In previous budgets, the Andrews Government has repeatedly demonstrated that it is prepared to look after Victoria’s vulnerable citizens. This year is no exception, with a much-needed funding boost to the state’s struggling mental health services and a worthy focus on vocational education and training.
The Salvation Army’s submission to the state budget highlighted the need to expand community-based mental health services to fill critical gaps created by a shift of funding to the NDIS. While the new investment in this budget is mainly focussed on clinical supports, it provides a good base for future connections with community mental health and related services, such as homelessness programs.
“The expansion of funding to the MACNI program is a well targeted response to help some of our state’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged people,” said Captain Jason Davies-Kildea, manager of the Salvos’ Victorian policy unit.
Some of the most welcome news in this year’s budget includes:
- $705 million to increase mental health supports;
- $858 million to continue the Roadmap for Reform transformation agenda;
- $172 million for free TAFE and pre-apprenticeship courses;
- $44 million to expand the Navigator program across the state;
- A further $42.5 million to build on existing investments in family violence;
While the record investment in the skills and training needed for the future is most welcome, it doesn’t help those young people who can no longer live at home because of family breakdown or who are leaving the state care system.
According to Captain Davies-Kildea, “If you don’t have a safe and affordable place to live, it is pretty much impossible to engage in study. Tens of thousands of people are already on the waiting list for social housing because private rental has become unaffordable for people on low incomes.”
As the largest provider of homelessness services in Victoria, The Salvation Army sees homelessness and extreme housing stress on a daily basis. The Andrews Government has done a lot in previous budgets to address the crisis end of the homelessness system, especially through family violence reforms. However, decades of neglect by successive governments have created a massive deficit in Victoria’s social housing that now urgently requires a long-term vision to fix.
Referring to the Salvos’ budget submission, Captain Davies-Kildea says Victoria needs a 30-year plan that adds 3,000 new social housing properties every year. “This level of investment is clearly beyond any one budget or any one term of Government. It will take sustained investment over many governments. But it is the level of investment needed to ensure that all Victorians, no matter their circumstances, have a safe and affordable home.”
There is much to be applauded in this year’s budget but also much that still needs to be done. As we move closer to a Victorian election later in the year, The Salvation Army is hoping to see more of a long-term vision to put an end to the housing and homelessness crisis that our services see every day.