, American Journal of Medicine, vol. 118, 2005, pp. 371-377


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The evidence WHO: Wider role of primary health care Investment in primary health care promotes fairness and addresses disadvantage in a way that protects and enhances the whole community’s health. A healthy wellinformed population contributes to social and economic development. Source: World Health Organisation & Commonwealth Department of Health, Housing and Community Services, Healthy public policy strategies for action, The Adelaide recommendations, 1988

Benefits of being informed users

Benefits of patient-centred care Research demonstrates that patient-centred care improves patient care experience and creates public value for services. When health professionals, managers, patients, families, and carers work in partnership, the quality and safety of health care rises, costs decrease, provider satisfaction increases, and patient care experience improves. Patient-centred care can also positively affect business metrics such as finances, quality, safety, satisfaction, and market share. Source: Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, Patient-centred care: Improving quality and safety through partnerships with patients and consumers, ACSQHC, Sydney, August 2011

All Victorians need to be better informed about how to stay healthy and how to make the best use of the health system when they need it. Research highlights that informed users of health services are able to make better choices for their health care and that of their family. Source: DH Howard, J Gazmararian, R Parker, The impact of low literacy on the medical costs of Medicare managed care enrollees, American Journal of Medicine, vol. 118, 2005, pp. 371-377

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2. 3.

increases investment in primary care, such as community health services, to ensure services are available locally when people need them and can provide integrated support, promote early intervention and link vulnerable people to specialist services, prioritises capital planning and investment for community health services – particularly in areas with poor or no services, including many rural and regional locations and metropolitan growth services, and funds an integrated health literacy strategy to better inform all Victorians about how to stay healthy and make the best use of the health system when they need it.


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Mental health The issues One in five Australian adults experiences mental illness in any year, with young people aged 16 to 24 years reporting the highest percentage of mental illness. In Victoria, the Department of Health predicts significant growth in the number of people experiencing depression and anxiety across all population groups.10 A lack of locally available services means that mental health outcomes are poorest for people living in rural and regional Victoria and in outer metropolitan areas, particularly for young people. Even when services are available, there are still too many instances of people being discharged from clinical to community care prematurely. More and more people referred to community based mental health services have multiple needs, are still affected by the effects of a severe episode, and require complex ongoing care.

  Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing – 4327.0, ABS, 2007 10  Department of Health, Metropolitan Health Plan: Technical Paper, Victorian Government, Melbourne, May 2011

This rising complexity increases pressure on staff caseloads and undermines the quality of care and the ability to ensure coordination of services for individuals. Not having access to responsive early intervention mental health services when people need them has great individual costs, including limiting people’s ability to work and study, as well as costs to the broader community.11 A range of other issues in the Government’s remit also impact on mental health – and require attention, including homelessness, unemployment, and the quality of support for parenting, and familial relationships (see chapters on children and families, education and early childhood development, and housing).12

11  Department of Human Services, Because Mental Health Matters: Victorian Mental Health Reform Strategy 2009 – 2019, DHS, Melbourne, February 2009; Boston Consulting Group, Improving Mental Health Outcomes in Victoria: The next wave of reform, Department of Premier and Cabinet, Melbourne, June 2006 12  S Mallett, R Bentley, E Baker, K Mason, D Keys, V Kolar, L Krnjacki, Precarious housing and health inequalities: What are the links? Hanover Welfare Services, University of Melbourne, University of Adelaide, Melbourne Citymission, Australia, August 2011


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The way ahead

The evidence

Access to the right kind of early intervention mental health services, provided locally, makes a significant difference when a person experiences mental health issues. These are especially important at transition points in life, so that conditions do not spiral out of control.

Because mental health matters

The Victorian Government made a welcome commitment to continue the Because Mental Health Matters Strategy in the 2011-12 Budget.13 This holistic, person-centred approach and continued investment in service coordination is applauded, as are the previous 2011-12 pilot investments in housing and employment coordinators in community mental health services and the new headspace services in Bendigo and Collingwood. The continued roll out of the Adult Prevention and Recovery Service (PARCS) model is also valuable. However, the Strategy’s implementation plan acknowledges the service gaps that exist across Victoria, particularly in rural and outer metropolitan areas.14 Further investment is needed in the Budget to address these gaps and deliver improved mental health outcomes for all Victorians. In addition, locally available youth-specific mental health services that have strong linkages across other local services and supports are needed to better support young people in rural and regional areas and outer metropolitan Melbourne (See chapter on young people).

More than 75 per cent of all severe mental health and substance abuse problems commence before the age of 25, with the first episode of serious mental illness most likely to occur in the period from 16–25 years. Suicide accounts for approximately 20 per cent of all deaths of young people aged 15–24 years, and for 16 per cent of all deaths of young people aged 15-19. Recent US research showed that mental health service consumers die on average 25 years earlier than the general population. Source: Department of Human Services, Because Mental Health Matters: Victorian Mental Health Reform Strategy 2009-2019

People with mental health issues not receiving care

Quality mental health services are dependent on a skilled workforce. Like workforce issues in child protection, workforce issues in mental health are complex, and will be most effectively addressed by the development of a funded workforce strategy (See chapter on sector sustainability). Source: Department of Human Services, Because Mental Health Matters, DHS, Mental Health and Drugs Division, February 2009, p.30 13  Department of Human Services, Because Mental Health Matters: Victorian Mental Health Reform Strategy 2009-2019, Mental Health, Drugs and Regions Division, Victorian Government, Melbourne, January 2010 14  Department of Human Services, Mental Health Reform Strategy 2009-2019, Implementation Plan 2009-2011, Mental Health and Drugs Division, January 2010


Health and wellbeing

The evidence Workforce participation by severity of mental illness

Source: Department of Human Services, Because Mental Health Matters, DHS, Mental Health and Drugs Division, February 2009, p.33, available at http://www.health.vic.gov.au/mentalhealth/reformstrategy/documents/mhmatters-strategy0209.pdf

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2. 3.

addresses the service gaps in locally available, early intervention community-based mental health services and supports in rural and outer-metropolitan areas, increases investment in locally available youth-specific mental health services that have strong links across other local services and supports in rural and regional areas and outer metropolitan Melbourne, and funds a workforce strategy to ensure quality mental health services.

