A $77.5m support package announced by the Victorian Government today is a significant step in addressing the heightened risk to children during the Coronavirus pandemic, according to the Commission for Children and Young People.
'We know the pandemic is reducing the visibility of vulnerable children, as services are restricted and risk factors such as family violence have worsened. We should all be deeply concerned about what children are suffering in homes across Victoria right now. This package is a recognition of that risk and an important step towards addressing it,' Liana Buchanan, Victoria's Commissioner for Children and Young People, said today.
'In particular, the family services teams being funded to provide intensive, integrated support to children at risk of entering care and those already in it will offer a targeted response to help the most vulnerable families.
'These teams offer the prospect of supporting families to address harms to children, preventing children entering care in the first place. They can also support safe reunification between children in care and their families at a time COVID-19 related restrictions have created barriers to reunification.
'It is vital through this pandemic, but also beyond it, that collaboration between service providers and child protection workers – as well as communication and collaboration with children and families – is strengthened, and the collaborative model announced in this package offers a welcome opportunity for this to occur,' Commissioner Buchanan said.
Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, Justin Mohamed, said the increased financial and respite support for foster and kinship carers is a strong element of the package, together with support for further consideration of kinship care options.
'It is vital through this pandemic that Aboriginal children are supported in their kinship care arrangements, and that these be extended to all Aboriginal children in care whenever possible. The connection of Aboriginal children to family, culture and community is critical for their safety and well-being through this crisis, but also to their recovery after it.
'It is vitally important that in the best interest of our children and young people, communities and the organisations working with them are supported during these uncertain times,' he said.
With the Commission's current leaving care inquiry revealing support for care-leavers – especially housing – being a major factor in the challenges faced by young people, the extension of the Home Stretch program to continue placements for all children turning 18 up to December this year will come as a welcome relief amid the heightened uncertainties they would otherwise face, the commissioners noted.
'This is a very welcome package that should address some of the key concerns for vulnerable children and young people through this pandemic. The Commission recognises it is also essential that our monitoring of the child protection, out-of-home care and youth justice systems continues through this period – especially given the heightened risks we have clearly identified for children and young people. That monitoring will include oversight of the measures announced today as they are implemented.
'The Commission will also continue to advocate for further measures, including steps to make sure children involved with Child Protection know who to contact if they’re feeling unsafe in their placement or at home,' Commissioner Buchanan concluded.
Commissioners Buchanan and Mohamed are available for media comment.
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