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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (28 April) . . Page.. 84 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

The Government established the ACT Council on the Family. The council's role is to advise me on key issues affecting families, and promote family values and the importance of the family within the Territory. The ACT substitute care system is being reviewed. The purpose of this review is to investigate demand for services, adequacy of supply of services, funding arrangements and standards of care. The Children's Services Act is being reviewed, and this will result in legislation being brought to the Assembly later this year. The Act is now 10 years old and requires revision to reflect modern child welfare practice.

The Government also established and funded new services for young people at risk, including the Canberra Youth Outreach Service which operates after hours to support young people, and the Galilee program for young people in substitute care. This latter program, Mr Speaker, was acknowledged as the most innovative program in Australia for this most at-risk group of young people at a national conference of government and non-government agencies and young people in substitute care.

The youth education access program is an education support program developed by the Children's, Youth and Family Services Bureau in conjunction with the Government School Division and the Civic Youth Centre. The program provides direct support to marginalised young people, to assist them to access educational, vocational and work experience opportunities.

My department's staff development section has presented training in January and April this year to high school staff which was focused on youth at risk. Over 900 teachers have attended these programs, which have included information on risk assessment, resolving conflict, issues of social belonging, and drug and health issues. My department has joined with the Marymead substitute care organisation to develop home-based programs where parents learn parenting and play skills. The program also offers family support and an opportunity for families to develop a network of community support mechanisms. Links are also being established to identify child-care opportunities for the parents in the program.

A working group has been established within the department to look at making baseline developmental assessments of children entering substitute care. The working group will develop procedures to ensure that these children are assessed and developmental issues identified early and appropriate action taken. Following on from this work, the department will introduce education plans for children in substitute care. These plans formalise the existing practice of family services and teaching staff working together to identify educational goals and approaches where they are appropriate for the children in care. These plans will become a formal part of the case management of these children and will complement the care plans and development plans developed by Family Services and the Child Health and Development Services respectively.

Mr Speaker, all these projects I have mentioned have demonstrated the importance that the Government places on supporting children at risk in our community. I also note with pleasure that the committee's report has recognised some of the significant achievements of the last Government in the areas of services to children at risk. These include forming a single agency to address services to children, improved coordination of government services, and the introduction of mandatory reporting of child abuse.

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