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Alcohol and other drugs The issues

The way ahead

Many people in rural and regional and outer metropolitan growth areas are unable to access alcohol and other drug services when and where they need them because of a lack of services and growing waiting times. Also, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds continue to have poor access to services because of cultural and language barriers.15

Immediate investment is needed to meet growing demand and complexity in the alcohol and other drugs sector, particularly in rural and regional and outer metropolitan growth areas.

A range of reports have highlighted that the alcohol and other drugs sector is under significant strain, with increasing demand unmatched by increasing resources. This is compounded by a fragmented service system and chronic shortages of GPs and pharmacists willing to participate in pharmacotherapy. Already operating beyond capacity, demand on alcohol and other drug services will only further increase as a result of the increasing prison population, as people tend to exit prison with drug problems as severe, or worse, than those that contributed to their imprisonment.

The Victorian Government has made welcome recent investments in pharmacotherapy, counselling, consultancy and continuing care services (CCCCs) and needle and syringe programs, along with a welcome commitment to develop a whole of government alcohol and drug strategy. However, while this strategy is an important opportunity to address community problems – such as crime – that stem from underinvestment in alcohol and other drug services, the 2012-13 Budget needs to urgently address the already documented funding shortfalls while it is being developed and implemented. This would involve ensuring services are available to communities in rural and regional areas and in outer metropolitan growth areas, and to meet the additional demand expected from the changes to sentencing. Also critical is an immediate and significant increase to the unit price to cover the full cost of delivering services. Changes to funding models, an investment in workforce development (see chapter on sector sustainability), and substantial changes to data collection are also needed so that organisations can work more closely with housing, mental health, primary health and family services to better meet the needs of individuals and families.

15  Victorian Auditor-General, Managing drug and alcohol prevention and treatment services, State of Victoria, Melbourne, March 2011


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The evidence Recommendations of the Auditor General 1. The Department of Health should:

2. The Department of Health should:

• implement a whole-of-government alcohol and other drug prevention strategy

• revise the treatment service mix so that services funded align with need

• deliver on the commitment to review unit prices

• address the inequity of the current distribution of alcohol and other drug resources

• prioritise work on: • the capacity of the alcohol and other drug sector to attract and retain a specialist alcohol and other drug workforce • promoting careers in the alcohol and other drug sector in relevant higher education settings

• address the longstanding fragmentation and inconsistency of service provision across the 105 services providers that make up the treatment service system. Source: Victoria Auditor-General, Managing Drug and alcohol prevention treatment services, State of Victoria, March 2011

• revise its reporting requirements to address weaknesses in the use of th episode of care.

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2.

addresses the gaps in alcohol and other drug services in rural and regional areas and in outer metropolitan growth areas, and invests in the workforce development needed to achieve more family-centred drug and alcohol services.


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HOUSING

‘Over 180,000 Victorian households are in housing stress. After paying for housing costs, they’re at risk of financial hardship and poverty.’

  Australians for Affordable Housing, Housing costs through the roof, Melbourne, 2011


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Introduction Victorian housing markets are not working, particularly for people on low to moderate incomes – like part-time workers, carers, teachers, community sector workers and shop assistants, for whom there are simply too few opportunities to secure affordable rental housing, much less to think about buying a home.

The crisis in affordable housing affects a great many Victorians – with one in 20 (over 109,000 households) paying over 50 per cent of their income in housing. It is particularly severe for renters – with more than one in five low to moderate income renters (over 65,000 households) in housing stress.

This means that many low waged and part-time workers and others on low income are housed precariously – either paying rents in excess of what they can afford or in some instances forced into the growing number of illegal rooming houses springing up in our suburbs and towns.

For the 2012-13 State Budget, VCOSS is highlighting three areas where pressures are extreme and growing, and particular attention is needed: for children, older Victorians and those who are driven by affordability to live in locations where access to work is difficult or impossible.

This places people just one step away from homelessness – where a cutback in hours of work, illness or other issue is all it takes.

To address this crisis, there is no getting around the need for the Government to boost the level of spending on public housing, and to look at new, innovative ways of encouraging more investment in the type of housing we need – affordable rental housing.

We know homelessness has catastrophic impacts for individuals and families. Precarious housing likewise has serious consequences for stress, family stability and wellbeing.

The proposals outlined here are intended to complement the positive work already undertaken by the Government to improve homelessness service delivery, by reducing the bottlenecks created in homelessness services by the scarcity of secure, appropriate and affordable housing opportunities.


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Scarce housing resources taken into the consolidated fund In 1998, a Deed of Assumption was entered into by the Treasurer and the Director of Housing to retire Office of Housing debt to the Commonwealth. Under the Deed, the Director of Housing committed to make annual payments to the Treasurer to 2042. Each year’s payment is determined by the Treasurer after consultation with the Director and Minister for Housing, with a value not exceeding amounts specified in the deed. We can assume that the Deed included a requirement for payments to be determined by consultation to ensure they were made only when the Office of Housing had a surplus. But in many cases, including in the 2011-12 Budget, payments were made when the Office of Housing has been in deficit. In fact the Victorian Office of Housing, like every other state housing authority in Australia, now has a structural operating deficit that is the result of declining federal and state investment in social housing, and tight public housing targeting – which results in a tenant profile with an ever increasing number of very low income households. As a consequence of this deficit, the Office of Housing cannot fully fund the everyday costs of maintaining properties, managing tenancies and delivering support services, let alone build or buy the new stock urgently needed to house the 38,244 people on the public housing waiting list. It is time to tear up the Deed of Assumption. Sources: Auditor-General of Victoria, Auditor-General’s Report on the Victorian Government’s Finances, 1997-98, pp. 139-140; Total number of applicants on the public housing waiting list as at June 2011 at http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au/about-the-department/documentsand-resources/research,-data-and-statistics/public-housing-waiting-and-transfer-list, accessed on 6 September 2011

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Children in housing crisis The issues Having a stable home is not the only foundation children need, but without it their lives are thrown into turmoil; ties are cut with school, friends, sport and community and their risk of experiencing abuse and harm dramatically increased. Shockingly, every year more than 2,500 Victorian children under 12 years, and more than 3,500 young people aged 13-17 years, have no place to call home other than the street, or a car or rooming house. Family violence is the single biggest contributor to homelessness for women and children, and yet one in two families who approach homelessness services needing accommodation are turned away. This year, the challenge of family violence became worse with Victoria Police statistics revealing a 26 per cent increase in the number of family violence incidents from 2010 to 2011.

