Press Releases

A statement from Kinship Carers Victoria about the Victorian State budget

A statement from Anne McLeish, Director Kinship Carers Victoria

Thursday, 25 May 2023

It is no surprise to kinship carers that once again the acute needs and wounds they are afflicted with have been dressed with a few flimsy band aides. Not surprising because kinship carers are used to the neglect and abuse – but oh so distressing, and confirmation about the priorities of government and the near-contempt government demonstrates towards kinship carers.

It is not reasonable to expect kinship carers to be prepared to take their share of the pain attached to the dire financial circumstances they find themselves in. Kinship carers are amongst the poorest families in the state, so asking them to take their share of pain is out of all proportion and is inhumane.

Nearly 75% of children in out-of-home-care are being raised by kinship carers. If children must be removed from the care of their parents, placing them with other family members (kinship care) is the ideal solution for the extended family – and most definitely for the children concerned.

Kinship carers are performing miracles as they turn children away from a pathway leading to truncated life options to pathways leading to fulfilling lives where their aspirations can be met and they can become citizens of whom Victoria can be proud. Despite this level of productivity, which is far better than the outcomes of any government program we can think of, kinship carers are not compensated for the costs they incur, let alone being rewarded for achieving every performance measure that could be dreamt up and placed against them

There are a few strategies affecting kinship carers worth mentioning. Each of them conjures a picture, not of treasury officials worrying and searching for ways to support kinship carers, but of dffh searching through every cupboard and draw to find every bit of loose change they can scrape together to give kinship carers some cursory emergency first aide. It’s something at least, but not nearly enough!

So, what do kinship carers actually gain out of the budget?

  • A one-off $650 payment for statutory kinship carers (this money will put food on the table for a few weeks – no more than that).
  • Some kinship carers will benefit from the ongoing implementation of the targeted care packages to help children and young people to live in suitable care arrangements rather than residential care.
  • New kinship carers will benefit from a statewide program allowing young people to access health assessments as they enter statutory care within the child protection system.

These programs are welcome but do not enable kinship families in general to lift themselves out of poverty. If these programs were accompanied by an increase in their general entitlements, there would be some hope for them. Where is the increase to the basic financial support for kinship carers that has been requested year in and year out?

Given that the other political parties in Victoria have not demonstrated any deeper compassion for kinship carers, we are left to wonder where to from here? Beyond the daily torment of making ends meet, should kinship carers start to demonstrate to the world the ways in which Victoria breaches children’s rights as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – of which Australia is a signatory?

Anne L McLeish OAM

Director

Further comment 

0499 969 234

To download a PDF copy of this press release, please click here.

Raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12

A statement from Anne McLeish, Director Kinship Carers Victoria

27 April 2023

GPV/KCV welcomes the decision made by the Victorian Cabinet on Monday to lift the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12. As GPV/KCV has campaigned for this issue for some time, we are disappointed with the mystifying decision to wait another few years before lifting the age limit to 14.

However, equally mystifying and disappointing are the views being expressed suggesting that lifting the age of criminal responsibility will mean children are not held accountable. These views come from a narrow band of thinking about the most effective ways to hold children responsible for their actions. As a society we need to do so without creating a lifelong tag for children as criminals that may prevent them from becoming the citizens in adulthood we all would want.

It can only be hoped that in the interim the courts continue to do what they can to make use of the doli incapax provisions in law which describe the inability of children under the minimum age of criminal responsibility to form criminal intent. If a child is aged over 10 years but under 14, there is a common law presumption of doli incapax.

Anne McLeish OAM, Director GPV/KCV

To download a PDF copy of this press release, click here.

It’s that time of year again – Budget time!

A statement from Anne McLeish, Director Kinship Carers Victoria

19 April 2023

As we approach each and every budget, vulnerable families, particularly kinship families, hope against all hope that this will be the budget that brings them some relief. They have always been disappointed.

Kinship families provide well over 70% of the care for children who are removed from their parents.  The outcomes for children raised by their near kin, most often their grandparents, are astounding.  So many of them carry emotional burdens as well as mental or physical disabilities, and yet these children are raised to have high expectations and to get on with life. 

