The Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA) has welcomed the NSW Government’s additional Budget spend of $560 million over four years on initiatives aimed at keeping families together and stemming the growing tide of children and young people entering the state’s out-of-home care system.
The 2016-17 Budget allocates new funding of $190 million over four years to implement reforms that include the use of intensive intervention programs aimed at preserving and restoring at-risk families; and a further $370 million over the same period to meet the increased demand for out-of-home care services.
With the number of children and young people in care forecast to reach 22,400 during 2016-17 (including those on guardianship orders), ACWA CEO Andrew McCallum said investing heavily in services that increase families’ chances to stay together is key to reversing this devastating trend, particularly for Aboriginal children who are over-represented in the system.
“A longtime gap has existed in this critical area of the system and it is extremely encouraging to see the government respond in this positive way,” Mr McCallum said.
“Continuing to feed the unsustainable parts of the system is not an option. It is time to change and hopefully this substantial investment will provide the impetus to do so.”
Mr McCallum said he is also heartened to see $40 million in new funding over four years channeled into strategies that will help young people leaving the care system access secure housing, education and jobs support.
“Many of these young care leavers have no home or family to go to and the road ahead can be a hard and lonely one,” Mr McCallum said.
“ACWA is extremely pleased that the NSW Government recognises that significant investment in this often overlooked area of policy is crucial to helping steer this vulnerable population away from the well worn path of poverty and homelessness.”
Other welcome areas of expenditure include $300 million over four years for victims of domestic violence, a record spend of $1.8 billion on mental health services, and $2.8 million to support the Advocate for Children and Young People to improve the safety, welfare and wellbeing of all children and young people in NSW.
The Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies is the New South Wales peak body representing non-government organisations which provide services to vulnerable children, young people and their families.