Reform of maternal and child health services

This page outlines the Victorian Government's plans to improve Maternal and Child Health services.

Getting kids ready for kinder

The Early Childhood Reform Plan includes initiatives to expand and enhance parenting support and the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) service.

As part of Budget 2017-18, the Victorian Government will invest $81.1 million for MCH and parenting support reforms, to help families get their kids ready for kindergarten and beyond.

Funding includes:

  • $4.9 million to respond to demand via a telephone information line (MCH line)
  • $37.7 million to progressively expand the Enhanced MCH service to support children up to the age of three
  • $11 million to fund  an additional MCH visit to women and children at risk of family violence
  • $5.2 million to attract new MCH nurses to the service and support the development of all MCH nurses in the latest techniques and practices to support families, including those struggling with trauma.

To increase the availability of supported playgroups across the state, and better connect first time MCH parent groups with community playgroups, $22.3 million has also been provided.

MCH information line

We are providing $4.9 million in funding to improve parents’ access to reliable, evidence-based information and advice.

Through the MCH information line phone service, parents are able to access information and support from a trained MCH nurse on a range of issues such as child health, nutrition and parenting.

The MCH line provides support to parents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Enhanced MCH service

The Enhanced MCH service is a more targeted service for families who may need some extra support, such as families with babies who were born prematurely or with a low birth weight, children with a disability or parents experiencing mental health issues.

Recognising that many families need support beyond their child’s first birthday, the Government is committing $37.7 million to expand the Enhanced MCH service to support 15 per cent of Victorian families with children from birth to three years of age.

When fully implemented, this will provide about 37,000 families who are struggling with 20 hours of support across their child’s first three years, in addition to the Universal MCH service’s ten Key Ages and Stages consultations.

This expansion will be guided by the work currently underway to revise and strengthen the Enhanced MCH service guidelines and the roll-out will occur progressively over the next four years.

MCH response to family violence

The Royal Commission into Family Violence observed that pregnancy and the early post-natal period is a time of heightened family violence risk. The Victorian Government is delivering $11 million in funding to provide an additional outreach visit where an MCH nurse is concerned that family violence may be occurring.

MCH nurses are highly skilled at supporting women and families. They use their clinical judgement in assessing for family violence risk and referring women to specialist supports.

Find MCH practice guidelines and resources including how to identify and respond to family violence and contact details for external support services.

Information sharing reforms

Keeping children safe from harm and promoting their safety and wellbeing is a top priority for the Victorian Government.

Victoria’s legal framework has been updated to allow effective information sharing between organisations that provide services to children and families. Three reforms relating to safety and wellbeing will impact MCH services from September 2018:

The Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme will enable information sharing between authorised and trained organisations and professionals specifically to assess and manage family violence risk to children and adults. The Scheme was introduced on 26 February 2018 to selected organisations. MCH staff will be authorised and trained under this scheme in September 2018.

The Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework (currently referred to as the CRAF) will be redeveloped in line with Recommendation One of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. The new Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM) Framework will support information sharing entities in their roles and responsibilities to assess and manage family violence risk to better protect victims and hold perpetrators to account. It will be available from late 2018.

The Child Information Sharing Scheme will allow information sharing between authorised and trained organisations and professionals specifically to promote children’s wellbeing and safety. All Victorian children and young people from age 0 to under 18 years of age will be covered by the new scheme.

Together these schemes will strengthen the ability of MCH staff to identify vulnerability and risk early, and to make sure children and families get the help they need as early as possible.

Integrated training, tools, resources and guidance will be available to support MCH services and professionals to implement these reforms.

Additional family support visits

Additional family support visits commenced in 2017.

Related links

Family Safety Victoria

MCH workforce development and attraction

To support the roll-out of these initiatives, the Victorian Government is committing $5.2 million to provide all MCH nurses with professional development opportunities, including training to help MCH nurses deal with increasingly complex family needs and issues such as trauma.

To ensure there are enough MCH nurses to successfully deliver these reforms, we are providing additional funding to attract more MCH nurses to the workforce.

Training for MCH nurses

Family violence training has commenced with the provision of trauma informed practice training being rolled out from June 2018.

This training will include family violence as a contributor to trauma and will enhance and extend MCH practitioner skill and confidence in identifying, assessing and responding to all forms of early relational trauma. 

More training will be rolled out to support MCH nurses to ask mothers (and other family members where relevant), about family violence during the 4 week and other Key Ages and Stages consultations and to provide ongoing support from late 2018.

Family Safety Victoria, the Department of Education and Training and the Department of Health and Human Services are jointly working towards the roll out of integrated workforce training on all three reforms.

An integrated training package covering the two Information Sharing Schemes and the foundational MARAM Framework content will progressively roll out from early September 2018.

Initially, the program will be provided as two-day, face-to-face training for all prescribed Phase 1 workforces.

The same package will be available in modular form via e-learn and self-directed audio visual modes. 

Information about location options, timing and advice on how to enrol will be available by mid-August 2018.

Supported playgroups

The Government is delivering $22.3 million in funding to expand supported playgroups. This funding will allow an additional 6,000 families each year to access a supported playgroup, and make them available across the state.

Supported playgroups provide an opportunity for children to learn through play, and for parents to spend time with their children in a fun environment. A qualified facilitator uses evidence-based practice to help parents build their confidence and skills, meet other parents and create a positive home learning environment.

Supported playgroups are currently operated by some local governments and community sector organisations, but they are funded in fewer than half of the Local Government Areas across Victoria. The funding for the expansion of supported playgroups commences in 2017.

Further information

To read the announcement, see: