The recession and COVID-19 have placed families under increased financial pressure and contributed to family relationship breakdown and rising domestic and family violence, placing an increasing number of children at risk of serious harm. While NSW saw a drop in the number of notifications in April 2020 (during the initial COVID-19 restrictions), the number of notifications significantly increased to levels higher than pre-COVID-19 in May or June (once restrictions had eased). The child protection and out-of-home care system continues to fail to deliver for vulnerable Aboriginal children, who now make up almost 40% of children in out-of-home-care (OOHC).
What’s in the 2022-23 Budget?
Child protection system
Investment of $3.1 billion recurrent expenses and $12 million capital expenditure including:
- $1.6 billion to support OOHC and enhance permanency outcomes.
- $815.4 million to support a robust child protection system including:
- $5.1 million ($21.5 million over four years) to continue and expand Pregnancy Family Conferencing for vulnerable women and their partners as part of the Brighter Beginnings initiative.
- $2.9 million ($12.6 million over four years) to support outcomes for Closing the Gap, including:
- $1.8 million ($8.7 million over four years) for the Strong Families Our Way initiative to strengthen sustainable, community-led structures of self-determination in the Aboriginal child and family system.
- $1.1 million ($3.9 million over four years) to enhance Aboriginal communities’ decision making over service design, delivery, and evaluation.
- $2.3 million ($4.3 million over two years) under the Digital Restart Fund for software to support frontline staff identifying early indicators of vulnerability.
- $51.2 million ($87.3 million in recurrent expenses over four years) to support the Office for Regional Youth and the Regional Youth Taskforce to deliver targeted placed-based interventions to address service gaps and improve outcomes for regional young people.
- $59 million for additional regional youth initiatives to support children and young people.
First Nations children, young people and families
- $178.8m to support young First Nations people to thrive, measures include:
- $5.8m recurrent expenditure ($34.2m over four years) and $64.5 million capital expenditure over three years to continue and expand all nine existing Aboriginal Child and Family Centres and to build an additional six sites across New South Wales. This investment is part of the Brighter Beginnings initiative.
- $7.9m ($28.2m over four years) to support outcomes under Closing the Gap, including:
- $2.6m ($10m over four years) to pilot bail advocacy and support services for Aboriginal youth and Aboriginal women in Newcastle and Sydney.
- $2.4m ($9.8m over four years) to pilot the Aboriginal Legal Service Child and Family Advocacy and Support program.
- $1.8m ($7.3m over four years) to support partnerships between Aboriginal communities and the NSW Government to improve justice outcomes, and family and community safety
- $1.1m to support a partnership between the Department of Communities and Justice and the Aboriginal Legal Service aimed at reducing Aboriginal children’s interactions with the criminal justice system.
What does it mean for those doing it tough?
The budget falls short of providing the significant investment needed to effectively address the needs of vulnerable children and families in communities throughout NSW, including addressing longstanding issues affecting Aboriginal communities.
Additionally, it does not provide any support to ease the financial pressure on young renters and reduce the number of young people experiencing rental stress.
Aboriginal communities will receive increased resources focused on preventing children and young people from entering the justice system however the funding is inadequate to address the existing deep, systemic issues across all communities in NSW.
What is needed?
NSW continues to be the only state where young people are unable to access adequate, formalised support to the age of 21 after leaving OOHC. There is also little indication in the budget that a sufficient amount of investment has been made in family preservation, early intervention and prevention services to stop children and young people entering OOHC. Investment in family preservation has been maintained as part of the Permanency Support Programs recommissioning process however it is now divided between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal sector without an increase that reflects that both sectors require increased funding for these programs.
The pandemic has caused many disruptions in young peoples’ lives and youth services provide an important role in giving opportunities for young people to develop skills to participate
in decision-making within their lives, have their voices heard, and become active citizens in their communities. The budget continues a lack of adequate investment in early intervention and youth development programs.
- COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery: Young People’s Perspectives
- A Wave of Disadvantage Across NSW: Impact of the COVID-19 recession
Read our analysis on other policy areas below: