Jesuit Social Services’ recently released Victorian State Election platform, A state of opportunity, builds on 45 years of advocacy and action, to outline our vision for a just society across a range of interconnected social policy areas, from a fairer justice system, to support for people experiencing multiple and complex needs such as mental illness, trauma and bereavement, and preventing violence.

In this fourth in a series of pre-Election blogs, we focus on the key and powerful roles that education, training and employment play in addressing many of the overlapping issues facing people experiencing vulnerability in our community.

The promotion of education, lifelong learning and capacity building is fundamental to the work of Jesuit Social Services. Many of our participants desperately want to work however face several difficulties, such as a lack of experience or education, mental health issues, or struggles with substance misuse. None of these factors should sentence someone to a lifetime of unemployment.

We also know that supporting people to engage in education, training and employment is a protective factor in preventing people from falling through the cracks.

That’s why Jesuit Social Services delivers a range of education, training and employment programs including through our Jesuit Community College, a Registered Training Organisation, and with specific groups including people who have contact with the justice system and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Navigator helps students maintain engagement with primary and secondary education

Jesuit Social Services delivers casework and support to disadvantaged young learners as part of the Victorian Government’s Navigator initiative.

This program was established in recognition of the fact that disengagement from education can often be the first sign that a young person has started on a trajectory into antisocial behaviour.

Navigator works intensively with students, their families and schools to help them to re-engage with education, including the development of individualised learning and cultural plans, and restorative practice including therapeutic and practical support.

The program’s success is demonstrated in the story of Steven, a young Indigenous boy who had disengaged from school before joining the program. Steven’s Navigator case worker linked him in with culturally-specific services and supported him to enrol in a flexible learning centre where his individual needs were better supported.

Two years later, Steven was attending school 80 per cent of the time, had engaged with work experience and was looking for casual employment.

Since its inception, Navigator has supported 12 to 17-year olds. We were very pleased to see funding in this year’s Victorian Budget for a pilot to extend the Navigator program to children aged 10 and 11 – something we have long advocated for.

We call on the incoming government to permanently extend access to Navigator enabling earlier intervention to support vulnerable children transitioning from primary school to high school.

JVES has supported nearly 900 people into work

The Jobs Victoria Employment Services (JVES) initiative, which Jesuit Social Services partners with the Victorian Government to deliver, has been a resounding success.

Since July 2021, we have placed nearly 900 people seeking work into a direct pathway into employment.

JVES specifically targets places and communities with high levels of unemployment, with the nature of support tailored to the needs of local jobseekers. The initiative supports a range of groups of people who face barriers to employment for a variety of reasons, including people who have had contact with the justice system, early school leavers and people who arrived in Australia as refugees.

Funding for this important initiative is due to expire in June 2023, and we call on the Victorian Government to fund it beyond this date.

Our recommendations:

  • Permanently extend access to Navigator to primary school aged children to enable the program to intervene earlier and provide critical support to children and families experiencing vulnerability
  • Help more people facing barriers to employment by continuing the Jobs Victoria Employment Services initiative and Jobs Victoria Advocates Program beyond June 2023
  • Provide additional funding for JVES CALD Professional programs and programs for CALD jobseekers looking to enter other professions such as construction labouring
  • Provide additional funding for Adult, Community and Further Education (ACFE) pre-accredited training to further reach and engage at risk people as diversion from the justice system
  • Continue investment in achieving the social procurement requirements in all government contracts