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Child Safety Services - Notifications Procedure

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 20 August 2020

Tags: Coronial Inquest, Child Safety


The impacts of an under-funded child safety system on those it is designed to protect are too often tragic and terrible. We understand that on Monday a coronial investigation will begin into the deaths of seven babies and young children who were known to Child Safety Services. These children died between January 2014 and December 2018. The question of whether notifications were followed up your agency in the appropriate time will form part of that investigation.

Can you tell the House what percentage of notifications that come through to the advice and referral line end up bounced to third party providers with no intervention from Child Safety Services? Is it, as we understand, a significant proportion? How many vulnerable and at-risk children would that be, on average, in a year? Has anything changed in terms of child safety practices and procedures since the deaths of those children who will be the subject of the coronial investigation and since you became minister?



Madam Speaker, I thank Ms O'Connor for her question. These are important and serious matters. I am aware of the process underway and hearings starting next week, which I understand cover a number of cases over quite an extended period, a four-year period reaching a fair way back. What we find with many of the coronial processes that come to light and that generate interest around the issue of child safety is that they are looking back at issues that have arisen and practices in the past. The most important thing to arise from those are the findings of what was done in the follow-up to those events, what has changed in the service system in response to that. It does not for a second diminish the seriousness and gravity of those situations but it should not be about looking to apportion blame. We have to apportion responsibility and we have to see that the system has responded responsibly to the issues being raised.

Ms O'Connor - That is the question: what has changed since December 2018 and how many notifications are sent to third-party providers?

Madam SPEAKER - Excuse me, through the Chair.

Mr JAENSCH - As Ms O'Connor knows, recent coroners' reports have repeatedly referred to the Strong Families, Safe Kids redesign of the child safety system in Tasmania as a series of positive developments which have addressed a large number of the matters that have arisen in coronial inquests regarding deaths or serious injuries to young children over recent years.

The aim of those reforms, which were broadly supported, I understand, across the political divides here, have been to reduce the number of young people entering the child safety system and opening the front end of that system not just to cases of known critical abuse and neglect but to catch those cases, those families and circumstances, earlier and to refer them to services that can help prevent the deterioration of a safe family environment, including through non-government organisations and therefore avoiding kids entering the system, rather than as has been inferred, that we are bunting them off to another player. We are getting in earlier so that the system is not solely about child rescue and coming to snatch the kids away when they have been harmed, but identifying those families and those situations earlier and wrapping more services around them using non-government services of various kinds in a joined-up way to wrap around those families.

The Strong Families, Safe Kids redesign of that front end of the child safety system has largely concluded as a project but the Strong Families, Safe Kids reform process is continuing. We have got the advice and referral line up and running. We have fewer children entering the child safety system. We have more children and families being referred to other services that can assist them to be safe places for those children to remain and to be under supervision so that children can be removed, if needed, as a last resort. We know that sometimes, even under the worst circumstances, when children are removed from families the trauma of the removal for the child and for the family is lifelong and sometimes there is a fatal attraction that will draw those children back to their families. The aim of the game is to prevent the breakdown of conditions in families that lead to risk for children, to bring children into -

Ms O'CONNOR - Madam Speaker, a very respectful point of order. Perhaps if the minister is unable to provide the information on the percentage of referrals to the advice and referral line that go to third parties, maybe he could bring that back to the parliament.

Madam SPEAKER - That is a decision for the minister.

Mr JAENSCH - This is the sort of information which is routinely prepared and provided as part of the Estimates process. I do not want to take an arbitrary point in time, especially as you are referring to a coronial inquiry process which spans a number of cases over many years and many different issues -

Ms O'Connor - Sure, but we have asked you for the information on the percentage of calls to the referral line that are sent to non-government providers. As minister you should make a commitment to bring that information back to the parliament.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, let the minister finish.

Mr JAENSCH - You are asking for data on the number of cases that should have gone to Child Safety that have gone to non-government organisations as if that is a bad thing. I am happy to review the question you have asked and see what information is publicly available at this time that we can bring to your attention, otherwise we will talk about that in Estimates.