VITAL funding for vulnerable students in the eastern suburbs could be slashed when the state government reviews its current spending.
Schools in Melbourne's eastern metropolitan region (EMR) — including Knox, Maroondah and Yarra Ranges — are now able to provide on average $119 per student to support at-risk 10-18 year olds as part of the School Focused Youth Services program.
This is now subject to review by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
Although the government has so far shown no indication of cutting the service, a joint statement by local providers of SFYS does not show any optimism that funding will continue beyond June 2013.
"With little information known about this review there is concern that the SFYS program is in danger of losing funding without all stakeholders having the opportunity to demonstrate the program's value," EMR representatives said in a statement.
The SFYS program began in 1997 and has provided prevention and early intervention support for students with personal or family troubles. The EMR says funding for these programs has not always been straightforward.
"Since program inception in 1997, funding rounds appear to have been approached in an ad hoc last-minute manner that has created a high-stress environment where the retention of quality staff has been difficult."
The EMR also argues that these programs, including mentoring and relationship counselling, have been independently assessed to be low cost and cost-effective. It has also stated these programs would cease to exist should state funding end.
The state government has remained tight-lipped over any potential budget cuts.
"The Victorian government is committed to providing the very best and most effective support to any student experiencing welfare issues or who is at risk of disengaging from school," a spokesman for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development said.
"External programs designed to provide extra support to students experiencing welfare issues are being considered."
At present the government sets aside $7 million annually for SFYS programs, of which the Eastern Metropolitan Region gets $1.08 million.
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