  Homelessness Australia, Homelessness and Children Fact Sheet, accessed on 7 September 2011 at http://www.homelessnessaustralia. org.au/UserFiles/File/Fact%20sheets/Fact%20Sheets%202011-12/Home lessness%20&%20Child%202011-12.pdf   C Chamberlain, D Mackenzie, Counting the homeless 2006: Victoria, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra, 2009   Department of Human Services, Child Protection and family violence: Guidance for child protection practitioners, Victoria, 2005.   Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW), People turned away from government-funded specialist homelessness accommodation 200910. Cat. no. HOU 248. AIWW, Canberra, 2011, accessed 5 September 2011 <http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737419235>   Victoria Police, Executive Summary, Crime Statistics 2010-2011, Corporate Statistics, Business Services Department, Victoria Police, 2011, p.4

Case study: Missing out on school because of homelessness John (age 9) said he had been kept down at school because he couldn’t keep up with the work: he had missed too much school. John thinks he has been to about 13 schools; his mother put it at fewer, although she said: “He’s been to so many schools that it’s just unreal.” “I’ve been to lots of schools….,” John said. “I don’t really like losing friends, ‘cause – well, it is good that I move around, because when I grow up I can go around and have lots of friends, but also I’m actually not being around them, and they’re thinking, ‘Oh John doesn’t want to be my friend any more’, but I’m not actually there, so.” Source: M Kirkman, D Keys, A Turner, D Bodzak, ‘Does camping count?’ Children’s experiences of homelessness, The Salvation Army, Melbourne, 2009, pp. 49-50


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The way ahead

The evidence

Stabilising children’s housing and education is critical. In order to minimise the stress and trauma caused by experiences of precarious housing in rooming houses, or by homelessness, we need to stabilise families’ housing rapidly, and prevent children from losing their connections to education.

Affordable housing the best ‘cure’ for homelessness

In some cases this will be achieved most effectively – and cheaply – by supporting families to remain in their home or moving to alternative private rental within reach of school. But in many locations there is simply no affordable stock available. In these situations achieving better outcomes for children relies on providing new affordable housing opportunities.

Research in New York demonstrates that subsidised (affordable) housing is the most important factor for ‘curing’ homelessness, challenging the common notion that substance abuse, mental illness, and other social issues are the root cause of the problem. The research found that regardless of social problems such as substance abuse, 80 per cent of homeless families with subsidised housing stayed permanently housed. Source: M Shinn, B C Weitzman, D Stojanovic, J R Knickman, L Jimenez, L Duchon, S James, D H Krantz, ‘Predictors of homelessness among families in New York City: From shelter request to housing stability’. American Journal of Public Health, vol. 88, 1998, pp. 1651-1657

Broader benefits of social housing Most respondents to the 2010 National Social Housing Survey indicated that the amenity and location of their social housing met the needs of their household. These respondents also recorded experiencing ‘benefits’ from living in social housing — around 90 per cent felt more settled and over two-thirds felt they enjoyed better health. Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, National Social Housing Survey: a summary of national results, AIHW bulletin no. 92. Cat. no. AUS 141.AIHW, Canberra, 2011, available at <http://www.aihw.gov. au/publication-detail/?id=10737420122>

  National Alliance to End Homelessness, Rapid Re-Housing: Creating programs that work, Washington DC, USA, July 2009


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The evidence Victorian children and families in housing stress •

14 per cent of homeless people in Victoria are children under 12 years of age,

more than 1 in 5 Victorian families with children are in housing stress,10

85 per cent of parents surveyed in a study on families’ experiences of homelessness in Melbourne’s north said homelesssness harmed their children’s school participation because they had to move out of the area and couldn’t get them to school,

more than 75,000 Victorian children live in overcrowded housing,11 and

housing stress places pressure on family life and health, including children going without adequate health and dental care, or missing out on school excursions, and other sporting activities.12

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1.

invests in a flexible fund to securely house families at risk of homelessness within reach of children’s schools.

  Op cit. C Chamberlain, D MacKenzie   K McAuley, ‘Joining the dots: Homeless children’s experience of education’, Parity, vol. 24, issue 2, Homelessness and children, Council to Homeless Persons, Melbourne, March 2010

10  J McNamara, R Cassells, P Wicks, Y Vidyattama, Table 5: Number and proportion of children by housing characteristic and state, 2006 in ‘Children in housing disadvantage in Australia: development of a summary small area index’, Housing Studies, vol. 25, no. 5, pp. 625-646, September 2010 11  ibid 12  T Burke, S Pinnegar, P Phipps, C Neske, M Gabriel, L Ralston, K Ruming, ‘Experiencing the housing affordability problem: blocked aspirations, trade offs and financial hardships’, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), AHURI Housing affordability for lower income Australians, Research Paper No. 9, December 2007


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Older Victorians The issues

The way ahead

We are seeing an alarming rise in people over 50 becoming homeless and/or living in dire housing poverty – even after lives of relative comfort.

Remaining connected to their community is essential to older people’s wellbeing – and to their physical and mental health. Delivering housing support that is flexible enough to support people to remain in their current housing, or to move to nearby alternative accommodation, will best support their wellbeing.

Simple triggers such as ill-health resulting in loss of employment, or family breakdown can push older people out of stable housing and into the rental market with too little income to find any accommodation, and minimal prospect of changing their economic circumstances through finding new employment. Older single women are particularly vulnerable economically as most have very limited superannuation. In 2008, it was reported that 75 per cent of women aged 60-64 had superannuation of less than $40,000.13

However, in many locations affordable accommodation is simply not available, and in these situations new housing opportunities will be needed. What will be appropriate housing depends on each individual’s support needs, but there is a very serious shortage of suitable shared accommodation options, as well as a shortage of single apartment style or bedsit accommodation.

