Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 6 Hansard (22 June) . . Page.. 2310..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
The terms of reference for the review required an investigation into the failure of the Department of Education, Youth and Family Services to fulfil statutory obligations under section 162 of the Children and Young People Act 1999, and an audit of files relating to children and young people in care. The review team also looked at departmental practices and policies, governance, and resources. The review team consulted widely. They involved children and young people in care, parents, foster carers, support agencies, child protection workers and advocates.
Ms Vardon presented her report to government on 17 May 2004. The report provides greater detail and clarity about children and young people in care in the ACT, particularly indigenous children and young people, than previously known.
It is evident there have been systemic and administrative problems. Contributing factors include growing workloads, mandatory reporting, new legislation, changes to service arrangements and staff changes.
The report focused on four main areas for reform:
accountability and governance frameworks;
workloads and staffing;
service and sector development; and
The ACT is not alone. Other jurisdictions have faced similar challenges in providing quality care and protection services for children and young people.
The government embraced in its response to the report the reforms which the Commissioner for Public Administration presented. Most recommendations were supported. The government response, which was released on 25 May 2004, outlines a commitment to change and strategies needed to be put in place. Our focus is on providing care and support for children and young people in care, assurance for our community about services, and a commitment to resourcing the care and protection system. Further consultation is required to successfully implement these reforms.
What is important is that together we can put in place a new way forward for children and young people in care in the ACT. The Vardon report provides the direction for dealing more effectively with the prevention of child abuse and neglect and for new policies, procedures and practices.
As a community we must recognise the need to protect children and young people in care and the government has made a commitment to implement reform. Accountability for this reform is required and checks and balances are necessary.
An implementation team, led by the chief executive of the Chief Minister's Department and comprising non-government and government representatives, is developing an