Cassy O'Connor MP | Greens' Leader and Human Services spokesperson
The Report on Government Services (RoGS) chapter on child protection services released today illustrates enduring and serious issues that need to be sensitively examined and addressed.
The report reiterates that investigation timeframes have increased significantly, with potentially highly vulnerable children and young people subject to a notification of risk now waiting far longer for investigation than any other State.
While such measures need to be approached cautiously, the balance of evidence would suggest that these timeframes are blowing out due to significant under- resourcing of child protection and out of home care in Tasmania.
This is also reflected in the unacceptable decline in the number of children with case plans. The ROGS data points to a system that continues to fail vulnerable Tasmanian children and young people.
Of most concern are the seven children who were abused or neglected in out of home care. These children were removed from their families because of the assessed threat to their wellbeing. They were the responsibility of the State – their legal guardian – and the State failed to protect them.
The Greens believe this reinforces the desperate need for the Hodgman Government to adopt the Commissioner for Children’s call for independent oversight of out of home care, as well as the establishment of advocates for children in care.
Also of potential concern is the large increase in proportion of children who had a report substantiated after a prior report that was not substantiated.
We all need to be very careful when looking at figures like these and should not rush to judgment. However, this could very well indicate a lack of robust assessment, possibly due to long timeframes or a lack of investigative resources and support for staff in child protection.
In the context of such a rapid and significant apparent decline in key performance indicators, the government must invest a significant amount of resources into child safety services and out of home care, as well as establishing independent oversight and child advocates.
The Liberals also need to rule out further privatisation of child protection responsibilities, through costly and poor performing for-profit providers, such as Safe Pathways.