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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 13 May 2021) . . Page.. 1513 ..


Adjournment

Motion (by Mr Gentleman) proposed:

That the Assembly do now adjourn.

Children and young people—out of home care

MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (5.36): The other day during the debate on collecting data on care leavers I was surprised by Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith’s response, referring specifically to what I said about the importance of data. The minister said, “She makes it sounds like it is really easy”. She also said, “We cannot force them to provide us with data. They would need to be willing to engage in that process.” To me this was a sign of defeat—“When something is too hard we won’t do it.” The minister’s own directorate produced a discussion paper in 2018 that repeatedly emphasises the importance of data collection on care leavers. Three years later, there is still nothing. Now we know why that there is nothing—it is simply too hard.

I am here today to give the minister as solution. I have a solution for her 24 hours after the debate —not three years; one day. Imagine what I could achieve if I was the minister. So here it is. Please listen carefully, minister, and your directorate’s senior managers—although I note the minister has just stepped out of the chamber.

As I said during the debate, if the young people who exit the government’s care and protection system are not willing to engage once they turn 18, then we have a serious problem. Young people who have felt safe in government care and who have felt genuinely valued and respected, do not need to be forced. I stand by this statement. In addition, I would like to add to it.

The minister’s reaction to what I said in the debate two days ago raises serious concerns about how unsupported care leavers in this territory might really be. The minister made it sound like young people themselves are the only source of information when she said, “We cannot force them to provide us with data”. This is only true if care leavers have been abandoned with no-one to watch out for them. I believe that is what is happening in Canberra.

In the UK the Staying Close program provides youth who have exited residential care with 10 hours of ongoing contact each week with trusted support workers in the same homes they once lived in. They also regularly visit these homes for dinners and to celebrate birthdays and holidays with their former housemates. In such a situation it is not necessary to ask people how they are going. If someone is homeless, support workers know. If someone is struggling with school or needs help securing employment, support workers know. Data collection on these care leavers is not hard as the minister claimed because they still have people they trust looking out for them.

I offered similar counsel at recent budget estimates hearings after questioning the high number of community-based justice orders not being completed by young people. The ACT government has taken it upon itself to provide the case work for these youths,


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