Page 3056 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 23 August 2005

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was 2,297. Members will agree that these figures provide a stark perspective on the challenge we are facing.

An increasing number of children and young people are also being placed in care. This figure has almost doubled to 423 in the last three years. We, of course, remain committed to delivering a quality protection system for children and young people in care, and working as partners with other government services and the community sector is a necessary part of building a quality system.

Our focus in the past six months has been to build on the child protection work force and consolidate the leadership team to provide greater organisational stability. The government has invested heavily in the services provided by the office. Its financial commitment has substantially increased in 2005-06, with an overall investment of $139 million since late 2003-04.

We have recruited and retained more child protection workers. Staff numbers have doubled from 51 in April 2004 to 110 in July 2005. Despite competition from other jurisdictions, child protection workers have been recruited locally and nationally. The international campaign attracted 36 child protection workers and 15 overseas recruits have commenced work.

The leadership team has been appointed and includes the first identified indigenous position at the executive level across the ACT public service. This appointment recognises that the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in care requires resolution.

New three-year service level agreements have commenced with out-of-home care sector agencies, which expand the range of foster care and residential services in the ACT. As members will be aware, out-of-home care services for children and young people in care was outsourced some years ago. This expanded range of services will provide up to 156 foster care placements. Our aim is to meet increased demand and assist with the care and support of children and young people with complex needs and their families. The new arrangements also provide a new specialist foster care service for children or young people with more complex needs.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kinship and foster care service, launched on 2 June 2005, is also providing a more culturally appropriate service. The range of available residential care options will increase to 51 places from the 32 places previously funded. The increased number of residential care places will broaden the availability of specific support services for children and young people in care.

I can confirm that statutory compliance obligations under the Children and Young People Act 1999 are consistently being met. Section 162(2) reports, as well as annual review reports—or section 267 reports—are being forwarded to the Community Advocate in a relatively timely manner. The Community Advocate has recognised that practice improvements are being made. A new MOU with the Community Advocate will focus on monitoring quality outcomes for children and young people in care, as well as statutory compliance.

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