Budget praised by Anglicare and BSL despite housing shortage

The State Budget's social and education initiatives win the support of the two agencies

Two Anglican agencies have welcomed the Victorian Budget's provisions for free vocational education and training as well as support for struggling families. But they also say much more needs to be done.

By Stephen Cauchi

May 3 2018The Victorian State Budget’s social and education initiatives, which include free TAFE places, more support for struggling families, and improved out-of-home care, have been welcomed by Anglicare and the Brotherhood of St Laurence.

However the Brotherhood said that the lack of affordable housing, as well as the soaring cost of electricity, remained ongoing problems.

Anglicare chief executive Paul McDonald approved the commitment of $858.6 million for the Government’s Roadmap to Reform agenda, which would make a “real difference” for vulnerable children and families.

“It signals a welcome commitment to do better for the most vulnerable kids, stem the escalating demand for out-of-home care, and stop families churning through the system,” he said.

Mr McDonald also praised the continued funding of programs that allowed young people to live in home-based care, including the Australia-first trial of the Treatment Foster Care Oregon program and the funding of 162 Targeted Care packages.

Another strong budget initiative was $100 million in funding for family services and early intervention programs such as the Cradle to Kinder program, he said. Ongoing support for Aboriginal families, through initiatives such as Australia’s first Aboriginal Children in Care program, was also welcomed.

Mr McDonald praised the Budget’s $705 million boost to address mental illness and addiction, and the continuing commitment to eradicating family violence.

Initiatives which supported young people to stay in school – such as the state-wide expansion of the Navigator program and opportunities for young people to attend TAFE and complete apprenticeships and traineeships – were good policy, Mr McDonald stated.

“By better supporting families, keeping kids safe and creating opportunities for all kids to succeed, this Budget is forging a positive future for the Victorian community.’’

Brotherhood of St Laurence Executive Director Conny Lenneberg praised the budget but noted that house and electricity prices remained an ongoing challenge.

“The Andrews Government’s significant commitments in vocational education and training… are warmly welcomed by the Brotherhood,” she said.

“This key package recognises that we need to invest in both the skills and aspirations of the most disadvantaged Victorians, especially young unemployed people.

“Measures including establishing 30 fee-free priority TAFE courses, in areas ranging from aged care and disability to construction trades, will create opportunities for those who are too often left behind by the modern economy.”

Ms Lenneberg said other welcome initiatives included providing a much-needed infrastructure boost - including new schools - for the burgeoning growth corridors in Melbourne’s outer suburbs.

However, Ms Lenneberg highlighted the need for more efforts around energy affordability, including the introduction of a basic service offer to ensure a fair price for power.

Ms Lenneberg also noted that Victoria still faced a massive, long-term shortage of affordable housing. “While recognising the Government’s investments - including its response to rough sleeping - we need intensive and sustained efforts backed by a substantial package for affordable housing.”

She also urged both parties to spend money on social services for youth instead of new prisons.