Tragically, older single people are very vulnerable to assault in unsafe housing such as rooming houses.

Case study: living in a private boarding house “But I’d moved from a place where the caretaker was very arbitrary in making decisions, and very violent. You know he threw tenants from one end of the corridor to the other. And people were chucked out, you know, with no proper cause. And the doors on all the rooms were very flimsy.” Source: A Jones, M Bell, C Tilse, G Earl, Rental housing provision for lower- income older Australians. Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), Queensland Research Centre, Queensland, 2007, p. 70

Case studies: older clients of homeless services Betty is 50 years old and has secondary cancer. She has rent arrears of $2,000 and has received a notice to vacate. She cannot find anywhere she can afford to rent, and has nowhere to go. George is 75 and has been working part-time to cover his rent. A recent back injury means he cannot continue to work, and has moved in with a friend temporarily as he could not pay his rent. He can only remain with the friend for 6 weeks, and then has nowhere to go. Source: K Incerti, City of Port Philip, ‘Deckchairs on the iceberg’, Parity, Preventing Elderly Homelessness, June 2001, vol. 24, issue 5, June 2011

13  R Clare, Retirement Savings Update, Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, Sydney 2008, available at http://www.superannuation. asn.au/Reports/default.aspx


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Case study: life in rooming houses Matthew, 55, lived at a rooming house for eight months. He has met older people who end up in rooming houses because of the rising cost of living. “They go from a crisis and they’re sent out there and there’s a mattress on the floor and that’s all they get… there’s not even a blanket or a sheet or nothing…Like the guy with the brain tumor…he could hardly get up off the mattress which was on the floor, you know, stand up to open the door ...” Matthew left the boarding house to sleep in the back of his ute for six weeks through winter. Source: T Westmore, S Mallett, Ageing at what place? The experience of housing crisis and homelessness for older Victorians. Case studies. Hanover Welfare Services, Melbourne, 2011

The evidence •

More than 2,500 Victorians over 55 were homeless on Census night.14

From 2001 to 2006, the number of homeless people aged 55-64 increased by 36 per cent and the number of homeless people aged over 65 years increased by 23 per cent.15

By 2051, home ownership among older people will have decreased by 37 per cent (with flow on to the private rental market), and 87 per cent of people over 65 will be low income earners.16

In June 2006, more than half of low-income older people in private rental housing were spending over 50 per cent of their income in rent.17

“We lost our freehold home and moved five times in five years and finding safe, long-term, affordable accommodation is not easy. Thank goodness for community-housing” 18

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1.

invests in a flexible fund to securely house older Victorians at risk of homelessness within their local community.

14  Op cit. C Chamberlain, D MacKenzie 15  Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, The Road Home: A national approach to reducing homelessness, Commonwealth of Australia, Australia, 2008 16  C Bridge, et al. Age-specific housing and care for low to moderate income older people, AHURI Final Report No.174. Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), Melbourne, 2011

17  A Morris, ‘Older renters in the private rental market: Issues and possible solutions’, Parity, Preventing Elderly Homelessness, vol. 24, issue 5, June 2011 18  Op cit. C Bridge


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Employment participation The issues

The way ahead

The near impossibility of finding affordable housing close to employment opportunities creates a dilemma for low waged and part-time workers and jobseekers.

The Government has a number of options to develop new housing opportunities in locations close to available jobs. Making strategic investments in new development areas, such as Fisherman’s Bend, train station redevelopments, and other infill developments on transport corridors can include a mixture of direct government spending as well as capitalising developer gain from planning decisions.

Housing markets that fail to deliver secure housing opportunities near to employment contribute to chronic inflexibility in labour markets – with workers either engaged in hours of unproductive and expensive travel time, or unable to participate in employment at all. This can put paid work beyond reach for people juggling caring responsibilities with travel and work, and for people forced to live in relatively affordable areas with no access to transport.

Community housing groups have also developed strong experience in building housing for low-income workers by bringing together multiple sources of funding, including from the National Rental Affordability Scheme, national stimulus package and through using profits gained from resale of segments of their developments. With the stimulus package now winding down, a new source of capital – or available land – is necessary to complement the other available resources, and enable continued growth in well located housing for workers. The State Government can also support this growth by helping to address the dual problems of the cost of financing and the inability of community housing to develop the scale necessary to secure investment from superannuation funds. Providing a government backed bond to function as an intermediary between financial and investment institutions and community housing providers would make a significant difference to affordable housing development costs, at little cost to government.


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The evidence Neighbourhoods according to jobs accessible in 30 minutes In the last three years almost 200,000 Victorians have moved to new suburbs on the fringe of Melbourne and of regional cities, and no new bus services have been funded (see also transport section). Areas circled show where more than 700,000 people are expected to be located over the next 20 years. Source: M Spiller, ‘Location, location, location’, Insight, VCOSS, Melbourne, issue 1, June 2010. Table from SGS Economics and Planning, based on 2006 ABS Census, Journey to work by travel zone. Originally published by the National Housing Supply Council, State of Supply Report, Canberra, 2008

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1.

develops a Victorian Affordable Housing Bond to reduce costs to community housing development – and contributes available well located land to support new affordable housing initiatives.


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TRANSPORT

‘We are planning to put more than 700,000 people, who are growing up in or moving to the city over the next 20 years, in areas that are well and truly remote from the locations of high productivity and human capital accumulation... This is a new phenomenon.’

  Marcus Spiller, ‘Location, location, location’, Insight, vol.1, Victorian Council of Social Service, 2010


Transport

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Introduction Victoria is facing a ‘perfect storm’ of challenges in transport that threatens to create increasing cost of living pressures and stop many of us from participating in work, education and other important activities. Most pressingly, the lack of affordable, convenient public transport options outside of the inner suburbs of Melbourne is causing and contributing to household financial stress for the many families forced to run multiple cars simply to manage basic mobility needs, like getting to school, work and doing the shopping. At the same time, the expanding urban edge of Melbourne and population growth in regional Victoria is putting more and more distance between people and the places they need to go for work, business and social connections. Even when there is public transport, many of us can’t use it because Victoria has failed to meet its basic commitments to accessibility and not created a ‘joined up’ accessible transport system.

