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Government intervention can help vulnerable children


23 May 2022 at 5:51 pm
Deb Tsorbaris
Earlier and structured intervention by government to help protect vulnerable young people would be a welcome preventative measure, writes CFECFW’s Deb Tsorbaris.


Deb Tsorbaris | 23 May 2022 at 5:51 pm


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Government intervention can help vulnerable children
23 May 2022 at 5:51 pm

Earlier and structured intervention by government to help protect vulnerable young people would be a welcome preventative measure, writes CFECFW’s Deb Tsorbaris.

Despite the constraints of a COVID-recovery budget, Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas’ 2022/23 Victorian state budget recently committed to continuing investment in early intervention for children and families experiencing vulnerability. He was right to do so.

The announcement specifically flagged an expansion of family services capacity for an additional 1,000 families, interventions supporting educational engagement, and preventative measures in the homelessness service system.

Early intervention has long been recognised as paramount to the child protection service system, which is increasingly overwhelmed by acute demand across Australia. By providing the earliest possible help when challenges first emerge, early intervention models prevent the escalation of problems whose difficulty and complexity only increase if they remain unaddressed. 

Early intervention is an investment that pays for itself many times over. A recent study, conducted by Social Ventures Australia and commissioned by Berry Street and the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, found that investing approximately $193 million every year over 10 years, would keep 1,460 children from entering alternative care over the same period, delivering cumulative net savings of $1.99 billion to the child protection and care system alone.

Early intervention isn’t just one model, but a framework applicable across the spectrum of issues faced by children and families. 

We know that strengthening parental capacity is critical in achieving optimal outcomes for children. This includes holistically supporting families experiencing adversity both pre-and post-birth to care for their children, with a special focus on those experiencing disadvantage. We also know that ensuring children in care have access to good quality early learning and education shields them from other risk factors associated with the care experience by levelling the playing field.

Elsewhere, addressing youth homelessness by extending care for all children to the age of 21, while increasing affordable housing options, would prevent many young people and children from entering homelessness. This may keep them from falling into the cycle that many homeless youths find themselves unable to escape.

When applied to healthcare, early intervention models that identify and address health issues early on are highly effective in improving wellbeing and future outcomes. Children living in the care system are known to have higher rates of physical, mental and developmental health needs than the general population, highlighting the critical importance of intervening early to halt physical and mental deterioration among children already experiencing adversity.

The push for the mainstreaming of early intervention models doesn’t just call for more investment, but policy reform too, which could create deep and sustained change. For example, raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14 years of age, would reduce the number of children with criminal convictions and an experience of detention, both of which severely restrict a child’s opportunities in later life, and often perpetuate lifetimes of crime

Victorian child and family services organisations have done a fantastic job in trailblazing evidence-based models and practice in the child and family services sector, creating a palpable impact on the lives of children, young people and families. It is heartening to see other states following our lead.

The economic backdrop of this year’s state budget is precarious. The rise in the cost of living has not been met with an equal rise in real wages for most people, and the nationwide crisis of unaffordable rents poses a genuine threat to “middle Australians” unused to hardship. These signals are a stark warning of the potentially bumpy road ahead of us, as we duck and weave through economic recovery, and a new era of geopolitical and fiscal pressures.

It is in the context of tightened purse strings that we need to renew, and redouble, our focus on protecting children, young people and families. Many early intervention models are simple, impactful and comparatively cost-effective. While governments around the country scramble to manage economic pressures, early intervention protects children from the bottom up, creating long-lasting and positive change – and that’s exactly what we need.


Deb Tsorbaris  |  @ProBonoNews

Deb Tsorbaris is the CEO of the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, the peak body for child and family services in Victoria.

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