Peak body Safe and Equal, on behalf of the Victorian specialist family violence sector, has today written to Ministers asking them not to cut critical funding which is due to expire in June.
This funding is crucial to enabling community services, including specialist family violence services, to adequately pay their workforces and support people escaping violence and abuse.
In Victoria, the Commonwealth’s decision not to continue Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) funding in 2023-24 will result in a $23.6 million cut to Victorian housing, homelessness and specialist family violence services. Victorian family violence services stand to lose approximately $2 million, which will have a significant impact on the sector’s capacity to support victim survivors.
“Demand for family violence services is at an all-time high, people experiencing abuse are facing complex barriers to accessing support, and the people working in these services are still facing significant burnout and fatigue on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Safe and Equal’s Executive Director of Policy, Communications and Engagement, Louise Simms.
“Reducing our capacity further will only exacerbate the high levels of stress and risk our workforce is under and we’ll see even more people forced to leave the sector.”
The Commonwealth’s decision to cut funding is at odds with the vision that it set out in the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032, as a further reduction in capacity within the family violence sector ultimately negatively affects victim survivors of family violence.
“Our members already report holding extensive waitlists and are forced to exit clients sooner than safe, good practice would warrant, to make room for more people who are desperately waiting for a service,” said Ms Simms.
Extended wait times put victim survivors at increased risk of violence. Family violence can escalate quickly and these demand-management practices can lead to clients losing access to supports while they are still experiencing some level of risk – certainly, well before they are on a path to long-term recovery. This only increases the likelihood that they will require support again in the future.
The effects these cuts will have on the homelessness sector more broadly will further negatively impact victim survivors, as many people escaping family violence end up needing access to safe and affordable housing.
“We know that the homelessness sector is also under immense pressure at a time when housing costs and the costs of living are driving more people into homelessness and poverty. This funding cut will exacerbate homelessness among victim survivors of family violence, predominately women and children,” said Ms Simms.
The ERO was put in place to mitigate the gendered pay disparity experienced by female dominated, underpaid workforces in the community services sector, and particularly the specialist family violence sector. Cutting ERO funding directly undermines its original intention and will further disadvantage working women.
Safe and Equal is calling for a commitment to continue ERO supplementation for another year. This funding is critical for our sector and, most importantly, the people we support to be safe.
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