Auditor-General: Early Intervention Services for Vulnerable Children and Families (10.6.2014)

Written on the 29 June 2015


10 June 2015


Statements on reports and papers 

GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)


I am pleased to rise this evening to speak to the Victorian Auditor-General's report, Early Intervention Services for Vulnerable Children and Families, which was tabled last month. At the outset I would like to commend the Auditor-General, Mr John Doyle, for providing this important report and also for the briefing he and his team gave members of Parliament just a few weeks ago, highlighting some of the issues they had found. I note the opening remarks of this report, where it says:

We have an obligation as a community to protect and nurture our children by doing what we can to give them stable and safe family environments. Unfortunately, not all children have this stability and safety

That is a very important opening line because we have a responsibility as a community to protect the most vulnerable members of our community, and obviously children are some of our most vulnerable.

A number of findings and recommendations have been made in the report. I note that the Auditor-General has made some comment on the complexity and number of cases that are coming before the department and the variability of the level of coordination of services applied across the state. The report acknowledges the enormous challenges our child protection workers and the department have when managing some of these very complex cases. I put on the record my appreciation of all child protection workers and the work they do in sometimes very difficult circumstances.

When the report was tabled late last month, the Minister for Families and Children put out a media release in which she said early intervention services for vulnerable people under the Liberals failed. She went on to say:

While the previous Liberal government failed to increase funding to provide for vulnerable families and children, the Andrews Labor government delivered a significant boost in its first budget.

That is a completely inaccurate statement; I have to go as far as to say that that is a lie. I want to state what the former government actually did provide in this very important area. The facts are that in 2014 the coalition provided a total of $433 million in funding for vulnerable children and families, including $198.4 million in the 201415 budget for support services, which included a $30 million boost to combating family violence; an extra $55 million in reforms for children in out-of-home care; and an additional $150 million action package to address reducing family violence.

In 2013 the coalition provided $218 million in funding for child protection, education and early childhood development support and other services for vulnerable children and families. In 2012 the coalition provided $336 million in funding for additional front-line workers, improved intervention and diversion programs, Children's Court reforms and other services for vulnerable children and families. In 2011 our first year of government the coalition provided $98 million for front-line child protection workers and investing in early intervention and support for young people in residential care; and $17.5 million to strengthen the youth justice system, creating pathways into prevention and rehabilitation and addressing vulnerable youths and intergenerational crime.

That is over $1 billion worth of investment in the coalition's term of government, so the statement put out by the minister is completely inaccurate. It is false, and I think it is mischievous, to say the least, to put out such a misguided statement. All governments want to do as much as they can to protect Victoria's most vulnerable. Our children should be first and foremost in everything a government does in trying to address the disadvantage of so many.

I commend on the record the former minister, Mary Wooldridge, and others who worked in this portfolio area for addressing those concerns and delivering significant investment and in many instances significant reform sometimes reform which was contentious but which always had the best interests of the children themselves at heart. We can always do more and we must do more. This report goes a long way towards that in its recommendations. I look forward to the government addressing those recommendations and to working together to protect Victoria's vulnerable children.


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