Minister fails to keep it together

Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge.Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge.

By LACHLAN MOORHEAD

A SUCCESSFUL welfare program which, aims to prevent family breakdowns in Casey and caters specifically for women, is unlikely to be thrown a lifeline by the State Government despite being under threat of folding.
Narre Warren South MP Judith Graley in Parliament earlier this month called on Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge to provide state government funding for the Keeping it Together program, run by the Casey North Community Information and Support Service (CISS) and currently kept afloat through philanthropic support.
Ms Graley said government assistance was needed to ensure the program could continue once its funding – previously supplied by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, the R.E. Ross Trust and the Besend Family Foundation – dried up.
But Ms Wooldridge appeared to reject the request, telling Ms Graley there were “no pots of money waiting for good programs to be funded”.
“The additional funding – the $55 million – that the coalition government provided last month has been fully directed in a number of ways, particularly towards expanding our strengthening risk management initiatives, keeping women at high risk of violence safe, funding expanded sexual assault counselling services and other things responding to violence, particularly supporting women and children to get their lives back on track,” Ms Wooldridge said in Parliament.
“There is an extensive suite of prevention initiatives, which I would put at least a component of this under, already under way, fully funded and operating.
“I would be happy to offer that a relevant person in our area sit down with the organisation to get some information about the program and see if they can provide some advice about other potential funding sources.”
Keeping it Together has been run by Casey North CISS for five years, with facilitators helping women detect the early signs of conflict in a relationship and preventing them from evolving into a family breakdown, triggering family violence.
It is an eight-week program which includes a new financial literacy module while an annual session is held for linguistically and culturally diverse women.
“The City of Casey has disturbingly high levels of family violence and family breakdown. Sometimes the two problems are linked, sometimes not,” Ms Graley told Parliament.
“What we know is that families in the City of Casey are in desperate need of assistance.
“Budget cuts are having a dramatic impact on the lifestyle of local families and support services which provide families with advice and assistance during times of crisis.
“Family violence is a major cause of homelessness among women and children in the City of Casey.”
Casey North CISS manager Susan Magee said it was vital for Keeping it Together to attract government funding in order to continue to curb the vicious cycle precipitated by family breakdown.
“The program offers assistance so early in the piece, helping families address the problem before family violence and family breakdown occurs,” she said.
“If we can do that, it will save State and Federal Government money being spent for the cost of family breakdowns, the cost of going through the family court, the cost of relocating people as a result of family violence and the cost of moving children around.”
For more information on the Keeping it Together program, contact Casey North CISS on 9705 6699.

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