Cassy O'Connor MP | Greens' Leader and Human Services spokesperson
The report into Tasmania’s crisis-driven child protection and out of home care system by the Commissioner for Children and Young People demands urgent attention.
For too long, the State has failed vulnerable children and young people in its care. In some cases, such as the Safe Pathways scandal, the State stands guilty of neglect.
The system is still chronically underfunded and there are insufficient checks, balances and accountability in place. Tasmania spends the least per child of any state or territory, and there are no standards in place for out of home care.
The Tasmanian Greens welcome Minister Petrusma's statement that all seven of the Commissioner’s recommendations will be implemented. This will require substantially increased funding, above and beyond the $20M over four years the government has promised.
We will be looking to this year’s State Budget to see evidence of the extra resourcing required to keep vulnerable children and young people safe when they are in the care of the State.
In the three years of this Minister’s watch, despite the rhetoric on reform, 151 child protection notifications in the North West were ignored, an increased number of at-risk children are awaiting investigation, less than 20% of investigations are completed within a month of notification, fewer children in the care of the State have care and case plans in place and there are significantly more children in out of home care.
Then there is Safe Pathways, where even the most basic checks and balances were not in place and a for-profit mainland provider was charging a fortune while the young people in their ‘care’ were neglected. The Minister continues to display a lack of transparency over Safe Pathways, which is still operating in Tasmania.
There is no room for for-profit providers in child protection and out of home care. The Minister needs to rule out any such arrangements in the future.
The establishment of independent oversight and monitoring of the out of home care system and a Visitors’ Program for young people in care are critical reforms, as is ensuring there are mechanisms in place to hear the voices of young people with experience of the child protection and out of home care systems.
Vulnerable children and young people deserve better. The time for talk of reform is over. Action and resourcing are urgently required.