In this issue:                                                                     February, 2014

MAV Human Services Directors’ Forum
Living Libraries Infrastructure funding
HACC services will not be tendered in Victorian transition
MAV Hardship Policy Guidelines
How Patchwork is progressing…
VLGMIN bi-monthly meetings in 2014
Asylum seekers living in the community
Local councils building a culture of welcome for refugees
Cultural Diversity Week
Sports Participation Conference
Early years meeting
Local government contributes to outstanding results in early childhood
Capital grants rounds announcements
Early childhood teacher registration

Family day care
Vulnerable Children’s Strategy
Preventing Violence Against Women program update
LGPro Awards for Excellence

MAV Human Services Directors’ Forum

The Human Services Directors' Forum will be held from 1pm-4pm on 26 March at the Sofitel Hotel, with the key topic of Victoria’s Vulnerable Children’s Strategy – Implementation of area partnerships.

The forum will focus on discussing the State proposal for formation of area partnerships, based on 17 sub-regions across Victoria. These will be formed with senior State and local government membership (councils’ Human Services Directors) focussing on vulnerable children strategies - but with potentially a wider remit in the human services area in the longer term.

Community services organisations will also be key partners as determined by the priority issues being addressed.

The forum will be chaired by MAV Chief Executive Officer, Rob Spence, with DHS Secretary Gill Callister and DEECD Secretary Richard Bolt presenting.

The MAV will also provide an update on the Patchwork initiative as a proactive local government response to the Vulnerable Children’s Strategy.

Registration information will be sent to all directors. For further information, contact Clare Hargreaves.

Living Libraries Infrastructure funding

The MAV is encouraging councils to apply for the State Government’s individual grants of up to $750,000 that are now available for refurbishment and redevelopment of Victorian libraries.

The Minister for Local Government opened round four of the Living Libraries Infrastructure program urging libraries to take full advantage of the $4.7 million 2014 program. Expressions of interest close on 28 March.p>

As part of the MAV’s state election campaign we will be asking for renewed funding of the Living Libraries Infrastructure program, which concludes in 2014-2015.

In our state budget submission, our advocay continues for additional recurrent library funding to better reflect a state-local partnership approach.

For further information, contact Clare Hargreaves.

HACC services will not be tendered in Victorian transition

The Department of Social Services has announced there is no intention by the Commonwealth to subject the current HACC services to a competitive tendering process.

This positive step acknowledges the strengths of Victoria's system, and provides councils and service users with stability over the next five years.

The Department said existing service providers will be offered Commonwealth service contracts (probably for three years) from 1 July 2015, for the services they are providing to the 65 years and over clients - subject to formal confirmation by Ministers and Cabinet of both governments through the endorsement of the Victorian Transition Plan due in April - May 2014.

To recognise the role that local government plays in contributing to the strengths in Victoria, the Department of Health is proposing that there be an agreed ‘Statement of Intent’ between the Commonwealth, State and local government as part of the Transition Plan.

There is no intention to move the program to individualised funding for clients, and block grants and unit priced funding methods will remain. The MAV will work on the details of this statement in consultation with councils, however this will not bind any council to particular roles or actions.

For further information, contact Clare Hargreaves.

MAV Hardship Policy Guidelines

Following a report by the Federation of Community Legal Centres into council debt collection practices, the MAV developed a set of financial hardship policy guidelines and toolkits to help councils manage hardship in their communities.

The MAV is grateful for the considerable input from councils through our hardship working group, together with advocacy groups such as the Federation of Community Legal Centre, the Financial and Consumer Rights Council, Kildonan and Centrelink.

The guidelines recommend strategies for early identification of financial hardship in the community, such as promoting council’s hardship policy to at risk groups such as new parents, the disadvantaged and those on a fixed income.

For further information, contact James Cleaver.

How Patchwork is progressing…

The MAV’s Patchwork Pilot Project was launched in July with five councils volunteering to take part. Initially the councils loaded 100 clients and connected with 44 different organisations. This established a network of over 100 front line workers.

We know the support networks for families are complex and diverse, which is why we are participating with other agencies.

So far, more than 100 different organisations have signed up ranging from local government, state departments and non government organisations. On top of this, Patchwork has over 350 clients, and 250 workers.

The project has received endorsement from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) and we are currently planning the roll out to those staff that would benefit from access to Patchwork.

While the program continues to grow, our aspiration stays the same; to achieve better coordination and collaboration of agencies to provide care that keeps people safe.

