Auditor-General: Follow Up of Residential Care Services for Children (17.08.2016)
Written on the 1 September 2016
17 August 2016
Statements on reports and papers
GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)
I am pleased to rise this evening and speak to the Follow up of Residential Care Services for Children report that has been prepared by the Auditor-General and was tabled in the house in June of this year. As other members have said in their contributions, it is an important report. I think anything that highlights concerns in relation to some of Victoria's most vulnerable children is indeed very worthy of being looked at. In terms of some of the findings in this report which I am interested in, there is obviously and should always be constant monitoring and improvement in these areas. Of course we do know that some of Victoria's most vulnerable children have very, very complex needs. Some of them have come from very disadvantaged backgrounds of abuse, neglect and other very, very sad circumstances. Certainly child protection workers across the state are endeavouring to do as much as they can to ensure that these children remain safe.I am pleased to say that in the Auditor-General's report there are some findings on programs that were commenced under the previous coalition government that have been assisting in meeting some of the needs of vulnerable children. I note that there was one particular program that involved hearing from those children hearing about their needs and their concerns and giving them a greater voice. It was commenced under the previous government to enable that to occur, so that was when this was undertaken. I will quote from page 5 of the report in relation to this particular area. It states:
Our 2014 audit found that there was no clear independent advocacy on behalf of individual children in residential care. Although the department, the Victorian Ombudsman and service providers could all receive complaints about care from or on behalf of children in residential careIn undertaking that an independent visitors program was commenced. That was announced in August of 2014, and the Commission for Children and Young People basically started to commence that pilot program to have independent visitors go in and hear from these children and hear their concerns in residential care. I am looking forward to hearing the final evaluations of those findings and what that pilot actually produced.
We know that under the former coalition government significant reform was required, and the former minister undertook that following the two damning Ombudsman reports that found a lot of problems within the out-of-home care system. We still have an issue as we speak. We see that the child protection incident reporting or category 1 reporting numbers have increased in the first six months of this year or the final six months of last financial year. We now have data indicating an increase in the number of assaults in child protection and family services-related incidents. There has been an increase between quarter 3 of last financial year to quarter 4 of around 15 per cent, with the total number increasing from 862 to 957 on the latest figures.If this trend were to continue, these figures would be significantly higher. I think this is concerning. There was a report that highlighted some of the real concerns about what is occurring in our residential care system. An article in the Age earlier this year, in May, before these final figures came out, only talked about the third quarter or the 862, but since then we have seen a further increase.
Some of these incidents are alarming. We are talking about trading sex for drugs and children being recruited into street gangs. The report indicates that we have got a system that is under enormous stress. I think the minister needs to address these concerns because we have got this trajectory of increasing numbers of category 1 incident reporting. Unfortunately I am unable to get data for the first six months of this financial year, from July to December I have to wait until October to get that so we do not really know what the full picture is.