Our Liberals & Nationals Government inherited a terrible legacy from Labor:
- a huge budget gap in Community Services;
- children being moved in and around out-of-home care; and,
- a damning report from the ombudsman on caseworker workloads who are not able to see children and young people at risk.
NSW has the highest number and proportion of children and young people in out-of-home care in Australia. On 31 March 2011, there were 17,931, or 11 in 1000 children and young people. That’s well over 1 in 100. Think about any gathering of school children at assembly – over 1 in 100 of those, on average, will be in care.
Out-of-home care should be a last resort, not a first option
Impressive reforms overseas are driving children towards permanent solutions. The Government is committed to reducing out-of-home care and increasing restoration and permanency to children and young people’s support and care. Stability in a child’s life will lead to better long term outcomes through adolescence and beyond.
Children must be kept safe
Of course we will remove children when they are at risk of significant harm, but we want to work towards a NSW where fewer children need to be removed. This will require a new approach, and an emphasis on working with struggling families. Even with our wonderful carers, removal and care too often fails children and young people. Our out of home care policy must be responsive to feedback from children, carers, families and from leading academic research.
Improving services for vulnerable children and families
The Liberal & Nationals Government has a strong reform agenda including in Family and Community Services. My reform agenda aspires to improve services for vulnerable children, young people and families. I want to boost accountability and transparency about our work and how the Government is striving to make real, effective change.
We are working on plans to transfer out-of-home care to the non-government sector, as part of a plan to work better and smarter in government. Improvement and adaptation across the sector will allow the government to better provide services to vulnerable children and young people. This will transform their lives, as well as their families.
Reform in the sector
I am determined to improve the performance of the Family and Community Services cluster and its divisions (which includes Community Services, Housing NSW, ADHC and the Aboriginal Housing Office), and integrating services, including for regular clients with complex and varied needs.
NSW is fortunate to have great people in Community Services, Housing NSW and Ageing Disability Services and Home Care, including hard working front line employees and case workers. Our reforms will empower employees to fulfil their potential and to benefit the citizens of this state. The only way to achieve reform in this sector is to work with our people to improve their works systems, so that they can get on with the job of helping our most vulnerable children. We need to free up the system to be the best it can be.
Real reform will be long and difficult, but also exciting. It will mean improving our systems, working with change, and not against it and thinking creatively. The poor financial legacy we inherited needs to become an opportunity to do more, not less, for our vulnerable children, young people and their families.
The care and protection of children and young people, the importance of seeing them and working with them must return to being the heart of all that we do. They deserve nothing less.
For more information see www.facs.nsw.gov.au