The ACT Budget 2019-2020: What's in it for young people?
“…the 2019 Budget makes a strong investment in early intervention to improve social connectedness, strengthen families and help end the stubborn disadvantage that continues through generations.”
ACT Government. (2019). Budget 2019-20 Social Inclusion Statement
ACT Budget highlights for young people
The ACT Budget includes a limited number of youth-focused initiatives, including funding towards increasing young people’s access to health and mental health services, particularly within schools; and investing in education and school infrastructure. Young people are also part of families, and the Budget delivers significant funding boosts towards child protection, justice reinvestment and supporting safer families.
A full summary of new Budget announcements that affect young people is included at the end of this briefing. Key highlights include:
- Health: Expanding the School Youth Health Nurse program across all ACT public secondary schools; and providing the Meningococcal ACWY School Vaccination program to all Year 10 students and to young people aged 15-19 through General Practitioners
- Education: An additional four full-time psychologists across ACT schools; reforms to implement the Future of Education ten-year strategy; and expansion to school infrastructure
- Child Protection: Establishing a Therapeutic Care Court within the ACT Children’s Court; increased funding to support sustainable out-of-home care placements; and funding to implement the recommendations from the Our Booris, Our Way review.
- Mental Health: Establishing an Eating Disorders Specialist Clinical Hub and a community-based intervention support service
- Supporting families: Improving frontline services through the Safer Families Levy; and investing in justice reinvestment initiatives to ‘build communities not prisons’
- Employment and Training: Establishing initiatives to support industry projects that increase apprenticeship commencements in the ACT, and which match training workers to suitable employment placements.
In our 2018 submission to the ACT Budget, we asked the ACT Government to provide funding to:
- Prevent child homelessness, for children and young people aged 8-15;
- Value, listen and respond to young people in out-of-home care (OOHC). This included resourcing mechanisms for young people in OOHC to inform responsive policy, service and system design, and increasing CREATE’s core funding by $30,000;
- Develop an evaluation framework for Phase 1 of the Future of Education strategy, including funding to investigate ways to strengthen partnerships between schools and community services.
We also supported the call by ACTCOSS for further investment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations to meet increasing demand for support, and to recognise the wide scope of services and advocacy these organisations provide.
Through our broader advocacy work, we have highlighted the need for justice reinvestment to include initiatives for children and young people, for improved communication between Child and Youth Protection Services and community organisations, and partnerships between schools and community services. We have commenced work with three secondary schools and community organisations to progress a model of early identification and coordinated support within local communities.
For close to 20 years, the ACT child, youth and homelessness sectors have called for action to address the gap in accommodation and support services for children under the age of 16. In 2018, the Youth Coalition and other ACT peak bodies presented the ACT Government with a clear solution based on recent research and evidence from across Australia.
Although the 2019-2020 Budget has not allocated funding towards preventing child homelessness in the ACT, a promising dialogue has been established with the ACT Government that we hope will soon lead to strategies to begin addressing this problem. The Minister for Children, Youth and Families also identified that policy work on a new model for children and young people who were too young to access homelessness services would be developed.
The prevention of child homelessness will continue to be a core objective of the Youth Coalition in our ongoing advocacy work, until services are established and supported to meet this critical gap.
A significant investment has been provided to child protection and OOHC, including funding to:
- Implement recommendations from the Our Booris, Our Way Review to address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in OOHC ($1.7 million over 4 years);
- Support sustainable OOHC placements through funding for OOHC services; and additional resources for the development of the next phase of reforms underpinning A Step Up for Our Kids beyond 2020 ($39.7 million over 4 years);
- Establish a Therapeutic Care Court within the ACT Children’s Court for care and protection matters, and funding for Legal Aid to provide a duty solicitor service in the Children’s Court to support parents and grandparents involved in care and protection proceedings ($1.8 million over 4 years).
While more detail is required regarding the funding for sustainable OOHC placements, we welcome these investments across the child protection system, which recognise the need for both systemic change and increased capacity to respond to need. We understand that the Therapeutic Care Court will provide court-led processes for parents whose children have been removed or are at risk of being removed; with the aim of diverting families into a non-adversarial process that seeks to achieve reunification and address family functioning. This is a promising initiative, and it is important that evaluation activities are embedded into the initial implementation phase to measure outcomes.
It is disappointing that this Budget did not deliver the $30,000 requested to increase the core staffing capacity of CREATE, which would allow this service to increase its staffing capacity to 2 full-time equivalent staff members. CREATE provides opportunities for young people with a care experience to access support, build social networks and develop skills; and to engage with child protection services to share their experiences. This work provides a valuable opportunity for young people to build trusting relationships with CREATE staff and other young people, to share their care experiences and receive support, outside of the direct OOHC service system. Between 2016 and 2018, the number of children and young people in Canberra supported by CREATE increased by 55%. In light of the significant investment towards child protection within this Budget, and the commitment by the ACT Government to continue hearing the voices of young people in OOHC, this small investment would significantly increase the capacity of CREATE to support young people to engage with the child protection system.
