Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 461 ..
MR HIRD (continuing):
These included frequent complaints from neighbours over behaviour of some of the residents, concerns over the number of young people referred to Marlow and their length of stay in the shelter, and damage to the property caused by residents. To resolve these issues, ongoing discussions have occurred between staff of Family Services and the Richmond Fellowship. These addressed issues including procedures both within Marlow and with Family Services, staff training and placing an emphasis on Family Services finding alternative placements for young people to reduce the time they spend in Marlow. Mr Speaker, I am pleased to be able to report that the number of young people in Marlow has declined over recent months.
The referral processes have been improved to ensure that only young persons who are genuinely in need of care are referred to the shelter. Security was improved in late 1997, so young people are less likely to leave the premises at night. The behaviour problems of residents, and hence disruption caused to the neighbourhood, have both dropped significantly. Mr Speaker, this shows that the partnership between Family Services and the Richmond Fellowship has been successful in resolving these concerns and providing an effective service to residents. In this way we are endeavouring to work with all funded community agencies to provide improved services for our client group.
Mr Speaker, I would like to update the parliament on the review of the Children's Services Act currently being undertaken by the Department of Education and Community Services. The public consultation phase of the review closed at the end of January this year. Major issues raised by this process were those of secure care, family group conferencing and provision for measures relating to foster carers - for instance, minimum care standards. The Government is considering its position in relation to the proposed revision of the Act, especially with regard to the complex issues surrounding children at very high risk. It is expected that a Bill will be put before the parliament towards the end of this year.
In summary, Mr Speaker, the Government is committed to providing services where they are most required in the community. However, as my colleague Minister Stefaniak pointed out as he tabled the Government's response, we are limited by the available resources. There will always be needs in community services that we are unable to meet. So, Mr Speaker, the Government is taking a responsible approach to the management of the Territory's resources. We will be prioritising, through the budget process, where we can commit our resources to greatest effect. The committee's report has given us another perspective on priorities, and it will be considered in this light. The Government believes that the current programs are working effectively to achieve their aims. I hope that other members of the parliament will share our commitment to improving services for the community.
MR WOOD (11.22): I was very encouraged by Mr Moore's response and I would contrast that with Mr Hird's response. Mr Moore, as the new Minister covering much of this area, stood up and said that he would pay very careful attention to the report and to producing effective outcomes. Mr Hird seemed to be patting his Government on the back and saying, "Everything is fine. We cannot fund it all; there is never enough money, folks. But it is not too bad at all". I much prefer Mr Moore's approach that there remain many problems to be tackled.