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 of disadvantage 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.

In 2022-23 we will continue to undertake system reform aligned to this plan that will:

  • shift the child and family system to intervene earlier to improve family functioning
  • keep children with their families and safely reunify children, with a priority focus on Aboriginal families
  • build evidence across the system to enable services to be more effective and targeted to the needs of priority groups of children and families
  • strengthen partnerships between child protection, family violence, sexual assault and child and family services to enable improved experiences and outcomes for children and families
  • advance Aboriginal self-determination and self-management, including through care and case management of Aboriginal children by ACCOs and Aboriginal-led service offerings.

Through recent State Budgets, we have seen:

  • major investment in family preservation and reunification services, and innovative care service models
  • growth in support for young people in care
  • new holistic models for engaging and supporting families across a range of settings including health, education, and justice.

The Victorian State Budget 2022/23 allocated over $270 million in funding for child protection and family services. This includes funding for additional child protection practitioners, as well as workforce attraction and retention initiatives. This funding is additional to the $1.2 billion investment in children, young people and families in the Victorian State Budget 2021/22.

Over Forty million in funding will be targeted specifically to early intervention programs, on top of last year’s investment of $70 million for early intervention programs and targeted specialist support.

Putting Families First will continue its $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 service.

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.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations will also receive $3.1 million to build evidence-based programs and a further $4.1 million will expand the number of dedicated cultural planning advisors.

The Victorian State Budget 2021/22 also allocated funding for the $101.8 million Reforming Care Services initiative. Work continues to provide new supports for children in care and also their kinship, foster and permanent carers.

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. In an average year, there can be more than 9,000 children and young people in care placements.1

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 are setting up 19 new two- and three-bed residential care facilities for better placement matching. We will also improve the quality and safety of residential care.

Nearly $13 million is being allocated in 2022-23 to continue the Care Hub trial. The Hub model is providing wrap-around support to children who have entered care for the first time. The Hub aims to provide young people in care with a greater sense of stability.2

We have expanded 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.

These programs will support young Victorians and their families and will provide more than 1,000 Victorians with a secure job.3

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 Victorian State Budget 2021/22, the Victorian Government invested a further $38.96 million over 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.4  In the Victorian State Budget 2022/23, an additional $5.8 million has been allocated for a new help-desk service to provide better support to carers.

Visit our website for more information about these initiatives.

Ending family violence and all forms of violence against women

The Victorian Government is on track to implement all 227 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence by October 2022. 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.

The long-term impacts of bushfires at the beginning of 2020 and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic put families under increased pressure and ongoing 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 Victorian State Budget 2022/23 allocated over $240 million over four years to provide critical services to victim-survivors of family violence and sexual assault,5 plus $22.9 million in new funding for initiatives to stop family violence and all forms of violence against women before it starts.6 The Victorian Government has now invested $3.7 billion to improve responses to family violence.7

Investments in 2022-23 will help us to keep perpetrators engaged, in view and accountable, by providing:

  • men’s behaviour change programs
  • funding to stabilise perpetrators of family violence
  • accommodation-based services that will strengthen the web of accountability and support behaviour change.

These initiatives include expanding the impact of 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.

We are also 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.8 These will now include more than 370,000 workers across the health and education workforces to help keep more victim survivors safe.

The department will also 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.9 This will enable Victorian Aboriginal organisations to deliver culturally appropriate support for Aboriginal victim survivors and people who use violence.

We remain committed to investing in primary prevention to stop violence before it starts, including by implementing the Free from Violence Second Action Plan 2022-25, partnering with local governments, women’s health services and engaging young people and multicultural and faith communities through grants programs.

We also prioritise collaborating across jurisdictions, including through Victoria’s contributions to the development of and reporting against the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.

Visit Family Safety Victoria’s website for more information about these initiatives, including Family Safety Victoria’s 2021-24 strategic 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 Victorian State Budget 2022/23 provided funding to continue trialling an integrated model of care for suspected elder abuse and the Elder Abuse Prevention Networks.10

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.

Noting the long-term impacts of bushfires on regional communities, we are also continuing to deliver a financial counselling program to prevent elder abuse in East Gippsland, Alpine and Towong.

We also advocate and work with the Commonwealth on opportunities to address elder abuse on a national scale, such as by delivering on our commitments in the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians 2019-23.

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. The department applies the social landlord approach to our tenancy management which prioritises 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 2022–23.

There are two aims of this work. The 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 create the best supports for 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. 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 and the important work they do is properly recognised.