This aspiration is a key theme of Victoria’s Vulnerable Children – Our Shared Responsibility Strategy 2013 – 2022.

A video has been created to provide further information.  We hope if you receive an invitation to join Patchwork you will accept it and start to build teams around your clients, for more coordinated care.

The MAV will hold two Patchwork introductory and networking sessions on 3 April and 30 April.

VLGMIN bi-monthly meetings in 2014

The Victorian Local Government Multicultural Issues Network (VLGMIN) lunch-time meetings will continue at the MAV in 2014.

Meetings will run from 12-2pm on 11 February, 8 April, 10 June, 12 August, 14 October and 9 December.

The MAV has a close working partnership with the VLGMIN - an informal cultural diversity officers’ network that shares information between councils, advocates on behalf of councils and promotes best practice in cultural diversity.

Its members are local government officers responsible for multicultural services and cultural diversity policy development.

For more information please email co-convener Biljana Komnenovic or call 9239 5265.

Asylum seekers living in the community

Many councils are concerned about issues and challenges arising from asylum seekers on bridging visas living in their municipalities.

Both the Southern Metropolitan Regional Management Forum (RMF) and the Northern and Western Metropolitan RMF have done work towards developing a coordinated regional response to the challenges experienced from the changes in the asylum seeker profile across Melbourne.

Both RMFs have focused this work around the four key ‘pillars’ of housing, education, health and volunteering/meaningful engagement, and involve all levels of government along with key NGOs.

Both regions have held major forums over the past six months. For further information, contact Nick Allitt.

Local councils building a culture of welcome for refugees

The contribution made by local councils to welcome refugees and other humanitarian new settlers has been documented in a research paper, Refugee Welcome Zones (RWZ).

The research sets out the aims and benefits of becoming a RWZ; and how other councils can become involved in the initiative.

The paper highlights examples of best-practice from some of the 87 local councils in Australia that have built a culture of welcome for refugees by signing up as RWZs.

Cultural Diversity Week

The MAV is a strong supporter of Victoria’s Cultural Diversity Week which will run from 15-23 March.

The week incorporates national Harmony Day and the national A Taste of Harmony campaign, which aims to celebrate diversity in Australian workplaces.

Free promotional kits are available from all three websites to help support and promote council events.

To receive merchandise, councils need to register events on the respective websites. These fixtures on our cultural diversity calendar have developed out of the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, held on 21 March each year.

Sports Participation Conference

The MAV is a supporter of the 2014 Sports Without Borders Conference that will be held on 2 May at the Moonee Valley Racing Club as part of the Sports Participation Conference & Sports Technology Expo.

It aims to provide inspiration and practical support to ensure everyone, including young migrants, can get involved in sport.

Attendees, including sportspeople, clubs and local government staff, will get inspiration for the year ahead, learn how to use technology to recruit and retail players and supporters, and learn how to foster an ethical framework without compromising a winning spirit.

Guest speakers will include the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Hugh Delahunty and Senator Nova Peris. The day will also include a great debate.

Registrations can be made online.

Early years meeting

The MAV met with the Assistant Minister for Education, Sussan Ley on 6 February.

The main issues discussed were the role of local government and the MAV’s position on our submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry into Childcare and Early Childhood Education.

The MAV reinforced the importance of continued Commonwealth Government investment in the National Partnerships on Early Childhood Education and Quality that are currently being negotiated to maintain outcomes for young children and their families.

The MAV submission has been sent to all councils and is available online. Thank you to those who provided input and gave feedback.

In addition to this inquiry the Senate has announced two further inquiries covering similar ground. The MAV will respond to the request for submissions to these inquiries. Further information contact Wendy Allan or Clare Hargreaves.

Local government contributes to outstanding results in early childhood

The MAV commends the effort of councils who have assisted in the positive results for Victoria as outlined in the early childhood section of the Productivity Commission’s Report of Government Services.

The announcement by the Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development outlined that Victoria has the best quality early childhood education and care in the country, and higher kindergarten enrolment rates than any other state.

Victorian children’s services outperform their interstate counterparts under Australia’s new rating and assessment regime.

Every council has played an active planning role to ensure every preschool child has access to 15 hours of kindergarten.

Local government invested over $240 million of its own funds to build new kindergarten facilities and has been working to support the introduction of quality reforms in planning, capacity building and service provision roles.

In Victoria, 18 councils deliver long day care, 26 provide kindergarten, 55 operate central enrolment and all councils undertake early years plans.

The MAV will continue to advocate for resources so councils can continue in these important roles which have contributed significantly to these results.

