Victoria’s most at-risk children are to get a helping hand in their schooling with a network of centres across the state which will prioritise their needs.
“Funds to improve school outcomes for kids in care – long overdue and so needed” Andrew Jackomos
Following consultations by Victoria’s Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos with schools and community service providers, the fruits of those discussions emerged this week, with the government pledging to create support centres to encourage vulnerable children in out-of-home care, to stay in education.
The intervention targets young people in foster care or residential care facilities who are unable to live at home safely with their own family. Children in such situations are less likely to attend school or attain a Year 12 or equivalent qualification, leading to poorer social, academic and life outcomes.
As part of the initiative the state government will provide $13.2 million over four years (and $4.8 million ongoing from 2019-20) to establish LOOKOUT Support Centres across Victoria to help about 6,000 vulnerable children and young people overcome challenges they face in education and training.
The new centres will work with schools and carers to advocate for the rights and interests of school-aged children and young people in Victoria who aren’t able to live a normal family life.
Staff at the centres will evaluate students’ progress at school, set educational outcome targets and help carers and social workers support each child’s educational needs.
Full implementation of LOOKOUT Education Support Centres is expected to be rolled out in 2016-17. The funding allocated is part of $733 million in extra funds over four years to the state’s education sector.
Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos, told Neos Kosmos: “This initiative will help bridge gaps in our education and care systems that have previously contributed to vulnerable young people being denied access to a consistent, high-quality education.”
About 43,000 children in Australia are in out-of-home care, with around five per cent in group housing run by either the state or a contractor. Earlier this year the Victorian government announced an extra $43 million to pay for new foster care places and place more children with approved family members.
In a 2013 report the Commission for Children and Young People said that of 6,500 children and young people in state care in Victoria at the time, more than 1,000 were Aboriginal and that Indigenous children were 16 times more likely to be in care than non-Indigenous children.
Andrew Jackomos, Victoria’s Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, took to Twitter this week to applaud the government’s actions on introducing the LOOKOUT centres.
“Terrific increase commitment/funds to improve school outcomes for kids in care – long overdue and so needed,” said Mr Jackomos.