Extra boost for vulnerable children

GIPPSLAND’S most vulnerable children will have access to higher quality services as the State Government boosts funding to Victoria’s out-of-home care system.

The $19 million investment comes after a 2014 Auditor General report, described Victoria’s residential care system as a ‘single parent model’.

Families and Children Minister Jenny Mikakos said $16 million would go towards improving residential care standards, by placing extra staff and security to provide 24/7 protection.

“Together with Victoria’s community services organisations, we are making changes to create a safer environment for our children,” Ms Mikakos said.

A further $1.5 million will go towards conducting spot audits on non-government residential care facilities, such as Gippsland’s Berry Street, E.W Tipping Foundation and Wesley Mission centres.

The government will also invest an extra $1.5 million towards a foster care recruitment campaign, which Anglicare Gippsland regional director Jane Anderson has welcomed.

Anglicare has four centres in Morwell alone, whose Gippsland-wide services include family support, community legal services, financial programs, along with foster and permanent care.

Ms Anderson said there were about 230 children across Gippsland in foster care on any one night, with Anglicare responsible for placing about 55 of those children in foster carer households.

“For us, we need more carers to respond to the kids who need a caring environment,” Ms Anderson said.

“That funding will mean there can be more targeted promotion to identify potential carers in the community.”

She said children might find themselves in residential or foster care for a number of reasons.

These include family violence within the home, drug or alcohol addictions as well as parents who are unwell, have serious injuries or who may have died.

Ms Anderson said although the number of foster carer households in Gippsland was not declining, children across the state in need of care outnumbered available foster care homes.

“Sometimes these kids have had a traumatic life to date, so we provide training and support to help people understand and respond to the different behaviours these kids might have,” Ms Anderson said.

“I believe there are more people in the community who have the skills and desires to be carers, but we need to figure out how to reach them.”

The government will also establish a Ministerial Advisory Committee to overlook the challenges Victoria’s out-of-home care system faces.

Ms Mikakos will chair the committee, which will meet for the first time this month.