​The Napthine Government’s first State Budget has received mixed reviews from Victoria’s two leading Anglican welfare agencies.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence criticised the Budget as a missed opportunity for the State Government to put forward a coherent strategy to address the problems of persistent disadvantage in some of the most neglected parts of the community, while Anglicare Victoria welcomed money for more therapeutic foster care placements as well as recurrent funding to reduce an overreliance on costly contingency placements for vulnerable children.

A Brotherhood statement said the Budget contained “a sprinkling of social policy initiatives”, but that they amounted to a piecemeal response to some of the key challenges Victorians faced – notably the stubborn rates of youth unemployment.

“The standout social issue that has been ignored is youth unemployment,’’ Brotherhood executive director Tony Nicholson said. "It’s disappointing there is little in the Budget to target the state's youth unemployment rate which currently sits at 18 per cent for 15-to-19 years olds – among the worst in mainland Australia.

‘’Victoria’s economic prospects partly rely on performance in developing its human capital; that is the talents and capabilities of all Victorians. It’s hard to understand how a Budget that aims to improve productivity and economic growth offers no clear strategy to tackle youth unemployment – arguably our most pressing economic and social problem.

"While there is a meagre amount of new funds to support employment start-up and mentoring initiatives, the Budget does nothing to assist TAFE colleges reinstate the access and equity programs for disadvantaged young people that have been wound back over the past year.

"Our experience at the Brotherhood of St Laurence shows that TAFE colleges are the institutions best placed in the community to help disengaged learners. The $200 million allocated to the TAFE sector in this Budget will address the TAFE sector’s infrastructure and structural adjustment needs, but not its capacity to help these disadvantaged young learners.

"In fact, despite the high youth unemployment in Victoria, the Budget papers are forecasting no change in the participation rate in training and further education of 15-to-24-year-olds.

"This neglect is in marked contrast to the $131 million earmarked for an additional 357 prison beds, calling into question the government’s commitment to prevention and early intervention.”

But the Brotherhood said that despite the lack of a strategy to address key social policy challenges, individual initiatives were welcome, including: 

  • Funds to support the establishment of Disability Care (NDIS);
  • Funds to better support vulnerable children and their families;
  • Funds to extend Victoria’s partnership with the Federal Government to tackle homelessness and extend support to homeless families.

Mr Nicholson said he was also particularly pleased to see a further commitment to the State Government’s Youth Foyer program, an initiative that is leading the nation in reforming the approach taken to youth homelessness.

Anglicare Victoria’s CEO Paul McDonald said the therapeutic foster care and recurrent funding were welcome at a time when all levels of government were tightening their belts.

“We’ve seen a number of initiatives cut back or canned entirely recently, at both a state and federal level,” Mr McDonald said. “It’s therefore pleasing to see the Napthine Government forge ahead with an additional $218 million for our state’s most vulnerable children.”

The money will be used to deliver extra support to children in care who have severe emotional and behavioural issue as well as delivering more early intervention services, providing more men’s behavior change programs to reduce violence and more foster and residential care places to reduce temporary contingency placements.

“The key for us is to be able to deliver safe, stable and supportive housing for children and young people who have suffered abuse so they can heal and eventually move forward in a positive direction,” Mr McDonald said. “This funding will help achieve that.”

Anglicare also welcomed the continuation of funding for financial counselling services and funding to help families to find affordable and appropriate housing.

The Budget was delivered on 7 May, only two months after Dr Napthine succeeded Mr Ted Baillieu as Premier and Mr Michael O’Brien, who previously had been a senior adviser to former Federal Treasurer Mr Peter Costello, was named State Treasurer in succession to Mr Kim Wells.