Church welcomes Vic Govt plan to fight disadvantage

Centacare Melbourne and Jesuit Social Services have issued separate statements welcoming the Bracks Government's promise to spend an extra $788 million over the next four years on the poor.

Releasing the social policy package in the western suburbs yesterday, Premier Steve Bracks and Deputy Premier John Thwaites conceded the five-year-old Government had not done enough to ensure disadvantaged Victorians shared in the state's prosperity.

Mr Bracks said under the A Fairer Victoria plan, next week's state budget would allocate $788 million to fund initiatives to fight social disadvantage. These include $101 million for children, $45 million to help troubled teenagers, $35 million for new approaches to domestic violence, $50 million to give older Victorians more opportunities to live independently, $49 million to increase home ownership among the poor, $27 million to help indigenous Victorians, as well as funds for disabled people and "neighbourhood renewal programs".

Centacare Catholic Family Services Melbourne director Fr Joe Caddy said the plan is good news, although it is only a "first step".

"Even though the funding levels and comprehensive nature of the plan are impressive, in many ways the injection of a large amount of funding into mental health services, disability, justice, housing, community development and affordable pre school and child care will only begin to restore the life chances and opportunities for those less fortunate Victorians who have fallen behind over the past ten years," he said.

Fr Caddy added that Centacare Melbourne is "encouraged at the comprehensive and systematic nature of the plan and urges the Government to continue to keep the welfare of the least well off Victorians at the front and centre of public policy so that we don't have to take these desperate catch up measures again."

Meanwhile Jesuit Social Services (JSS) - which commissioned research exposing entrenched poverty in pockets across the state - said the Government had taken five years to respond, but had now succeeded in setting new directions.

"Jeff Kennett came in and his social policy was to slash and burn," JSS policy director Peter Norden said. "The Bracks Government has been a bit slow in implementing traditional Labor values but this is very positive." But Fr Norden was disappointed tackling long-term unemployment was not a higher priority. "At least substantial resources are now directed towards more effective mental health care, which will divert the mentally ill citizens who find themselves left in the arms of the criminal justice system," he said.

Victorian State Government Action Plan to Address Disadvantage very encouraging (Centacare Catholic Family Services 28/4/05)
State Government finally recognises need for action on social disadvantage (Jesuit Social Services 28/4/05)
$780m plan to fight disadvantage (The Age 29/4/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
A Fairer Victoria - the Vic Gov Social Policy Action Plan (PDF Download - 2.2MB)
Centacare Catholic Family Services
Jesuit Social Services

A Fairer Victoria - The Victorian Governments social policy action plan (Department of Premier and Cabinet 28/4/05)
Bracks' Social Statement must deliver for disadvantaged (Centacare Catholic Family Services 27/4/05)

29 Apr 2005