Victoria’s Social Policy Package
Monday, 2nd May 2005 at 1:05 pm
The Victorian Government will spend an extra $788 million over the next four years on the poor in a bid to reclaim its “social justice” credentials with the biggest single spending initiative of $180 million for people with mental illness
The social policy package was launched recently by the Victorian Premier Steve Bracks.
Many community groups representing the aged, to children, indigenous and women – embraced the package, saying that while the reforms were overdue, there had not been such an ambitious social policy agenda in Victoria since the Cain-Kirner Government of the 1980s and early ’90s.
The Premier said under the A Fairer Victoria plan, next week’s state budget would allocate:
·$101 million for disadvantaged children, including funding to cut kindergarten fees for 17,000 low-income families, extra kindergarten places at child-care centres, and increased funding for children with disabilities.
·$45 million to help troubled teenagers.
·$35 million for new approaches to domestic violence, including funding for violent men to be sent to emergency accommodation so women and children can stay in their homes.
·$50 million to give older Victorians more opportunities to live independently, by expanding home care and providing 2000 personal alert alarms.
·$49 million to increase home ownership among the poor and increase the number of affordable houses in growing suburbs.
·$27 million to help indigenous Victorians, “the largest single investment in Aboriginal programs in Victoria’s history”, and to establish a Stolen Generations Organisation to help stolen children and their families.
·$119 million for disabled people, including more respite for their families and for equipment such as shower rails.
·$84 million for extra “neighbourhood renewal programs” in which public housing tenants are encouraged to take the lead in rejuvenating their area.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence said the policy statement was the most comprehensive and best-targeted approach to poverty and disadvantage released by any state government in decades.
Tony Nicholson, Executive Director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence says it provides a framework for radically changing the way governments tackle disadvantage on a local basis.
He says it owns up to the fact that certain Victorian communities have missed out on benefiting from the Bracks Government’s substantial investment in universal services, and that people living in those communities have missed out on their share of the buoyant economy.
Tony Nicholson said this social policy plan recognises that 5% of Victorian postcodes account for a quarter of all unemployment, child abuse and imprisonment.
He says the factors that lead to social exclusion – such as low income, ill health and unemployment – are interrelated and need the complementary skills of a number of people and agencies.
He says the BSL experience has been that all too often the public assistance that is delivered to individuals and groups in these communities is so lacking in integration and so out of touch with the realities of those communities as to be rendered largely ineffective and wasted.
He says Victoria needs to radically change the way in which governments relate to these disadvantaged communities and to the community organisations working in them. This plan provides the framework to do the job.
But the Salvation Army said the package lacked specific funding for homeless services. Salvos’ spokesman John Dalziel said the package failed to confront the “looming homeless crisis”.
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