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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 460 ..

MR HIRD (11.14): Mr Speaker, the Government's response is a thorough and comprehensive summary of the Government's actions in the important area of services to children at risk. It demonstrates the Government's continuing commitment to providing effective and accessible services to those in our community in most need. Concern has been expressed in the past by a colleague, Ms Tucker, the chair of the Social Policy Committee in the last Assembly, that the Government's response to her report was simply to do more reviews where urgent action was needed. However, the two reviews to which she is referring are essential to the effective operations of the program, and I will address them separately.

The supported accommodation assistance program, or SAAP, provides accommodation options for people at risk of homelessness. It is a joint Commonwealth-State-Territory program. As part of the funding agreement with the Commonwealth, the ACT is undertaking a review of service provision under the agreement, prior to a national evaluation by all parties. The ACT SAAP review will address recommendations Nos 13 to 16 from the Social Policy Committee's report. It will do this by, firstly, analysing service models and recommending options for future delivery of service and, secondly, providing a profile and analysis of the SAAP service system, including addressing the service mix, supply and demand issues, and linkages between SAAP and related support services. The consultants performing the review have been provided with a copy of the Social Policy Committee's report. They were also briefed by officers of the Department of Education and Community Services to emphasise the importance this Government places on addressing the matters raised by this inquiry. The report is expected to be completed in the near future.

The review of the substitute care system is being undertaken to ensure that substitute care practices in the ACT are in line with best practice throughout Australia and the best interests of the child are always promoted. The report is scheduled to be released to stakeholders in early July this year. Many issues which were raised by the Social Policy Committee, including support for carers and respite, have been included in this subcare review's recommendations.

I reiterate comments made by Minister Stefaniak when he tabled the Government's response to the inquiry report. He said then that the Government would not attempt to pre-empt the two reviews in progress, and that the Social Policy Committee's report would contribute to their findings. Mr Speaker, the Government would be foolish to agree to do more than that at this point in time. However, once the findings are presented, the Government will take the necessary actions within our resources to improve service delivery within these two important programs.

Mr Speaker, I would like to update the parliament on the progress with Marlow Cottage. Marlow Cottage is defined as a shelter under the Children's Services Act. It provides transitional emergency and short-term accommodation for children in need of care. It can cater for up to six young people at a time. At the beginning of the children at risk inquiry concern was expressed over the number of issues involving Marlow.

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