FUNDING cuts to Family Life’s SHINE program will end assistance it gives to children suffering mental health disorders.
The program is a victim of new funding criteria which sees “well off” areas such as Bayside, Kingston and Glen Eira judged as not needing funding as much as “less fortunate” areas.
That means the $450,000 needed to provide services for children with early signs of mental illness, or those emotionally affected by parents suffering alcohol or substance abuse, will not be forthcoming after December.
Family Life chief executive Jo Cavanagh said she was concerned that “in the current funding environment the size of the social services ‘pie’ is not growing”.
It grates with her that children in perceived high-income areas will miss out as not being from high-needs areas. “This is understandable in economic terms but mental health is not based on economics,” she said.
“We help children on a daily basis who are suffering because their parents are under pressure from financial problems, mental illnesses, physical and emotional abuse, drug and alcohol problems and parental separation.”
Ms Cavanagh said she was searching for a community minded business or industry that may be able to step in to fill the breach.
SHINE is based on a program which uses strategies to calm the mind and help manage anxiety. She said it was especially useful in treating children affected by family violence who were much more likely to have mental health programs.
“We see 250 children and families with our intensive care services and thousands of children through school programs.”
She said the ‘unique’ program was developed by Family Life in 2007 after calls for an innovative approach to addressing mental health concerns. It was deemed so successful in cases of high needs that it is being used around the country.
She said the money paid for specialist counselling services and that it would be “tragic” to lose it.
Goldstein MP Andrew Robb – whose electorate covers Kingston and who has admitted to having his own depressive disorder issues in the past – said a final decision from the Department of Social Services had not yet been made.
He said the department had overhauled the funding formulae for civil society organisation grants, meaning grants up for renewal must meet new criteria.
Civil society organisations are those – like Family Life – that provide social services.
“Many organisations have applied for funding under the new system, and it is important we do not jeopardise their chances,” Mr Robb said.
He said he was committed to working with Family Life to ensure a grant can be delivered under the new system. “It is important that we work together to ensure a positive outcome can be achieved.”
Mr Robb reportedly received feedback from other community groups that the new DSS scheme is “clearer; the forms are a vast improvement as they cut onerous paperwork, and the DSS offers great helpdesk support compared with the old regime”.
“Family Life has had a hugely positive impact in my electorate, and well beyond,” Mr Robb said. “I am committed to ensuring that [it] can continue to provide quality services in Goldstein.”
Funding applications close on 23 July.