Auditor-General: Follow Up of Residential Care Services for Children (31.08.2016)

Written on the 1 September 2016

31 August 2016


Statements on reports and papers 

GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)


I am pleased to be able to rise and speak to the Victorian Auditor-General's report that was tabled in June of this year in relation to the follow-up of residential care services for children. The Auditor-General has undertaken a number of very important reviews in relation to the residential care system and made a number of recommendations obviously there are findings in the report and recommendations, as I said for further improvements in the area, which I think is to be commended because this system, as the report says, is to meet the needs of children, and what we are speaking about is some of Victoria's most vulnerable children.

Many of these children have very complex needs and many of them have very sad family circumstances. Many come from circumstances of abuse where they may have been abused or lived in violent family environments and required the assistance of the state to care for them. Really this is what the residential care system does in relation to providing that care and meeting those needs. Unfortunately many of those needs are not being met.

I have tried on a number of occasions to find out how many of these children actually attend school, and the minister has been unable to provide that information to me. I know from my own experience and from speaking to child protection workers and many of them do an absolutely phenomenal job in caring for some of these children they themselves are at a loss as to how they can get these kids to school and work through those programs. I think it is absolutely critical, if we are going to have better outcomes for these children that are under state care, that they go to school to have a proper education to give them some skills in the basics that we all take for granted numeracy and literacy to be able to participate within our society and to understand the boundaries. If they do not attend the education system that we have in this state, how on earth are they going to survive when they leave these residential care settings?

Whilst it is a great aim for all these children to be removed from residential care, the facts are that there are going to be children who need this safety net. And if we have got this safety net then we should be doing better, because the outcomes are not great. Many of these children are leaving these residential care settings and they are ending up homeless, on the streets, on drugs, with mental health problems. They have significant problems, and I do not think as other reports and reviews have found that we have done enough.

It appears that it is getting worse, and even in a report of last week it was stated that intervention orders have been taken out by Department of Health and Human Services workers against children in residential care units who pose a threat or intimidate staff and other residents. It is a significant concern that intervention orders are being taken out by the workers against these children, and we need to be doing more to protect both these workers and the children against one another.

Again I go back to my starting point about us needing to get better outcomes for these children. Indeed this report highlights some of the issues surrounding the support that they require in being able to attend school and get that educational attainment. So I will continue to pursue this issue because I think this is absolutely critical. We are spending a lot of money on these children, which they need, but they are not getting the educational attainment that they require. Therefore we are letting these children down and not giving them the proper skills that they need, as I said, to participate when they leave the residential care setting. Whether or not they go back into their home environments, they need that follow-up, they need that intensive education, and I would like to see the Andrews government do more on this, because it is failing significantly in this area. As I said, I have been unable to find any figures at all from the minister about the educational attendance of these very vulnerable children.

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