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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 5 Hansard (15 May) . . Page.. 1606..

I move:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Out-of-home care strategy

Ministerial statement

MS BURCH (Brindabella—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Disability, Children and Young People, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Women, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Racing and Gaming) (3.57), by leave: I would like to thank the Assembly for the opportunity to provide an update on the proposed policy directions for out-of-home care services.

It is a sad reality that some of our children may never be able to live with their biological families. For those children and young people the only safe option is out-of-home care until their family problems are resolved. This is not just a problem in Canberra. Around the country governments are wrestling with how to best support and nurture vulnerable young people and children.

There have been at least 18 reviews of out-of-home care services around the country in the past decade, including three here in the ACT. Since 2012 the Community Services Directorate has been undertaking research and consulting with stakeholders—including carers—to develop the out-of-home care strategy 2015-20. An issues paper was released for consultation last August and a discussion paper in November. In response we have received written submissions from many organisations and individuals.

As a result of the consultations, the ACT government has endorsed, in principle, the general policy directions proposed for the new out-of-home care system. We have released them for a further round of consultation before we finalise the strategy later this year.

Projections prepared for the strategy suggest that if we do not act now, in 10 years time there will be more than 1,000 children and young people in out-of-home care in the ACT. Again this is not unique to the ACT. All Australian jurisdictions are experiencing growth in care numbers and all are experiencing difficulties in attracting and retaining carers.

All our children have a right to grow up in a safe, stable and nurturing environment. There is no better place for that to happen than with a good parent. No government-funded delivery service can ever replace that, yet we find ourselves in a situation where some children will need to come into out-of-home care.

This leaves child protection services struggling to meet the increasingly complex needs of children in care, to provide enough care places as the availability of foster carers declines, and deal with workforce challenges and financial pressures of caring for growing numbers of children and young people entering care.

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