Michael Ferguson’s 2022/23 budget was called ‘Strengthening our Future’ but a more appropriate title would have been ‘Too Little to Make a Difference’ – and that is certainly true of its funding of Children Services.
There is an additional $5.4 million over four years to meet increased demand in the Child Safety Service System which will include additional frontline workers in both ARL and CSS. Exactly what this money will be spent on is unclear but even if it was all used to employ additional staff that would only fund about 10 fulltime roles, not enough to deal with the forecast increase in workload.
More concerning is that the budget does zero to address the critical recruitment and retention problems. New positions are great but only if they are filled and with a significant number of vacancies and high turnover, we needed to see real investment and a strategy for attracting new workers and for rewarding those already in the system, so they remain. Instead, we saw a budget built on cuts to real wages over the next four year which will make the recruitment task even harder.
Transition to independence (T2i) has been funded but only for 2 more years. The budget indicates the Department is assessing long-term funding needed to continue this program.
There is an allocation of $4.175 million next year for Intensive Family Engagement Services. There is no funding for these services beyond 2022/23 and the budget indicates the Department is assessing long-term funding needed for these services.
There is funding of around $2 million starting in 2023/24 to establish a system of accreditation to improve standards and monitoring of the out of home care service sector. This is one of the costs associated with the privatisation of out of home care services.
There is $40m over three years to fund the construction of new Youth Justice facilities to replace the Ashley Youth Detention Centre. There is also $650,000 a year for 2 years to fund the project team to implement to Youth Justice Reform Transition Plan.