Our Opinion

STATE BUDGET 2018-19

On Tuesday 12th June, the State Budget for 2018-19 was announced. In addition to reporting on Government investment in the child safety, youth and women portfolio, the following information highlights Government investment in other portfolios that also impact the safety and wellbeing of children and the support of their families.

In particular, PeakCare is especially pleased to note the investment of $2.5 million over four years to support the operation and administration of a Human Rights Act for Queensland. PeakCare has been a long-time supporter of the Human Rights for Queensland Campaign and welcomes this investment as an indication of the Palaszczuk Government honoring its stated commitment to the introduction of this legislation.

Within the child safety, youth and women portfolio, the ‘stand-out’ highlights include the allocation of $500 million over 10 years to support Queensland’s participation in the National Redress Scheme and the significant investment in a range of youth justice initiatives that comprise a whole-of-Government Youth Justice Strategy.

PeakCare is interested in your views about the Budget – what you are pleased about as well as what you think could have received greater attention and enhanced investment. You can enter your comments, anonymously if you prefer, in response to this blog or comment on our Facebook page.

Child and Family Services

The total operating expenditure allocation for Child and Family Services during 2018-2019 is $1.259 billion.

In a statement jointly released by the Honourable Di Farmer MP, Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence and Mr Michael Hogan, Director-General, Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women, they comment on “a significant investment by government in continuing the Supporting Families Changing Futures reforms, including implementing recent amendments to the Child Protection Act 1999 to improve information sharing, strengthen permanency, and embed the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle”.

Specific highlights noted in the statement include:

  • A $52.8 million allocation in 2018-19 for a further 56 child and family staff (as part of the 292 additional staff announced in the 2017-18 Budget) and to continue initiatives such as the Department’s Quality Improvement Program, the Navigate leadership development program, the Partners in Care initiative, and joint initiatives with Health, Education and Police
  • Additional funding of $20 million for children in care with complex needs
  • $2.2 million for 19 positions in a specialist service team
  • $3.3 million for 16 additional staff in the Office of the Child and Family Official Solicitor
  • $3.3 million allocation to the Action on Ice strategy, and
  • $3.2 million to maintain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family support services.

The joint statement by Minister Farmer and Mr Hogan notes that the Government investment “allows us to progress the fifth year of the Supporting Families Changing Futures reforms, and to keep implementing the Our Way Strategy and Changing Tracks Action Plan that are focussed on supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families”.

PeakCare contends that it is now time for the Government to build on its laudable achievements in introducing legislative reforms that are supportive of self-determination and all elements of the Child Placement Principle and the commencement of the Our Way Strategy to set targets for the transition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s out-of-home care away from mainstream organisations towards community control of their care arrangements. This should be undertaken, of course, in a context of reducing their over-representation in the out-of-home care system generally and must incorporate the engagement of peak bodies – the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak (QATSICPP) and PeakCare – and both mainstream and community-controlled organisations in planning and implementing the transition.

Youth Justice Services

The total operating expenditure allocation for Youth Justice Services during 2018-2019 is $224.7 million.

The joint statement by Minister Farmer and Mr Hogan notes that they are “especially pleased that the department will lead the development of a new whole-of-Government Youth Justice Strategy, with a focus on preventing youth crime, reducing remand, reducing reoffending, and reducing the disproportionate representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander young people in the youth justice system”.

Specific highlights noted in the statement include:

  • Increased funding of $11.7 million over three years from 2018-19, and internally reprioritised funding of $6.4 million, allocated to reduce the number and length of time children and young people are held on remand in custody, and to maintain restorative justice services
  • Additional funding of $10.6 million over two years from 2017-18 for 84 additional positions in Queensland’s two youth detention centres – the Brisbane Youth Detention and Cleveland Youth Detention Centre located in Townsville
  • Funding of $6.5 million allocated to continuing implementation of the Government response to the 83 recommendations of the 2016 Independent Review of Youth Detention in Queensland
  • Funding of $2.9 million allocated to continue partnerships across government on critical intervention strategies under the Community Youth Response initiative in Townsville
  • Funding of $2.5 million allocated to continuation of the Transition to Success

Given PeakCare’s strong interest in achieving a better understanding and management of the intersection between the child protection and youth justice systems, we welcome this increased investment.

Women, Violence Prevention and Youth Services

The total operating expenditure allocation for Women, Violence Prevention and Youth Services during 2018-2019 is $141.8 million.

