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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (28 April) . . Page.. 86 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

Mr Speaker, with ACT families in mind, I would like to take this opportunity today to announce that a key initiative of my department will be the development of a Department of Education and Community Services family support policy and implementation plan. The Government is committed to building upon family strengths by assisting and supporting carers to care for, protect and promote the wellbeing of their children. This policy will have significant benefits to the group of children at risk in the ACT. The policy will cover the provision of integrated and accessible services to parents and involvement of parents in planning and their participating in service delivery. It emphasises that family support is an inherent part of all the services the department provides, be they government schools, youth justice services or specifically funded family support services. It will also explore the opportunity for schools to be the focal point for delivery of a range of family support services.

As my department provides a significant level of funding for family support to the community sector, a coordinated approach is essential to ensure efficient and seamless delivery and promotion of government and government-funded services. As noted by the Social Policy Committee, the department has already undertaken valuable work in mapping the delivery of family support services to provide a basis for future planning of delivery of those services. In developing this policy and implementation plan the department will be seeking comments from some service providers and will be asking the ACT Council for the Family to take a key role in providing community feedback. Members of the council have been appointed as representatives of the broad community because of their expertise and understanding of issues which impact on families. Therefore, their views on this important policy will be valuable for the department in finalising this initiative.

To summarise, Mr Speaker, the Government's response to the committee's recommendations falls into three main areas - where actions are already under way within the responsible portfolios to address the recommendations; where existing Government programs are being reviewed, which will address many of the committee's concerns; and where recommendations would have a significant impact upon budgetary resources. However, Mr Speaker, the fundamental issue for the Government which has been identified by this report is that of priority setting for future needs and resources. Given the constraints on the ACT budget, this is where this report is most helpful.

The Government agrees with the additional comments to the report provided by Louise Littlewood. These comments noted that the committee had not been able to have an in-depth look into some areas and that as a consequence the recommendation to spend an estimated $2m could be a little premature. Recommendations that involve potential significant costs to government will therefore be viewed in the context of future budget processes.

Mr Speaker, independently of the committee's recommendations, two reviews are currently being conducted which will impact on the delivery of services in this area. One of these is the review of the ACT substitute care system which I have already mentioned. The other is the review of service provision under the supported accommodation assistance program, SAAP. The committee's report will contribute

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