In its first year in office, the Victorian Government has made some important early investments in the transport needs of Victorians, particularly for new trains, rail studies, station design and maintenance. The establishment of a new Public Transport Development Authority will hopefully allow a more systemic approach to managing the public transport network, and redress some of the fragmentation in the system. Yet this is only a first step on a long journey. The Government also needs to look beyond rail for a range of solutions to improve transport access – including buses, community transport, taxis, cycling and walking. By adapting roads to better support public transport, cycling and pedestrian-friendly streets, we can avoid or delay the need for expensive new infrastructure, and provide a lower cost, more inclusive, healthier and more efficient transport system.


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The bus network The issues

The way ahead

Tens of thousands of Victorian households have moved to the outer suburbs of Melbourne or fast-growing regional cities in the past few years, only to find they can’t easily get around them or out of them unless they have a car – or even two or three cars if they have household members heading in different directions for work, school, or other reasons.

The Victorian Government needs to invest in ensuring that local public transport services keep up with urban expansion, and to increase coverage and frequency in under-serviced areas.

For many households, that’s a significant financial burden, and one that often contradicts the very reason they moved to more ‘affordable’ areas. It can also mean big limits on the way they get to participate in the community for those people who cannot drive or cannot afford a private vehicle. Incredibly, there has been virtually no additional funding for local bus services in the growth suburbs of Melbourne or regional cities over the last three years, although their populations have exploded – up to 7 per cent in some areas. We cannot keep squeezing hundreds of thousands of people into new suburbs without giving them the public transport services they require. These regions are also among the most vulnerable to cost-of-living increases, as households are often highly geared and more vulnerable to petrol price rises due to high consumption. This already poses a major risk to social cohesion, but one that will grow in the next decade as the outer urban areas of Melbourne experience a predicted ‘teenager boom’. If these young people can’t access school, sport, social and job opportunities, they risk becoming disengaged, at great personal cost – but also at great potential cost to the economy and our community.

  Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3218.0, Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2009-10, Canberra, March 2011. Figures are for the period 2007-2010 in the local government areas of Cardinia, Casey, Hume, Melton, Whittlesea and Wyndham   J Dodson, N Sipe, Unsettling Suburbia: The new landscape of oil and mortgage vulnerability in Australian cities, Urban Research Program, Griffith University, Research Paper 17, August 2008, p.19

The public bus network forms the nearest public transport service for the vast majority of Victorians, providing an essential link to local businesses, work, and schools, as well as connecting people to train services. The outstanding success of the orbital ‘Smartbus’ network shows the importance of circumferential links, particularly when travel patterns outside inner Melbourne are far more complex than the radial links provided by the train routes. The bus network is also the quickest and most cost effective means of improving the availability of public transport in underserviced areas, including in rural and regional locations.


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The evidence Population growth unmatched by transport services and spending Over 125,000 people have moved into just six local government areas on the edges of Melbourne in the last three years, with more than 23,000 people moving into Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong council areas in the same period.

Similarly, there is a large discrepancy between public transport spending in rural and regional Victoria compared with metropolitan Melbourne.

There is a serious mismatch between locations with the highest population growth, and those with good public transport services.

Source: Based on figures in the Victorian Budget 2011-12, Service Delivery Budget Paper No. 3, Department of Transport Outputs, pp. 337-9, using population estimates at June 2010 (ABS), calculations by VCOSS

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3218.0, Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2009-10, Canberra, March 2011.

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1.

expands the bus network to ensure growth areas receive early access to public transport and ensures better coverage of underserviced areas.


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Accessible public transport The issues Whether you are a parent travelling with children, a senior using a shopping trolley, someone who uses a mobility aid such as a wheelchair, has impaired vision or hearing, or difficulty with speaking and understanding English, you are likely to struggle to move around your neighbourhood and into the wider community using current transport resources. Accessibility is a much wider issue than most people realise or recognise, and will become an increasingly important one in an ageing population. Without adequate transport options people can become isolated, miss out on opportunities for work, education, healthcare and community services, or lose contact with family, friends and communities. A lack of transport options makes people’s lives smaller. VCOSS recently completed a major report on transport access problems, with 33 recommendations for improving the system. A major concern of the report is the lack of coordination of accessibility improvements in the public transport system – leading to low floor trams being deployed on routes without accessible tram stops, and accessibility upgrades sitting alongside inaccessible pedestrian environments.

  Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS), Creating Accessible Journeys, 2011, available at http://www.vcoss.org.au/documents/ VCOSS%20docs/Transport/Creating%20Accessible%20Journeys%28FI NAL%29.pdf

People with a broad range of accessibility issues need to be able to get on and off vehicles at all stops, have access to safe and comfortable waiting facilities and easy to use transport information, and be able to trust that public transport staff will be sensitive to a variety of needs. The Government has made some welcome steps towards improving transport access, including insisting on the installation of ramps at Williams Landing station, convening a Station User Panel to inform accessible design of stations, and providing $20 million in the previous budget for access improvements. But it faces major challenges. On the one hand, Victoria is already running badly behind schedule on national Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (DSAPT) – that is, that 90 per cent of public transport infrastructure should be compliant by 2017, which will require a massive investment to meet. On the other, it cannot afford to focus solely on making isolated pieces of public transport infrastructure compliant while ignoring how these pieces fit together so they provide wide access to a wide range of people. Put simply: if a journey does not provide a continuously accessible path from beginning to end, then it cannot be used, regardless of how many pieces of compliant infrastructure exist along the way.


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The way ahead

The evidence

The period from 2012 to 2017 is the largest â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;jumpâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; in compliance required by the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (DSAPT).

Failure to meet compliance milestones on accessibility

To respond to this challenge, the Government should develop a cohesive Accessible Transport Action Plan 2012-17 to meet these goals, and commit resources in this Budget to achieve both the 2012 and 2017 milestones.

