Many Victorian communities experience significant and persistent disadvantage that manifests in high rates of disengagement from school, joblessness, homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, family violence, child maltreatment, offending, mental illness, and pain and trauma.
These are complex challenges and, not surprisingly, evidence shows that simplistic, siloed solutions do not work to turn around entrenched disadvantage and create safe, resilient communities. The Victorian Government is to be commended for its public commitments to reform in critical areas of social policy. However, there are still significant gaps and inconsistencies in approach.
Jesuit Social Services therefore welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the development of the Victorian Government’s 2020-21 State Budget, and offers a suite of constructive solutions so that everyone in the community has the best chance to thrive.
Our specific budgetary requests are organised into three key inter-connected policy and program themes: Strengthening communities to stop problems before they start; supporting those with multiple or complex needs; and helping people get back on track.
Among 27 recommendations, we call for the Victorian Government to:
- Prioritise increased investment in new public and community housing stock and access to supported housing.
- Fund the extension of a Before it Starts pilot across five primary schools throughout Victoria as an early intervention strategy to respond to boys aged 8 to 12 years from diverse communities to strengthen relationship skills and school engagement and curb violent behaviour.
- Provide ongoing funding over the long-term for employment services initiatives, including JVEN, that are particularly targeted to Victorians who experience significant barriers to employment.
- Implement all the recommendations made in the Victorian Ombudsman’s 2019 report on practices related to solitary confinement of children and young people.
- Raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 years to at least 14 years and fund programs that take a restorative and therapeutic approach to anti-social behaviour in children under the age of 14.
- Set public targets to reduce youth offending, recidivism, incarceration, and the number of young people on remand, and corresponding targets specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people.
- Prioritise investment in restorative approaches to prevent and address violence in young boys and men, including extending funding for Jesuit Social Services’ RESTORE pilot.
- Invest in more intensive transition support services for highly vulnerable people leaving prison, including by expanding the Judy Lazarus Transition Centre and creating an equivalent transitional support facility for women prisoners, especially those with complex and multiple needs.