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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 1 Hansard (11 February) . . Page.. 198..


MR SPEAKER: Mr Smyth, I listened closely when you sought an answer to the question of who was to blame, and I think the Chief Minister responded at the earliest moment of his response on that issue.

MR STANHOPE: I have concluded, thank you, Mr Speaker.

Child protection

MR HARGREAVES: My question is to the Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services and concerns the current situation regarding children in care. Yesterday you tabled Commissioner Vardon's interim report of her review of child protection services, and I thank you for that. That report included details of the Community Advocate's concern about six children in care. Minister, can you advise members what the Community Advocate's current view is of the safety of those children?

MS GALLAGHER: I am in a position to provide members with more information than I was able to provide yesterday. Yesterday afternoon after question time I received a report from the Community Advocate outlining her initial investigations into 62 reports concerning 52 children under section 162 (2) of the act, and I am happy to table that document for the information of members.

In this report the Community Advocate points out that at no time has the Department of Education, Youth and Family Services had time to formally respond and that we should keep that in mind. I think it is a frank report, which raises a number of concerns. Those concerns relate to a view she holds that there is an inefficient electronic case management system at Family Services.

She is concerned about the number of cases that Family Services staff manage. She is concerned about the number of unallocated cases. There are some concerns about appraisal processes and substantiation processes. She also points out that the focus of her initial investigations was on ensuring the safety of the children whose cases are outlined in the reports.

In her initial report, which was provided to members through Gwenn Murray's advice to the commissioner, the Community Advocate had concerns relating to six children. In the report given to me yesterday the Community Advocate points out that she was concerned about eight children and that files on these additional two children were given to her late on Friday afternoon. When she reviewed them she had concerns about the two children in those files, which brings the number to eight.

However, outlining her process, she says that she attended the regional office of Family Services to review the individual files of those eight children and young people assessed by the OCA to be unsafe at the conclusion of Family Services' appraisal. For seven of the eight files reviewed, the OCA concluded that Family Services is responding appropriately to current risk factors. For one of those files such a conclusion was unable to be drawn due to the young person currently residing in New South Wales.

While this report raises a number of issues, which will be of interest to members as well as to the commissioner as this review continues, where the immediate safety of those


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