Latest figures indicate that Victoria has not met the 2012 Disability Discrimination Act milestones for metropolitan tram and regional bus vehicles, and all forms of transport infrastructure. Progress toward DDA compliance

Source: Department of Transport, Annual Report 2010-2011, Victorian Government, Melbourne, 2011, p132 (figures are for March quarter 2010)


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The evidence Lack of coordination of accessibility improvements Accessibility improvements are not being coordinated to ensure the best access outcomes. For example, the map (right) demonstrates that compliant bus and tram stops are not being prioritised on low floor routes, where they can best improve the accessibility of the whole journey. Source: Bus Association of Victoria, Accessible buses â&#x20AC;&#x201C; an industry perspective, presentation at VCOSS Bus Access Forum, Melbourne, 1 September 2011

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1.

invests in a long-term program of accessibility improvements to public transport, sufficient to ensure that all DSAPT milestones targets can be met, but allowing for reasonable flexibility to ensure that accessibility outcomes can be prioritised, including for projects outside the direct coverage of the standards.

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Transport

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Joined-up services The issues

The way ahead

Many Victorians cannot use the public transport system, either because they don’t have options or can’t use the options that exist. If they can’t drive, or don’t own a car, they can be left stranded in their homes or forced to rely on family and friends for lifts where they can.

Providing a basic transport service for every Victorian to be able to access the necessities of life is an essential duty of government – not an issue that should be subject to the vagaries of economic modelling or transport demand or eligibility criteria.

Significant gaps in Victoria’s public transport services also mean that people often can’t get where they need to go, or face huge costs if they do. As a result, many decide that it is too hard or too expensive to travel and so opt out of the benefits that participation in the workforce and community bring.

An obvious immediate and low cost response to poor transport options in rural Victoria is to expand access to rural school bus services. Broad community use of the school bus system is considered normal and generally accepted in other Australian states – there is no reason to believe it would not be in Victoria. The Government is currently considering the proposal, but progress is too slow.

Some long-suffering communities, especially in rural Victoria, are chronically under-served by transport alternatives to the private motor vehicle. While tight-knit towns often demonstrate remarkable resilience, many experience concentrations of disadvantage, or have a very high proportion of seniors with limited mobility. Part of the problem is that governments have developed a fragmented patchwork of ad hoc transport initiatives, each delivering a band-aid solution to a specific transport problem. These include school bus services, patient transport, narrowly-targeted community transport services, mobility and travel allowances, local government transport, and taxi subsidies. Each tries to address the holes in the public transport networks – and collectively they add up to hundreds of millions of dollars of spending each year. The fragmentation means the responses cannot be aggregated into a seamless service system, so trips are duplicated, people are excluded from the system, and resources are wasted or underutilised. However, alongside the overall picture of fragmentation there are some positive examples of programs that focus on people’s mobility, such as the Travellers Aid Australia Medical Companion Project and Transport Connections (see breakout over page).

Similarly, the Government has a range of studies and research underway into transport demand and alternatives to public transport. Gathering evidence and understanding the policy details is important, but communities need to see action. An important starting point would be to commit funding beyond 2013 for the Transport Connections Program. Other transport investments are also needed now, including more support, better coordination, alignment and utilisation of community transport services, extending and diversifying taxi services, and investing in travel information, training and support services to ensure that people’s access requirements can be met in appropriate and timely ways.


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Travellers Aid Australia – Medical Companion Project The Medical Companion Project was developed to both assist people travelling into Melbourne from rural and regional Victoria to access medical treatment, and to make more efficient use of available community transport services. A typical journey involves people travelling via local community transport to the nearest V-Line train or bus service for their trip to Melbourne. On arrival at Southern Cross, they are met by a trained Travellers Aid volunteer who links them with other Travellers Aid supports, including personal care, and the buggy service and lounge. The volunteer then helps them to transfer onto metropolitan public transport to reach their hospital or specialist appointment. Without this support, many passengers could not negotiate the complexity of such a journey on mainstream public transport, and if friends or family couldn’t assist, rural and regional community transport providers would deploy a vehicle and driver, often for a full day, taking them out of the local area for service provision for that time. However, despite its success, funding for the Medical Companion Program has only been secured until December 2011, and wider Travellers Aid Australia programs are only funded until June 2012.

Transport Connections Program Transport Connections is another initiative that has begun to co-ordinate and streamline fragmented services although it has been limited by a lack of support from many departments and consequently has been unable to address systemic barriers. Yet its importance is widely acknowledged. Current funding for the program, however, does not extend beyond June 2013.

  Rural and Regional Committee of the Parliament of Victoria, Inquiry into the extent and nature of disadvantage and inequity in rural and regional Victoria: Final report, State of Victoria, October 2010; Department of Transport, Aboriginal Action Plan – Stage One, Victorian Government, 2011


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The evidence Victoria’s school bus network – linking rural Victoria The school bus network in rural Victoria has a major coverage advantage over the existing public transport network.

Route bus, V/line coach, regional bus services and school bus services in Victoria.

Route bus, V/line coach and regional bus services in Victoria.

Source: Bus Association Victoria, ‘Making the most of the massive bus network’, Bus Solutions, issue 1, Nov 2009

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2.

ensures ongoing investment into joined-up mobility services, including access to school buses, expanding community transport options, improving taxi services, and providing better travel information, training and support, and ensures the Transport Connections Program and Travellers Aid Services are funded beyond 2013.


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YOUNG PEOPLE

‘Poor outcomes in childhood and adolescence become the antecedents of costly, chronic, complex and disabling problems in the adult years.’

  A Sanson, S Havighurst & S Zubrick, ‘The science of prevention for children and youth’, 2011, Australian Review of Public Affairs, vol. 10, no. 1, University of Sydney, 2011, pp.79-93, available at http://www.australianreview.net/journal/v10/n1/sanson_etal.pdf


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Introduction The pathway from childhood to adulthood can be an exciting but difficult and confusing time. While most young people go on to live healthy, happy, and productive lives, many need help to get there, particularly those who have experienced family violence, abuse, homelessness, out-ofhome care, or disruption to their education. But risk isn’t confined to young people who have had difficult childhoods. All young people are vulnerable during adolescence, as they go through significant emotional, social and physical growth and development. Adolescent brains are developing decision-making, judgment and impulse control – which is why many young people make impulsive decisions or are prone to risky behavior. The brain’s emotional areas, the limbic system, are also in a rapid stage of development.

  Ibid, p.50.

