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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 455 ..

Report on Inquiry into Services for Children at Risk -
Government Response and Ministerial Statement

Debate resumed from 28 April 1998, on motion by Mr Stefaniak:

That the Assembly takes note of the papers.

MS TUCKER (10.53): The response from the Government has some light in it. They have acknowledged, basically, that the recommendations of the Social Policy Committee are important and they are supported in principle. I guess we should be pleased about that. But the overall response shows, once again, a lack of commitment to taking on these social issues in a meaningful way by saying, "How are we going to achieve an improvement for those people who are disadvantaged in our community?". We see support in principle and we see a commitment to review particular areas, which can be useful; but it is a concern if, once again, we end up with vague, waffly documents that still do not propose initiatives that will meet the problems.

The mental health strategic plan is a fantastic example of that. In this report we see a response to the recommendation regarding mental health issues for young people which basically refers us to the Government's response to the mental health report of the Social Policy Committee. That report put a lot of weight on the development of a strategic plan for delivery of mental health services, which we obviously welcomed because the committee was very disappointed that no such plan was already in existence, considering the major so-called reforms occurring in the area of mental health. It was amusing to notice in that strategic plan a comment that the development of the strategic plan was actually in line with the reforms that were being carried out in mental health. So we thought, "Wow, that is lucky, is it not?". One would think that normally the strategic plan was developed first and the reforms would follow the lines of that strategic plan.

The really frustrating thing about that strategic plan was that, once again, it refused to acknowledge all the work that had been done in looking at where gaps in services are. A number of other issues were very disappointing too. The underlying principle of intervention and prevention was supposed to be clearly signalled through the strategic plan, and it was not. The work, as I said, of the Social Policy Committee in identifying gaps in services and the work of the various other inquiries and consultancies in looking at this issue were ignored. Basically, the strategic plan for mental health said, "We will look at identifying where gaps in services lie". It is very frustrating for people in the community who continually give information to government, government committees and consultants and tell them where the gaps in services are - which they experience as an everyday reality - to see, once again, a reluctance from government to actually bite the bullet and say, "Yes, that is right: Four reports have told us there is a problem with dual diagnosis; four reports have told us that we do not get supported accommodation right in this town", and come up with proposals to deal with the issues.

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