Posted on 14. Jan, 2013 in News

The Baillieu Government has held back the appointment of welfare officers in primary schools for publicity purposes, Shadow Parliamentary secretary for Education, Colin Brooks said today.

Mr Brooks said the Baillieu Government had committed to fund a further 87 schools to employ welfare officers in 2013 but, unlike previous years, was yet to announce which schools will be allocated the funding.

Primary Welfare officers provide early diagnosis and referrals for children with behavioural, mental health or welfare problems.

“Mr Baillieu is putting spin and image management above the needs of our school children,” Mr Brooks said.

“Previously, the government had outlined which schools would get funding for welfare officers well before the start of the school year.

“This year in a desperate attempt to drum up some positive media, the Baillieu Government has withheld the money until after school recommences, which means selected schools will start the school year without welfare officers in place.

“Schools that are to receive Primary Welfare Officer funding for the first time this year should have been announced well before the end of the 2012 school year so that principals could select and appoint suitable people to these positions in time for the start of the school year.

“It is clear that the Baillieu Government places higher value on spin and media coverage than it does on the welfare of schoolchildren.”

The officers were a successful initiative introduced by Labor, with over half of Victoria’s 1212 primary schools employing a funded welfare officer to provide support and advice to students and families. Funding is allocated based on each school’s Student Family Occupation index – a rating used to determine a school’s level of need.

Last year’s funding for schools was announced in November 2011, giving school leaders at least some time to make employment arrangements for the positions. However, no announcement has yet been made about the expected 87 schools to receive further funding this year.

“The Baillieu Government has already ripped $550 million from the education system including slashing Education Maintenance Allowance to the most needy families,” Mr Brooks said.

“Holding back the announcement of Primary Welfare Officer funding is just another slap in the face for Victorian families.

“This can be added to the list of reasons the Baillieu Government can’t be trusted with our children’s education.”

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