Children, young people and families are safe, strong and supported

All children and young people have a right to grow up safe and supported, whether their families are biological or chosen.
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We can achieve our outcome goal by:

  • working every day to keep children and young people safe
  • intervening earlier to help keep families together, when it is safe to do so
  • leading Victoria’s commitment to end family violence and all forms of violence towards women, children, young people and older people.

All children and young people have a right to grow up safe and supported, whether their families are biological or chosen. But some families experience more challenges than others and need extra support.

We understand that family violence is a significant factor in the lives of many people who need our services. In turn, family violence can contribute to a range of other issues such as:

  • homelessness
  • children and young people being unsafe at home
  • trauma
  • physical and emotional injuries
  • premature death.

We must link supports and services together at the same time as addressing the causes of family violence, sexual assault, trauma and poverty faced by some children, young people, women, people with disability and older people.

To achieve these goals, the department aims to:

  • prevent gendered violence
  • get support earlier to families that might be struggling
  • deliver more easily accessible and multidisciplinary services
  • work harder to keep families together when it is safe to do so
  • build up family violence services to better support and respond earlier to the complex needs of adult and child victim survivors
  • put children into care services only as the last resort to keep them safe
  • break the cycle by supporting young people in care services better and helping them move to independent living as an adult
  • prioritise safe, affordable housing for people experiencing family violence
  • hold perpetrators to account and support them to take responsibility for ending their violent behaviours.

Safe and supported children and young people

We will continue to work with children, young people and families, communities and services through the Roadmap for Reform: pathways to support for children and families priority setting plan 2021–2024.

As part of a $1.2 billion investment in children, young people and families through the 2021–22 Victorian State Budget, the child and family service system will provide early support. The system will offer more tailored, targeted and therapeutic care options.37

A $70 million investment in early intervention programs and targeted specialist support for 500 extra families will see a dedicated focus on early intervention. This will promote strength and stability for at‑risk families.38

We will embed family services specialists into schools and early years services. These staff will support struggling families as early as possible.

We will continue to deliver new evidence‑based family services to families where children and young people are at risk of entry to care services. We will prioritise reunifying children and young people with their families. This includes setting up stronger partnerships between Child Protection and service providers.

A $20 million investment in family group conferencing will better protect children and young people involved with Child Protection. It will bring family members together to activate support for a child or young person to stay at home safely.39

Putting Families First involves an $18 million trial of multidisciplinary case management teams. The program will work directly with 200 families facing the most complex challenges to give practical, personalised and targeted support.40

Funding of $31.5 million will help change the way we deliver services to at‑risk Aboriginal families. This funding will support our commitment to Aboriginal self-determination by helping more Aboriginal children and young people receive case management and support from Aboriginal organisations. We will also strengthen support provided to kinship, foster and permanent carers through the $101.8 million Reforming Care Services package.41

Child Protection has an important role in keeping children and young people safe and protecting them from abuse and neglect. Child Protection will investigate situations when there are significant concerns for the safety and wellbeing of a child or young person. This is in addition to receiving reports, providing advice and referring families to services.

Child Protection will work with families so children and young people can stay safely at home. We will arrange alternative care if staying at home is not possible. Our Secretary has parental responsibility for 12,727 children in our child protection system.42

To support service delivery, we will recruit 280 new frontline child protection practitioners. This includes 34 child protection navigators who will connect struggling families to intensive family support.43

We are reforming residential care services to deliver a new model of therapeutic care for children and young people who cannot stay at home. We will set up 25 new two- and three-bed residential care facilities for better placement matching. We will also improve the quality and safety of residential care. This reform will trial a Care Hub, which delivers wraparound support for children and young people entering care for the first time. This will give kids a greater sense of security and reunite families earlier. On top of this, we are expanding the Keep Embracing Your Success (KEYS) model of residential care (including an Aboriginal-specific KEYS program). This model supports children and young people with mental health issues and complex needs to move back home or into adulthood.

A new pilot, Frontline Victoria, will also create a fast‑tracked path to support practice development, leadership and movement into roles within the children and families services system.