For further information, contact Jan Barrett.

Capital grants rounds announcements

The State Government has announced $700,000 in government grants for 87 early years services to go towards minor works.

The grants were awarded as part the government’s $20 million Children’s Capital Grants program.

Further grants to be announced will be the Integrated Children’s Centres Grants, the Early Learning Facilities Grants and the Early Learning Facility Upgrade Grants.

The applications for these three grants closed in November. The assessment process begins in March. For further information, contact Jan Barrett.

Early childhood teacher registration

There are 3,800 early childhood teachers in Victoria with over 10 per cent employed by councils.

The Education and Training Reform Amendment (Registration of Early Childhood Teachers and Victorian Institute of Teaching) Bill was introduced earlier this month to enable landmark reform.

This initiative formally recognises their status as professional educators in childcare centres and kindergartens across the state. Importantly, this legislation will mean that early childhood teachers will be required to mandatorily report any concerns of child abuse and neglect.

This is in line with the recommendations of the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry. The new registration system will be based on the model currently used by VIT which requires school teachers to record their professional development activities.

Registration begins on 30 September 2015, allowing educators and employers adequate time to prepare for the introduction of the scheme.

For further information, contact Geoff Pawsey or Wendy Allan.

Family day care

The MAV held a forum attended by 23 councils on 11 February to discuss the business requirements for operation under family assistance legislation, particularly in regards to childcare benefit and childcare rebate.

The Commonwealth Department of Education attended the forum.

While there have not been any changes made to underpinning legislation or policy, existing fact sheets have been amended to clarify the operator’s responsibilities in relation to care arrangements with families, fee setting and contractual arrangements with family day care educators.

It is anticipated that these amendments will not change existing employment/independent contract arrangements councils have in place now.

In terms of compliance, the Department highlighted the importance of councils demonstrating they have a clear fee setting, collection and receipting policy and corresponding remuneration contracts with their educators.

The MAV will provide further information to councils to support them in this process. Councils can contact Geoff Pawsey if they wish to discuss employment/contractual arrangements or Wendy Allan for policy support.

Vulnerable Children’s Strategy

The Victoria's Vulnerable Children - Our Shared Responsibility - Baseline Performance Data Report 2013 has been released.

This report sets out the baseline indicators that will be used to monitor our performance against the goals set out in the Victoria's Vulnerable Children Strategy, released in May 2013.

The report brings together data from various sources to build a snapshot of how children are engaging in universal services, how effectively services are responding to their needs and how children are faring overall.

The baseline indicators span the areas of community services, health, early childhood development, education and justice and will form the basis of an annual report card that will track progress in improving outcomes for vulnerable children and young people.

Preventing Violence Against Women program update

The Local Government Promising Practice, Inspiring Action Preventing Violence Against Women Forum was held on the 18 December, with participant evaluations affirming it a highly successful event.

Ken Lay, Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, gave an inspired speech about the need for men to actively lead the discussion towards systemic change, while the announcement from Andrea Coote, Parliamentary Secretary for Families and Community Services, of $200,000 in new funding for the MAV’s Local Government Preventing Violence Against Women Project on behalf of Minister Wooldridge, was welcomed by the 120 delegates in attendance.

The MAV is delighted to be able to harness the momentum already built with councils for a further two years, with State funding support to bring about social and cultural change in the community.

To enable us to benchmark the level of council engagement in the prevention of violence against women and promotion of gender equity, the MAV has designed a self-assessment survey that will be circulated to all councils shortly.

The survey aims to capture the diversity and breadth of activity from across council areas and will provide our sector with baseline data to measure our progress in future years.

For further information contact Kellie Nagle.

LGPro Awards for Excellence

The MAV congratulates the City of Casey local laws team for winning the LG Pro Excellence Award - Service Delivery Initiative for their leading work in family violence intervention and prevention.

The team, led by Rod Bezanovic, were recognised for leading innovative practice in undertaking training in order to recognise the signs of family violence.

The council used this awareness to adapt approaches and procedures to reduce the risk of violence in households where they have an enforcement role.

The MAV had the pleasure of working with Rod when he presented this approach to a local laws forum at the MAV, and at other councils across Victoria.

The MAV, along with Rod, will next be presenting at the Identifying Family Violence training to local laws officers in Traralgon on 3 April.

Upcoming MAV events...

27 March

Maternal and child health nurses conference

3 April

Patchwork: introductory and networking session

3 April

Local Laws: Identifying family violence


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