Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 7 Hansard (3 July) . . Page.. 2703..
MR PRATT (continuing):
child abuse and neglect. Minister, can you guarantee to the Assembly and the community that the issues raised by the Chief Executive of ACT Health in September 2004 have been fully addressed and are not being repeated?
MS GALLAGHER: I do not have the benefit of that briefing note from 2004 in front of me. I presume it was from Dr Sherbon to the then minister for health, Mr Corbell. I will have a look and see what that brief said. I do know that since that time—and that would have been just post the Vardon report—ACT Health executives and executives from Disability, Housing and Community Services have met frequently to talk about matters of cross-portfolio interest, of which this would be one. As the Minister for Health and the Minister for Children and Young People, I expect I would be the first to know from ACT Health if they had concerns around reporting—
Mr Smyth: Well, you were the last to know about the house last Wednesday.
MS GALLAGHER: Mr Smyth, if I could just answer the question which has been asked, because for once the person who has asked the question is listening to the answer, I would expect, as the Minister for Health, that I would be briefed by the Chief Executive of ACT Health if they had concerns similar to the ones that have been outlined. I have not, as I recall to date, had any concerns raised with me around problems they were having with the centralised intake service. I am very confident that my two agencies work very closely together. In fact, you will see that from some of the budget initiatives that we have introduced. I refer to the IMPACT program, which is now up and running, the response to vulnerable families, which is part of that program, and the integrated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program, which again is across portfolios—ACT Health and Disability, Housing and Community Services—and which is absolutely designed to make sure that, for those vulnerable families in our community that we are aware of, ACT Health and Disability, Housing and Community Services and, through them, care and protection, are working closely together in the interests of those children.
My answer to your question would be that, yes, I am confident that the problems that you outlined in the preamble to your question are no longer issues, because, if they were, I would be the one who would be aware of them.
MR SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Pratt.
MR PRATT: Thanks, Mr Speaker. Minister, is it not true that, even after the Vardon report, you presided over a worsening child protection service?
MS GALLAGHER: No, that is not true at all. Again, the opposition fails to substantiate those allegations with any evidence at all.
I will tell you what is happening in child protection. We have gone from a situation where we had between 30 and 40 care and protection workers working in about 10 different venues across the city, some of them in the most inadequate government accommodation that I have ever seen, to where we have located them in one place. We have 88 staff working in care and protection. We have increased the budget by 87 per cent. We have built two child and family centres. We have cross-agency portfolios working on vulnerable families.