Berry Street: funding

I wish to raise a matter for the attention of the Minister for Community Services. The action I seek is that she consider favourably a request for additional funding from Berry Street to provide respite foster care for vulnerable children in north-western Melbourne.

This week I received a representation from a constituent of mine who is a Berry Street respite foster carer who provides temporary care to children within her own home at times when they cannot live with their parents. In her letter to me she said:

Berry Street is Victoria’s largest child and family welfare organisation, helping over 20 000 Victorians over the last year. They work with children, young people and families who have the most challenging and complex needs …
Berry Street never gives up on children and young people because they believe that all children should have a good childhood, growing up feeling safe, nurtured and with hope for the future.

My constituent has advised me of Berry Street’s recent unsuccessful attempts to obtain additional state government funding to respond to further demands for respite care and also to capitalise on the significant interest in the community in individuals becoming respite foster carers. As we all know, the north and west metropolitan region is an area that is experiencing significant growth in population, with corresponding difficulties in some family units. Respite care is a very important support mechanism for these families, particularly for children who are experiencing problems in the family environment.

In her letter to me my constituent also stated:

Over the past three years this region has experienced rapid growth in child protection notifications and increasing demand for family support services, out-of-home care placements and family violence responses.

My constituent has also highlighted, and I am sure we all understand, the significant benefits that respite care can provide to not only individual families but the community as a whole. With respect to the inability to obtain additional funding, my constituent stated:

This is despite the clear evidence that there are many potential respite carers in the region. To date, they have been unsuccessful in securing additional government funding. Berry Street says that if they were able to employ one additional full-time position within their respite care program, they would be able to recruit up to an additional 30 respite carers.

This would make an extraordinary difference in assisting families at risk in my area, particularly vulnerable children. Given the increased demand for these support services, coupled with the significant interest in the community, I again respectfully ask the minister to favourably consider this request from Berry Street for additional funding.

Hansard, 2013