Advocacy Priorities

The Foster Care Association of Victoria system-wide advocacy program is concerned that the Government has not funded most of the carer retention programs (See FCAVs Strategy discussion paper here) that were proposed by Minister Donnellan and the department via the Department of Health and Human Services Victoria | Strong Carers, stronger children (dhhs.vic.gov.au) (The Carer Strategy) in late 2019.

 

Most of the intended progress was effectively put on hold during 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a number of these initiatives are now in a position to restart and the FCAV calls for The Carer Strategy and the range of commitments made to improve the experience of carers, be resumed. Amongst other things, these commitments included improving the time taken to get approval on carer inquiries on behalf of their child, so that decision making is more efficient and responsive, and getting improved funding for health, education and recreational supports services which are essential to support vulnerable children to thrive.  Provision for funding many everyday costs related to education and health are not covered by the Carer Allowance, leaving many carers out of pocket in their care role.

 

The Strategy made those commitments in recognition of the vital role that volunteer carers play in providing vulnerable children with a safe and nurturing home. The commitment also explicitly acknowledged that carers don’t feel valued or respected which is partly responsible for the decline in carer numbers.

 

From an FCAV perspective, carer retention should be a key part in securing the carer pool by supporting current carers via:

  • development of an agreed Carer Strategy work program;
  • improved funding for access to essential health, education and recreational services;
  • Full and ongoing funding of the FCAV’s mental health and wellbeing phone support service program (the Carer Assistance Program); and
  • ensuring timely birth and Medicare registrations through more timely approval processes.

 

The FCAV’s high priority initiatives include:

  • changes that give Children Protection the tools to ensure speedy birth registrations so that carers can access childcare and kindergarten
  • a help desk so that carers can have a point of contact to resolve failures to register children for Medicare so that carers aren’t left with expensive medical bills;
  • making approval processes for travel (which are likely to spike following the resolution of the COVID-19 pandemic later this year) simple and speedy;
  • development of a source of departmental expertise and advice to assist carers to complete passport applications; and
  • funding for carer counselling under programs such as the FCAV’s Carer Assistance Program.

 

 A focus on carer retention via the Carer strategy with an investment of time and expertise to progress identified initiatives has the potential to be drive systemic improvements that will benefit the whole sector including carers, agencies and the department. According to our Carer Experience Survey, these measures will go a long way to improving carer satisfaction by easing the administrative and mental health burden so that carers can focus on providing the complex care for children and young people for which they are so highly valued in Victoria.