In our October 2018 submission to the ACT Budget, we also called for funding to implement the outcomes of the ACT Youth Roundtable for young people in care, held in November 2018 by the Community Services Directorate with support from CREATE, the Youth Coalition and the Australian Catholic University. The roundtable aimed to hear directly from young people about their experiences of case planning and how they wanted to be involved in decision-making. The full report is available at: https://www.communityservices.act.gov.au/ocyfs/families-and-carers
Following on from the Roundtable, OOHC non-government organisations and the Community Services Directorate committed to continuing to work towards improving youth participation across the OOHC space, aiming to ensure that participation is meaningful, builds on existing youth participation mechanisms, and embeds participation into policy and practice processes. We will continue to support this work.
Supporting families and protecting children and young people is a whole-of-community issue and a shared responsibility. Improved communication between Child and Youth Protection Services and community-based services may provide an opportunity to build collaboration across the sector.
The ACT Budget includes a $2.2 million investment over 4 years to establish an Eating Disorders Specialist Clinical Hub and a community-based intervention support service to expand the range of eating disorder services available in the ACT, which is a welcome investment.
The Education Directorate will also fund four full-time school psychologists, in addition to the 15 school psychologists funded in the 2018-19 Budget. We will be seeking further information about how these additional psychologists will be allocated across the school system, and which student cohorts they will provide support to. While we welcome initiatives that support youth mental health and wellbeing, barriers exist to accessing school-based psychology services, including stigma and ongoing resource and systemic constraints. It would be valuable for the Education Directorate to allocate resources to hear directly from young people about their perceptions of and experiences accessing school-based psychological supports, to identify systemic barriers and constraints, and put forward recommendations.
We note that the Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing is about to commence a Child and Young People Review, to develop recommendations later this year to guide future planning and investment in children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. This review is an important opportunity to influence child and youth mental health support over coming years. It is essential that the review examines the existing constraints across the system and meets the needs of the community. The review should not only rely on existing data, but identify the gaps in data relating to children and young people’s experiences of mental health programs and the system. It should also seek to identify and develop mechanisms for ongoing data collection, monitoring and evaluation to ensure improved outcomes for children and young people.
In addition to significant investment in school infrastructure, the ACT Budget delivers $4 million in funding over the next four years to progress the implementation of the Future of Education ten-year strategy. However, dedicated funding has not been included for evaluation activities across the initial years of the Strategy, particularly in relation to the Continuum of Education Support (CES) Framework, and strengthening partnerships between schools and community organisations.
The CES Framework, which included the introduction of off-site education, altered the scope of support for young people at risk of disengaging from school. As these changes move further into implementation, it is important to monitor the implications and outcomes of these changes for young people, for schools, and for other community-based education support services.
The Future of Education has a strong focus on early intervention and prevention for children and young people, recognising the opportunity for schools to act as ‘community hubs’. Schools are uniquely situated to be pathways for students and families to access supports within their local communities. Developing and evaluating stronger partnerships between schools and community services will support schools to more effectively respond to the diverse needs of students and families, aligning with the Future of Education commitment to strong communities for learning.
The Youth Coalition will continue to advocate for key initiatives within the Future of Education strategy to include evaluation components which hear directly from young people and families about their experiences of these changes.
The Education Directorate has also provided funding for additional school psychologists – refer to ‘Mental Health’ for more information
The ACT Budget delivers significant funding to justice reinvestment initiatives, which the Youth Coalition welcomes and supports. These initiatives will affect the lives of children, young people and families. However, under the broader ‘Building Communities, Not Prisons’ efforts that aim to reduce recidivism by 25% by 2025, there is no dedicated investment directed to prevent children and young people from becoming involved in the youth justice system. Taking a successful long term approach to justice reinvestment necessitates the provision of support to children and young people to divert them away from the justice system.
The 2018-19 Budget included an investment of $150,000 for the ACT Government to work with Gugan Gulwan Youth Aboriginal Corporation (GGYAC) to identify suitable accommodation options. We note that funding to develop new infrastructure has not been included in the 2019-20 Budget. While we understand that scoping work is continuing, it is essential that the ACT Government works closely with GGYAC to progress this work, and allocates funding for building construction or renovation in the next Budget.
Where to from here?
This Budget Briefing will be provided to the ACT Legislative Assembly and ACT Government Directorates to inform the Budget Estimates process over coming weeks, and will also inform our ongoing advocacy work.
We will continue to work closely with the community sector and the ACT Government to progress the core priorities outlined in this briefing. This will include the development of key priorities for our upcoming submission to the 2020-21 ACT Budget between July and October.
For a summary of the ACT Budget Announcements affecting young people please download our full budget briefing below
For a comprehensive overview and analysis of spending across the broader ACT community, please refer to the ACTCOSS Budget Response.
Download a copy of the 2019-2020 Budget Briefing
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