Kinship families provide well over 70% of the care for children who are removed from their parents.  The outcomes for children raised by their near kin, most often their grandparents, are astounding.  So many of them carry emotional burdens as well as mental or physical disabilities, and yet these children are raised to have high expectations and to get on with life. 

Kinship families not only work miracles for individual children. Kinship carers keep children out of institutions and raise them in ways that help them become productive citizens, of whom Victoria can be proud. Thus, kinship carers make an invaluable contribution to the health and wellbeing of our state as well as to the health and wellbeing of their own families.

Despite the outcomes of their tireless work, kinship carers have been constantly ignored in state budgets. Submissions from the community and from government departments calling for urgent increases to the payments awarded to kinship carers have been met with stony silence. 

The disdain for calls to increase funds available to cover the costs of raising children with multiple health needs has been particularly cruel.  Let us hope that in the next budget, despite the likelihood of it being a tough one, there is some relief for kinship care families. 

Also, of critical importance is the need for a well-resourced and trained child protection service, one that works in partnership with the kinship carers to ensure that our children are all safe and supported. Cuts to child protection services in recent years have caused kinship carers to feel abandoned by government, the community and, indeed, every voter who, in effect, allows government to render child protection of little importance. The incidence of carers not being able to reach anyone, even when an urgent medical matter arises, is rapidly increasing. It is not possible to reach someone when there is no one there! 

All evidence, including successive years of neglect as well as recent utterances about the severity of this forthcoming budget, points to the likelihood that kinship families and child protection in general will pay an inordinate price. Are we going to be forced to hold street stalls and sell tea towels to raise the funds to support our most vulnerable families and children?

Contact:

Kinship Carers Victoria

(03) 9372 2422

director@kinshipcarersvictoria.org

To download a PDF copy of this press release, click here.

KCV statement in response to VAGO report on kinship care

23 June 2022

Kinship Carers Victoria (KCV) is the agency that represents kinship carers in the public discourse and in deliberations with government, DFFH and a wide range of other decision-makers who have the potential to implement change. In order to validate its utterances, KCV works close beside kinship care families, with the core of its work being the 1000 conversations had with individual kinship families every year. It is on the strength of this precious knowledge that we enter the public discourse arising from the Victorian Auditor-General Office’s (VAGO) report (published 22 June 2022).
Before commenting on the VAGO findings it must be said that our close contact with kinship carers has had a profound influence on the way we undertake the work of representing their best interests. Kinship carers go about their family business with dignity, at all times trying to save their extended family and friends as well as their immediate family from being labelled as “those poor people” and being used by some to score points in the political arena. Hence, we hope that the debate arising from the VAGO report does not become an opportunity for point scoring.
Rather, KCV calls for a bi-partisan discussion about what we all need to do to improve matters. We need not confine ourselves to thinking within the framework of the VAGO report alone. Perhaps a parliamentary procedure would give all politicians the opportunity to place their policy cards on the table, so to speak. Evidence of a bi- partisan approach to the urgent issues confronting kinship families would be welcome, and the first politician to demonstrate such leadership will be applauded.
If all the VAGO report achieves is a mudslinging match it will be too much to bear, particularly given that over the years KCV and individual kinship carers have made representations to politicians and the media with barely a response to be had.
We have an election looming and look forward to evidence of well thought-out policy related to less urgent matters beyond those addressed in the VAGO report being tabled as part of the election campaign. Let the VAGO report be the beginning!
Whilst not wanting to dismiss any other good ideas that might be forthcoming, KCV would suggest that outsourcing any of the difficult services required to keep families safe is not a good idea. The fact that there is a VAGO report, and indeed reports coming from other statutory authorities such as the Commissioner for Children and Young People, proves the value of a strong public sector that lays itself bare to scrutiny by a network of statutory authorities empowered and enabled to hold a mirror up to us all. Strengthen the public sector, we say!
The VAGO report is hard hitting – it highlights failures related to implementation of the new model of kinship care that are acutely portrayed and profound in their detrimental effect on families and which closely match KCV’s knowledge. In fact, none of the failings highlighted by the VAGO are a surprise and many are in fact already subject of discussions across the sector, including DFFH, about how to “fix things”. The highest barrier has been, and will continue to be, a lack of funding to create the positions required to implement the VAGO recommendations.
The most urgent failing highlighted by the VAGO report is the fact that kinship carers do not receive the level of payments necessary to address the needs of the children in their care. This failing affects new carers, of course, but just contemplate the accumulated hardship endured by the many kinship carers who have been receiving inadequate payments year in year out and far beyond the life of any one government.
Over the 21 years that KCV has been witness to kinship care we have watched successive governments, not just the current one, be warned about the hardship of kinship families – they have been warned by KCV, by previous snapshots of kinship families in the media, by too many investigative reports to name, by successive Ministers, and by DFFH. Despite this, Treasury processes have not met their responsibility by releasing and tagging funds for kinship carer payments. Perhaps in the next budget things will be different. In the meantime, we wonder whether DFFH could be awarded an emergency fund to assist the most urgent cases of kinship care families struggling to pay for the needs of the children in their care. During the height of the COVID crisis the Victorian Government made an emergency payment available – it’s time to do so again, this time specifically for kinship care families as a gesture of good faith whilst we sort out a more systematic and enduring response that might be delivered in the next budget.