These programs will support young Victorians and their families and will provide more than 1,045 Victorians with a secure job.44

In an Australian first, the Victorian Government fully funded Home Stretch for all young people leaving foster, kinship and residential care. The Victorian State Budget 2020–21 provided $75 million over four years to ensure all Victorian care leavers are provided with support as they transition to adulthood. This includes $10.3 million over four years and ongoing funding for the Better Futures program, which provides young people with a range of tailored education, employment, housing, health, wellbeing and community supports to help them to prepare for life after care. In the 2021–22 Victorian State Budget, the Victorian Government invested a further $38.96 million over the four years and $13.8 million ongoing so that young people subject to permanent care orders can be supported via Better Futures from 15 years and nine months and Home Stretch from 18 years up until their 21st birthday.45 

Visit our website for more information about these initiatives.

Ending family violence and all forms of violence against women

The Victorian Government has implemented more than two-thirds of the 227 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.46 But we know there is still more to do to make Victorian communities safer for everyone.

Family violence is complex and difficult to shift. It will require a long-term focus to support families in crisis and to prevent violence from occurring.

Bushfires at the beginning of 2020 and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have put families under increased pressure and financial stress. We know that this can increase the likelihood of family violence.

Despite these challenges, it is important that we keep building up support services while also addressing the root causes of family violence.

The 2021–22 Victorian State Budget delivered $354 million over four years for critical services to victim survivors of family violence and sexual assault. These funds will ensure perpetrators are kept in view and held accountable. This includes investment in advancing gender equality and preventing family violence. The Victorian Government has now invested $3.5 billion to improve responses to family violence.47

The government released the Family Violence Reform Rolling Action Plan 2020–2023 at the end of 2020. The plan sets out the activities for the next three years to progress the reform.

Key initiatives led by Family Safety Victoria include continuing to roll out The Orange Door networks across Victoria, with another six to open in 2021. We expect statewide coverage by the end of 2022. The Orange Door network provides support for adults, young people and children experiencing family violence and families who need support with their children.

The Big Housing Build will deliver safe homes for up to 1,000 victim survivors of family violence.48 We will build more than 780 new social housing dwellings across 25 locations in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. These will give women and families more housing options.

We will build new Aboriginal family violence refuges in Warrnambool, Horsham and Shepparton. This is part of the family violence refuge redevelopment program. This program will see the communal refuge model phased out to make way for the core and cluster accommodation model, which:

  • promotes safety
  • is accessible to people with disabilities
  • provides private units
  • enables connections with the community, work and school.

The department and Family Safety Victoria will continue to roll out Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way – the Aboriginal family violence strategy. This includes delivering the $18.2 million Dhelk Dja Family Violence Fund to support more than 45 Aboriginal-led initiatives.49 This will enable Victorian Aboriginal organisations to deliver culturally appropriate support for Aboriginal victim survivors and people who use violence.

We are committed to keeping perpetrators engaged, in view and accountable by providing:

  • men’s behaviour change programs
  • perpetrator brokerage
  • culturally safe responses for Aboriginal people using violence
  • accommodation-based services that will strengthen the web of accountability and support behaviour change.

Victoria will continue rolling out the Central Information Point (CIP). The CIP brings together risk information about perpetrators of family violence held by government agencies into a single report. This will help practitioners assess and manage family violence risk and better support victim survivors. Also, we are investing $97 million to expand the Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework (MARAM), the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme and Child Information Sharing Scheme.50 These will now include more than 370,000 workers across the health and education workforces to help keep more victim survivors safe.

We have allocated $44.1 million over four years to expand responses for children and young people affected by family violence and sexual assault.51 This will see a rise in sexually abusive behaviour treatment services.

We will continue to support women’s safety as part of a refreshed Safe and Strong: a Victorian gender equality strategy. We are also providing $2.3 million to help prevent sexual violence and coercive control.

Respect Victoria will deliver a $9.7 million portfolio of campaigns for all Victorians including:

  • CALD Victorians
  • people with disability
  • people who identify as LGBTIQ+
  • Aboriginal Victorians.

We will also develop a whole-of-government policy framework for women’s safety in public spaces, with a particular focus on public transport.

