Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 15 November 2011) . . Page.. 5250 ..
I therefore seek leave to table the list of reportable contracts for the period 1 April 2011 to 30 September 2011 as received by the public accounts committee.
MS LE COUTEUR: I present the following paper:
Reportable contracts—Agencies reporting reportable contracts for period 1 April to 30 September 2011—Table.
Children and young people—care and protection
Statement by minister
MS BURCH (Brindabella—Minister for Community Services, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Minister for Ageing, Minister for Women and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs) (10.05), by leave: On 14 October the Public Advocate provided the Assembly with her interim report Emergency response strategy for children in crisis in the ACT. It was a review that I commissioned, and I made a commitment that the government would respond as a priority.
I can inform the Assembly that I will be releasing the government response to the report within a week. The response will address each of the recommendations in the report, as well as announcing additional measures to address the difficult issues facing our hardworking and dedicated child protection workers.
One of the matters that I asked the Public Advocate to address was whether there was a breach of the Children and Young People Act 2008 in relation to the placement of a number of children with a service provider. A breach of the act is a very serious matter, as I made clear at the time.
While the Public Advocate expressed a strong view on this matter, the government also sought legal advice to help determine its position in response to the interim report. That legal advice, provided by the Solicitor-General, is very clear. The decision to place the children with Northern Bridging Support Services did not breach the act. The Solicitor-General states that the director-general may place a child or young person in any care arrangement that the director-general considers suitable.
The guidelines for placing children with out-of-home carers in the act are considered part of a “legislative scheme” for placing children and young people in care which is neither exclusive nor mandatory. The care and protection staff who made the decision to place the children with the agency when no other option was available made a lawful decision.
This advice is important in the context of the Public Advocate’s review. That is why I sought to table it at the nearest possible opportunity. However, it remains a fact that the review has drawn attention to areas where we could improve. Even though the decisions made were lawful, there were things that happened that should not have happened. Our service can do better, and I am determined to make the changes