The second most urgent failing highlighted by VAGO report is the failure of assessment and referral procedures. There are simply not enough people employed in DFFH to do the work. We need more and much better trained case managers – urgently. The lack of staff can be attributed to government failure to provide enough funding but we, the wider community, need to take some responsibility as well by asking ourselves two key questions. Firstly, what price are we voters prepared pay for the wellbeing of Victoria’s families? Are we prepared, for example, to forgo some road infrastructure in favour of family wellbeing programs? Secondly, are we prepared to view those who work in child protection as being essential workers who are critical to the wellbeing of the Victorian community and treat them accordingly? When KCV talks with wider community groups about our work people are sympathetic but leave the talks relieved that they do not have to deal with issues related to being a vulnerable family while feeling that an occasional donation to our cause will suffice. It will not! Until the discussion of kinship care is conducted in a context where it is clear that each citizen expects a much larger investment in family matters then not much will change.
Despite the difficulties so accurately portrayed by the VAGO report, we applaud the trend to place more children in kinship care. This is good news and happens as a result of government policy and DFFH practice. At no point has any kinship care family we have ever dealt with said that they would want any child placed away from that child’s biological family. The fact that over 70% of children in out of home care are placed in kinship care needs also to be applauded and that percentage needs to be increased – we want more children placed with their family. This report must not be used as an opportunity to quietly assume that kinship care is too costly or too hard and therefore to place children in other forms of care.
KCV contemplates, if not looks forward to, the day when adults who were not placed as children with their family ask for their records to be made accessible and explanations provided about why they were not placed with family at the time. This is a potential circumstance for the whole community to face up to.
Given that the recommendations in the VAGO report have been accepted, I look forward to being part of the ongoing discussions with DFFH and the government about how they are implemented. We stand prepared to continue to work in partnership with the government, DFFH and all our other sector partners in our daily shared battles to create an environment in which Victoria’s vulnerable families can thrive and go about their business with maximum support but minimal interference from the rest of us. Achieving this balance is an ongoing work of art, not an exact science, and the VAGO report will now become central to our work.

To read/download a copy of the full VAGO report, click here

GPV/KCV welcomes the decision made by the Victorian Cabinet on Monday to lift the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12. As GPV/KCV has campaigned for this issue for some time, we are disappointed with the mystifying decision to wait another few years before lifting the age limit to 14.

However, equally mystifying and disappointing are the views being expressed suggesting that lifting the age of criminal responsibility will mean children are not held accountable. These views come from a narrow band of thinking about the most effective ways to hold children responsible for their actions. As a society we need to do so without creating a lifelong tag for children as criminals that may prevent them from becoming the citizens in adulthood we all would want.

It can only be hoped that in the interim the courts continue to do what they can to make use of the doli incapax provisions in law which describe the inability of children under the minimum age of criminal responsibility to form criminal intent. If a child is aged over 10 years but under 14, there is a common law presumption of doli incapax.

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