On top of that come a range of possible stresses – negative experiences with school and relationships, experimentation with alcohol and drugs, issues around gender and sexuality. Adolescence and young adulthood is also the time when mental health issues, including depression, anxiety disorders, and psychotic episodes are most likely to emerge. What we know is that positive interventions early on can make a real and substantive difference to life outcomes for young people and, conversely, that failing to intervene during this vital period allows destructive patterns to become entrenched – at great personal cost, and often at great cost to the community.


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Generalist youth services The issues

The way ahead

Generalist youth services provide early intervention, general information, advice and counselling to young people, and link them to specialist supports where needed. They play an important role in supporting young people’s health and wellbeing, helping them to keep on track in their education, training and employment.

Young people in rural and regional areas, and those living in Melbourne’s growth suburbs, need access to generalist youth services that meet their specific needs – whether to support positive social opportunities in isolated areas, to assist in the process of recovery from emergencies such as fires and floods, or prolonged drought, or to help those struggling with issues common to all young people.

Currently there are large gaps in the availability of these services across Victoria, particularly in outer metropolitan and rural and regional areas, resulting in many young people not receiving support until they reach crisis point. Young people living in rural and regional areas also have poor access to health services and report significant barriers to accessing sexual and mental health services in particular. The impact of the recent drought, high levels of tertiary deferral, poor access to public transport and large gaps in service availability compound this disadvantage.

  Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and Department of Planning and Community Development, The State of Victoria’s Children: A report on how children and young people in Victoria are faring, Victorian Government, Melbourne, 2008, p.90

In order to improve outcomes for young people in these locations, increased investment is needed to significantly expand services and support.


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The evidence Grey matter maturation over the cortical surface

Benefits of early intervention Research increasingly demonstrates that prevention and intervention strategies are more effective in altering outcomes and reap more economic returns over the life course than do strategies applied later in life. Source: Office of the Prime Minister’s Science Advisory Committee, Improving the transition – reducing social and psychological morbidity during adolescence: A report from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Auckland, May 2011, p6, accessed on 30 October 2011 at http://www.pmcsa.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/Improving-the-Transitionreport.pdf

Source: N Gogtay, J Giedd, L Lusk, K Hayashi, D Greenstein, A Vaituzis, T Nugent, D Herman, L Clasen, A Toga, J Rapoport & P Thompson, ‘Dynamic mapping of human cortical development during childhood through early adulthood’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 101, no. 21, May 2004, accessed 3 August 2011 at http://www.pnas.org/content/101/21/8174. full.pdf+html

Access Economics analysed prevention and early intervention at a national level, and concluded that early intervention strategies that reduce youth disengagement could potentially return 23.6 times the government’s initial investment to society and 7.6 times directly to the government through increased taxation revenues. Source: Interface Councils Group, Staying Connected: A cost benefit analysis of early intervention, Access Economics, 2008, piii

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1.

invests in expanding generalist youth services to young people, with a priority focus in rural and regional Victoria, and in Melbourne’s growth suburbs.


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Mental health The issues

The way ahead

Young people are particularly at risk of mental illness – with more than 75 per cent of all severe mental health and substance abuse problems commencing before the age of 25, with the first episode of serious mental illness most likely to occur between 16–25 years.

The evidence demonstrates that delivering the right support to young people experiencing mental health problems can make a real difference.

We know mental illness can result in suicide – which tragically accounts for approximately 20 per cent of the deaths of young people aged 15–24 years. Mental health problems also severely limit young people’s ability to participate in education, employment and the broader community. Significant gaps remain in access to mental health services and supports for young people living in outer metropolitan, rural and regional Victoria.

  Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, Potential benefits of a national strategy for child and youth wellbeing, February 2009, Access Economics, p.i, available at http://www.aracy.org.au/ publicationDocuments/Access%20Economics%20Report-%20Final%20%204%20February%202009.pdf   Department of Human Services, Because Mental Health Matters: Victorian Mental Health Reform Strategy 2009–2019, Victorian Government, Melbourne, p.48   ibid

This has been recognised by the Government and resulted already in some very welcome investments in mental health programs targeted at young people, including continued implementation of the Because Mental Health Matters strategy and investment in Headspace. Yet there remains an urgent need to expand the availability of locally based mental health services across Victoria and ensure strong links exist across existing local services. More targeted support is also needed for particular groups of young people such as those who have come to Victoria as asylum seekers and refugees. Children and young people make up around half of the Humanitarian Program intake and yet they are underrepresented in specialist mental health referrals. We also need to investigate the extent of need amongst these groups of often traumatised young people: there is currently little data available which can help to identify emerging issues, what specialist supports are required, and how the capacity of primary health services can be enhanced to work with these communities.

  Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Refugee Status Report: a report on how refugee children and young people are faring, Victorian Government, Melbourne, 2011, p.44, available at http:// www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/govrel/Policy/children/refugeestatus-report.pdf


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The evidence Economic impact of mental illness in young people According to Access Economics, Australia faces substantial costs arising from mental illness in young people. In 2009, the financial cost of mental illness in people aged 12-25 was $10.6 billion. Of this: •

$7.5 billion (71 per cent) was productivity lost due to lower employment, absenteeism and premature death of young people with mental illness,

$1.6 billion (15 per cent) was the deadweight loss from transfers including welfare payments and taxation forgone,

$1.4 billion (13 per cent) was direct health system expenditure, and

$65.5 million (1 per cent) was other indirect costs comprising informal carer costs and the bring-forward of funeral costs.

This amounts to a financial cost of $10,544 per person with mental illness aged 12-25 years. Including the value of lost wellbeing, the cost is estimated as $31,014 per person per year. Financial costs of mental illness, by type of cost (% total)

Financial costs of mental illness, by bearer (% total)

Source: Access Economics, The economic impact of youth mental illness and the cost effectiveness of early intervention, Access Economics, 2009, p. 51

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2.

continues to implement the Because Mental Health Matters strategy and expands the availability of youth mental health services across Victoria, and invests in more comprehensive data collection about the mental health needs of refugee and asylum-seeking children and young people.