The joint statement by Minister Farmer and Mr Hogan notes that this allocation will support implementation of the Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Strategy and the Queensland Violence Against Women Prevention Plan, which will be updated during 2018-19.

Specific highlights noted in the statement include allocations of:

  • $14.2 million for new and enhanced specialist and generalist domestic and family violence services
  • $2.9 million for additional perpetrator interventions and to support quality improvement for organisations working in this area
  • $3.6 million to continue support of High Risk Teams in Cairns/Mossman, Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan-Beenleigh, Cherbourg and Mount Isa/Gulf, and the establishment of new teams in Mackay and Moreton in 2018-19
  • Increased funding of $274,000 to expand the Townsville Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Court (including circuits to Mt Isa and Palm Island)
  • $1 million for five services located in Mackay, Moreton Bay, Inala, Ipswich and Redlands to support women and girls who have experienced sexual assault, including assault within an intimate partner relationship.

Capital outlays

Capital funding allocations within the portfolio include:

  • $19 million of a total $26 million to support the transition of 17-year-olds into the Youth Justice system including an allocation of $13.1 million for further fencing and an additional 12 beds at the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre (Townsville)
  • $7.2 million of a total $32.8 million to upgrade the security management system at the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre
  • $4.1 million for upgrades to Child Safety Service Centres to accommodate additional child protection staff
  • $5.2 million to conduct maintenance and minor works at Youth Justice facilities
  • $9.4 million to enhance and develop information systems, including the Our Child ICT system, the Social Investment Program, Destination Information and the Child and Family Services Information and Communication Technology Program
  • $500,000 for the Daniel Morcombe Foundation to construct a counselling centre in Palmwoods

Indexation and wage costs

For non-government organisations, State indexation of 2.625% will be applied to existing State funded ongoing service arrangements.

Close to $16.5 million in additional funding will be provided to eligible organisations to cover the costs arising from the Fair Work Australia 2012 Equal Remuneration Order. That’s good news – for those organisations that are eligible.

In the meantime, PeakCare remains concerned about the lack of parity that exists between government and non-government salary levels and the costs pressures being experienced by non-government organisations – smaller organisations in particular (which includes PeakCare) – to consider overaward salary payments to remain viable in a competitive job market. This is also of particular concern to non-government organisations delivering services in regional and remote areas of the State where staff recruitment is reportedly becoming increasingly difficult.

National Redress Scheme

PeakCare welcomes the allocation of approximately $500 million for redress payments to survivors of institutional child sexual abuse and to facilitate their access to counselling and psychological support as part of Queensland’s participation in the National Redress Scheme. The scheme will also provide eligible applicants with the option to receive a direct personal response from the institution responsible for providing the redress. As noted in last week’s edition of eNews, five major non-government institutions have also committed to joining the Scheme and provide redress to people sexually abused in their care as children. These include: the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, Salvation Army, Scouts Australia, YMCA and the Uniting Church.

Human Rights Act

PeakCare welcomes the allocation of $2.5 million over four years to support the operation and administration of a Human Rights Act for Queensland. It is pleasing to note that the development of a Human Rights Act is listed as a key priority within the Budget Papers for the Department of Justice and Attorney-General (p. 11).

Support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities

PeakCare welcomes the Palaszczuk Government’s stated commitment to ‘closing the gap’. This includes, in particular, the allocation of $239 million to continue delivering improved housing options for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including through the Remote Home Ownership Program. This includes expanding and improving social rental housing, and activities to support private home ownership in discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Recognition in law of Torres Strait Islander child rearing practices

PeakCare welcomes the allocation of $1 million over three years to engage with the community on how traditional Torres Strait Islander child rearing practices can be recognised in law. This initiative will involve the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Partnerships working with Torres Strait Islanders and an Eminent Persons Panel (of legal and cultural experts) to develop the new laws.

Adolescent mental health services

PeakCare welcomes the allocation of $28.1 million for adolescent mental health facilities in South East Queensland, including a new Adolescent Extended Treatment Facility at The Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane.

School Breakfast Program

PeakCare welcomes the allocation of $1 million over four years from 2017-18 to Foodbank Queensland to expand the School Breakfast Program to additional schools across Queensland.

 

Your views

Let us know your views about the State Budget 2018-19. You can enter your comments below – anonymously if you prefer – or enter comments into our Facebook page.

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