New family advocacy and support services coming to Bendigo and Melbourne

New family advocacy and support services coming to Bendigo and Melbourne

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

We are pleased to announce the pilot of a non-legal advocacy and support service in Greater Bendigo and the Darebin and Moreland areas of Melbourne.

The first of its kind in Victoria, Independent Family Advocacy and Support (IFAS) is an innovative, new service that will begin providing early support to families who are involved in the child protection system late this year.

It will prioritise families who have not yet been to court and focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and those with parents with intellectual disabilities.

‘We know that these are two of the groups who are over-represented in the child protection system,’ Victoria Legal Aid Executive Director of Family, Youth and Children’s Law Nicole Rich said.

‘The rate of children in the child protection system continues to grow and we need to try new approaches. Non-legal advocates will be able to support these families to address their needs and to understand what they are required to do, before they have to go to court.’

Advocates will work in both locations to provide:

  • information about the child protection system and the rights and responsibilities of children and young people, parents and carers
  • referrals to legal and other support
  • tools and coaching for self-advocacy and direct advocacy where appropriate. 

‘Around one-third of child protection cases that go to court involve concerns that do not require the immediate removal of children,’ Ms Rich said.

‘We are aiming for this service to provide support to resolve matters earlier, improving experiences for children and families and reducing the stress and difficulty of attending court.’

IFAS is one of 36 actions endorsed by Victoria Legal Aid after an extensive review of our child protection services. During wide-ranging consultation with young people, parents and carers, and stakeholders we were told that early support, better communication, and improved understanding of the system and what is expected, was an important addition to existing legal and community support.

We are acting on this feedback from those with lived experience of the system, and hope that IFAS, working alongside other services, will help to improve outcomes for children, parents and families in child protection.

’Ensuring that the pilot accurately captures the impacts and outcomes of the service will be vital to developing evidence for how best to provide better, holistic, help to clients,’ Ms Rich said.

Ms Rich said that VLA will monitor the pilot and use the evidence and feedback gathered to further refine service design.

Media enquiries

For media enquiries contact Program Communications Manager Sophie Griffin on 0427 916 923 or sophie.griffin@vla.vic.gov.au

More information

Hear more from Nicole Rich on why child protection is a focus at Victoria Legal Aid.

Read Explainer – Why children, young people, parents and carers need earlier help with child protection

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