Carer Snapshot Highlights Retention Need 

The Foster Care Association of Victoria’s recently published Foster Carer Snapshot Report shows an ongoing decline in the number of new foster carers which points to the need for a comprehensive Government approach to improved carer support and retention to stabilise numbers. 

The Child Protection system cannot function without volunteer carers. This is because foster carers provide a home for vulnerable children when they are unable to live with their parents or extended family. Yet the state Government’s most recent budget failed to implement key measures and recommendations made in a DFFH funded consultancy review, to better support this volunteer workforce. Data_from_page_2_of_the_2022_CSSR_1.jpg

Key metrics in the Snapshot show the ongoing decline in carer numbers. The number of carers exiting the system increased by 22% in 2021/22 while the number of newly accredited carers declined by 18%. This comes at a time when the state budget is projecting an 8.5% increase in the target for number of children entering care in 2022/23. 

The Government did provide $5.8m over four years for the establishment of a carer help desk. The Help Desk will provide welcome support to carers by assisting with the acquisition of key documents and other supports necessary for the stability of a placement including Medicare numbers and birth certificates. The FCAV congratulates the Department of Fairness Families and Housing for successfully acquiring funding for this initiative.

The decline in carers shown in the Carer Snapshot highlights the need to nurture and better support existing carers, yet the budget failed to provide any specific funding for the implementation of retention measures under the Carer Strategy. The Carer Strategy is a comprehensive program of initiatives developed in consultation with carers to address carer issues within the Child Protection system, yet it has never received any funding and the Government failed to fund this work program again in this budget. The Government has also ignored recommendations of its own review undertaken by KPMG, to increase the Care Allowance. This means that the Care Allowance has decreased in real value by about 10% since it was last increased in 2016 and makes it one of the lowest rates in Australia. 

With proactive support measures to better support carers including increases in financial supports, improvements to streamline administrative arrangements and implementation of measures designed to promote inclusion and respect under the Carer Strategy, the rate of decline in carer numbers is more likely to stabilise with improvement to placement stability and outcomes for the children and young people in care in Victoria.