COVID-19 and the economic recession are contributing to increased financial stress and family breakdown, placing an increasing number of children at risk of serious harm. This will place additional pressure on an under-resourced child protection system.
While modelling suggests that the number of children facing neglect will increase by 24.5% (27,447) by June 2021, additional investments have not been made to ensure the welfare of these children. This may see an increasing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience disadvantage due to their overrepresentation in the child protection system, accounting for 34.5% of the substantiated reports in 2018-19.
What's in the 2020-21 Budget
The measures in the NSW Budget are for ongoing funding of previous budget commitments.
- $1.4 billion in 2020-21 in ongoing funding to support the safety, welfare, and wellbeing of vulnerable children in OOHC and permanency support
- $41.4 million in 2020-21 (up to $171.9 million over 4 years) in ongoing funding to continue supporting interventions such as Multisystemic Therapy for Child Abuse and Neglect and Functional Family Therapy Child Welfare services
- $9.9 million in 2020-21 to improve Youth Justice security infrastructure
- $8.6 million in 2020-21 in ongoing funding to continue flagship programs to divert young people away from the criminal justice system including early intervention scheme ‘Youth on Track’ and diversion scheme ‘A Place to Go’.
What does it mean for those doing it tough?
This Budget maintains funding for existing programs but has failed to take the opportunity to build and expand on the successes of early intervention programs. The Budget does not provide for additional funding to address risks arising from the COVID-19 pandemic or increasing demand.
This Budget does little to support vulnerable children and their families or to invest in children in out-of-home-care. For at risk and vulnerable children and families unable to access support, this means keeping families and kinship networks together will be more difficult.
What is needed?
This Budget has failed to make substantive investments in early intervention. Investment is needed in a broad spectrum of programs that provide support for vulnerable children, young people and their families.
Supporting vulnerable children, young people and their families at multiple stages from early intervention, through to family preservation and restoration is crucial to keeping families together.
Government must recognise the importance of self-determination, and invest in and work with Aboriginal Controlled Community Organisations to review and develop tailored support that improves the wellbeing of Aboriginal children, young people, and their families. Early intervention initiatives, as with all approaches to working with Aboriginal people, must be developed in partnership with Aboriginal Controlled Community Organisations and communities.
Government should make further investments in divisionary programs and initiatives to strengthen communities and address the underlying causes of offending.
Budget responses from the sector:
- A Wave of Disadvantage Across NSW: Impact of the COVID-19 recession
- Building Great Communities campaign
- AbSec 2019 Election Platform
- Youth Action Policy Platform
- Fams Investing in Our Children report
- ACWA 2019 Election Platform