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Youth justice The issues Interventions to reduce repeat offending by young people not only set them on a path to a better life, they also reduce crime, and save on spending on police, prisons and courts. The Victorian justice system has developed a number of very successful community-based pilot programs to divert young people from imprisonment and support them to reduce their offending behaviour. But despite their proven success, these programs are limited to a few locations. Locations without services are missing vital opportunities to reduce crime. They also have less just sentencing outcomes as judges commonly deny bail to young people and instead sentence them to remand in prison where they lack confidence that the supports are in place to address issues contributing to the young person’s behaviour. This is even though 40 per cent of remandees are subsequently found not guilty, or sentenced to a period equal to or less than the time already served on remand.

  R Coverdale, Postcode Justice: Rural and regional disadvantage in the administration of the law in Victoria, Centre for Rural Regional Law and Justice, Deakin University, Melbourne, July 2011, available at http:// www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/govrel/Policy/children/refugeestatus-report.pdf   M Ericson and T Vinson, Young people on remand In Victoria: Balancing individual and community Interests, Jesuit Social Services, Melbourne, 2010, p. 20

Not only do these young people miss out on critical services to address the underlying causes of their offending, their time in custody exposes them to negative peer influences and further disconnection from their community; entrenching, not addressing their pattern of behaviour. The lack of appropriate support and interventions for young Aboriginal women is particularly acute, despite that increasing numbers have been coming into contact with the justice system and are now more than 15 times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to be under youth justice supervision in Victoria.10

10  Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, The state of Victoria’s children 2009: Aboriginal children and young people in Victoria, Victorian Government, 2010, available at http://www.education. vic.gov.au/about/directions/children/annualreports.htm


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The way ahead It makes no sense to continue with old ways of responding to young offenders when new programs are more effective at reducing crime. Currently the most effective programs are only available in a very few locations. Incorporating diversion into the legislative framework for young people would ensure successful strategies are universally applied. Alongside this reform the Government needs to build on the investments in community based youth justice services and the Youth Justice Conferencing Program to further reduce youth crime, particularly in rural and regional communities. Addressing the inequity of access to bail is particularly urgent. Bail keeps young people connected to their community, their education, employment and family – all proven to be critical for reducing repeat offending.

One successful program – the Intensive Bail Support Program for young men aged 15–18 years who are at a very high risk of being remanded by the Melbourne Children’s Court – is being piloted in Melbourne’s north and west. This involves a case manager supporting the young person to comply with their bail obligations and helping them to address their housing, employment, education, family and health needs. It is also critical to address the high – and growing – overrepresentation of young Aboriginal women in Victoria’s criminal justice system. Developing a similar program to the successful Wulgunggo Ngalu Learning Place that has reduced reoffending among Aboriginal young men would be one proven way to address issues for young women, and reduce re-offending.

Youth Referral and Independent Person Program The Youth Referral and Independent Person Program (YRIPP) provides trained volunteers to support young people during police questioning and while they are in custody, when a parent or guardian is not available. YRIPP provides assistance to young people in over 3,000 interviews each year and has demonstrated clear success – saving countless hours of police time and resources during the last seven years. YRIPP also works closely with local health and community service providers to aid referral and reduce future offending. In 2010, the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) recommended that the Government expand and enhance YRIPP, including by making the Secretary of the Department of Justice responsible for administering a statewide scheme. The Government has provided welcome funding for 2011-12 and a commitment to consider funding within the 2012-13 budget process. Recurrent funding to enhance and expand this program statewide is vital to better support young people wherever they are. Sources: Victorian Law Reform Commission, Supporting Young People in Police Interviews: Final Report 21, Melbourne, November 2010; Victorian Police Minister Peter Ryan, Vic Coalition supports Youth Referral and Independent Person Program, Media Release, Victorian Government, 30 June 2011 available at http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/media-centre/media-releases/1284-vic-coalition-supports-youth-referral-and-independent-personprogram.html


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The evidence Deterrent effect of custodial penalties The Australian Institute of Criminology has found there is no strong evidence to suggest that custodial penalties act as a specific deterrent for juvenile offending but that imprisonment has a significant negative impact on employment outcomes for young people, in particular Aboriginal young people. Given employment can be a protective factor against anti-social behaviours, it is important that responses to offending enhance rather than limit employment opportunities for young people. Source: D Weatherburn, S Vignaendra and A McGrath, The specific deterrent effect of custodial penalties on juvenile reoffending, AIC Reports Technical and Background Paper 33, Australian Institute of Criminology, 2009, p.10

Costs of keeping young people in youth justice The Victorian Government estimates that it currently costs approximately $528 a day to keep a young person in a youth justice facility compared to $52 a day for community based supervision. The cost of custodial supervision would be better spent on prevention and early intervention programs and services, including universal services such as education and health services, and specialist therapeutic services. Source: Victorian Minister for Community Services, Strengthening youth justice and helping young people avoid a life of crime, Media Release, Victorian Government, 3 May 2011, available at http://www.premier.vic. gov.au/media-centre/media-releases/750-strengthening-youth-justiceand-helping-young-people-avoid-a-life-of-crime.htm


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The evidence How crime prevention pays off Internationally, there is increasing recognition that there needs to be a move away from the most punitive responses. For example, modelling in the United Kingdom and the United States indicates that investment in crime prevention is the most effective way to address criminal behaviour, particularly resources that focus on child protection, early childhood and education. How reliance on custody creates a vicious circle of more expenditure and poorer outcomes

How a shift from spending on custody to spending on preventative work creates a virtuous circle

Sources: Figures from New Economics Foundation, Punishing costs: How locking up children is making Britain less safe, London, February 2010. Also reference S Aos, M Millerand and E Drake, Evidence-based public policy options to reduce future prison construction, criminal justice costs and crime rates, Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 2006

Recommendations That the Victorian Government:

1. 2. 3.

expands the Youth Referral and Independent Person Program (YRIPP) statewide, expands the Intensive Bail Support Program Pilot to ensure it is available to more young people particularly in rural and regional Victoria, and targets a program for young Aboriginal women to develop life skills to improve overall health and job prospects, and reduce the likelihood of re-offending â&#x20AC;&#x201C; similar to the successful Wulgunggo Ngalu Learning Place for young Aboriginal men.


Stronger people, stronger state: VCOSS State Budget Submission 2012-13  

VCOSS State Budget Submission 2012-13

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