February 7, 2013

Bailleu Cuts Ballarat East Youth Suicide Prevention

Geoff Howard MP, State member for Ballarat East, has called on the Baillieu Government to reverse its decision to axe the School Focused Youth Service operating in the Ballarat East region.

 The state-wide School Focused Youth Service (SFYS) is provided in the Ballarat East area by Ballarat Community Health, Child and Family Services and COBAW and works to support vulnerable children and “at-risk” young people by establishing partnerships and coordinating services in the local community.

 This vital service was established by the Victorian Government back in 1997 in response to the Suicide Prevention Taskforce and is funded by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to work across government, catholic and independent schools. In 2010/11, nearly 50,000 children participated in projects brokered by the SFYS.

 The Baillieu Government has confirmed the service will cease at the end of June this year, even though a consultant’s report it commissioned says such a move would be premature.

 The Price Waterhouse and Coopers report commissioned by the Baillieu Government said; “Discontinuing funding for the program upon the expiration of the current agreements would be premature, as it would fail to consider SFYS’s future within the context of broader changes. As such, an appropriate course of action is for the Department to enter into new funding and service agreements commencing in July 2012 that run for a shorter length than the usual three year period.”

 Mr Howard said the School Focused Youth Service played an extremely important part in keeping kids engaged with school and local services and helped to reduce the incidence of youth homelessness, substance abuse and suicide and does not understand why the Baillieu Government did not heed the advice of the experts it commissioned.

 “The School Focused Youth Service is critical to the wellbeing of many local young people and the Baillieu Government’s decision to axe the program is just another short-sighted cut by the Baillieu Government,” Mr Howard said.

 “This is yet another example of the Baillieu Government’s cuts to education hurting our local community, in this case, vulnerable children.”

 “Ted Baillieu should be working to improve services for children and young people in in our schools instead of pulling away vital services like the School Focused Youth Service,” Mr Howard said.