Visit Family Safety Victoria’s website for more information about these initiatives, including Family Safety Victoria’s corporate plan.

Ending elder abuse

Elder abuse is a form of family violence recognised by the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Although awareness of elder abuse is increasing, it is still a serious public health and human rights issue that is highly under-reported. Elder abuse is usually perpetrated by an adult child towards a parent but can include intimate partner violence and intergenerational family violence.

The Orange Door networks are working in with:

  • a statewide elder abuse helpline
  • targeted support to raise awareness in our multicultural communities
  • elder abuse prevention training for professionals
  • an elder abuse family counselling and mediation service.

The 2021–22 Victorian State Budget gives funding to continue trialling an integrated model of care for suspected elder abuse and the Elder Abuse Prevention Networks. The budget commitment includes evaluating these initiatives.52

We are working with partners to:

  • build our evidence base for improving and strengthening the system
  • design and deliver elder abuse prevention and response activities that reflect best practice and the voice and preferences of older people.

These partners include:

  • the Ambassador for Elder Abuse Prevention
  • other government departments
  • peak bodies
  • service providers.

We also advocate and work with the Commonwealth on opportunities to address elder abuse on a national scale.

Refer to the Family violence reform rolling action plan 2020–2023 for more information about these initiatives.

Delivering quality housing services

Public housing is an important option for people who need an affordable place to live. In response, the department applies the social landlord approach to our tenancy management. This approach favours low-income earners with a recent experience of homelessness or family violence or who have other special needs.

In addition to our public housing role, the department manages the Victorian Housing Register as a single pathway into social housing. We also operate RentAssist bond loans for those entering the private market who are on low incomes.

To better meet the needs of those seeking the department’s assistance, in 2020–21 we initiated a refresh of the Housing Operating Model. This model forms the basis on which we deliver services. This work will continue to roll out in 2021–22.

There are two aims of this work. This first focus is on improving the client experience, ensuring people receive a consistent level of service wherever they live in the state. The second aim is to best support our housing staff in their work.

For clients, one of the key initiatives is access to digital platforms so they can view and update the details of the services we provide to them. For example, clients can now:

  • get their mail online
  • view their information 24/7
  • update their phone numbers and other contacts details online
  • pay online rather than having to go to the post office each fortnight, if they are able to use direct debit services.

For staff, updating the Housing Operating Model is about ensuring they:

  • are well supported in their skill development and wellbeing
  • have access to modern technology when they are undertaking activities such as home visits
  • are valued and supported in their roles, recognising the important work they do.

References

37 Source: Victorian Budget Paper 3, 2021–22, p. 4.

38 Source: Victorian Budget Paper 3, 2021–22, p. 46

39 Source: Premier’s Media Release, ‘Transforming the System for Our Most Vulnerable Kids’, 20 May 2021

40 Source: Premier’s Media Release, ‘Transforming the System for Our Most Vulnerable Kids’, 20 May 2021

41 Source: Premier’s Media Release, ‘Transforming the System for Our Most Vulnerable Kids’, 20 May 2021

42 Source: Internal data from Client Relationship Information System (CRIS), July 2021.

43 Source: Premier’s Media Release, ‘Transforming the System for Our Most Vulnerable Kids’, 20 May 2021

44 Source: Premier’s Media Release, ‘Transforming the System for Our Most Vulnerable Kids’, 20 May 2021

45 Source: Victorian Budget Paper 3 2021–22, p.49

46 Source: Premier’s Media Release, ‘Keeping our promise with five more Orange Doors to open’, 27 August 2020

47 Source: Premier’s Media Release, ‘Putting the Safety of Victorian Women and Children First’, 20 May 2021

48 Source: Housing, family violence reform rolling action plan 2020–2023, 19 April 2021

49 Source: Premier’s Media Release, ‘New Fund to Support Aboriginal Family Violence Sector’, 23 September 2020

50 Source: Victorian Budget Paper 3 2021–22, p.46

51 Source: Victorian Budget Paper 3 2021–22, p. 46

52 Source: Victorian Budget Paper 3, 2021–22, p.47