Page 244 - Week 01 - Thursday, 16 February 2006

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indicators of demand on government for these services. In the face of this growing demand, I can tell the Assembly that, thanks to the investment of approximately $130 million by the Stanhope government in the Office of Children, Youth and Family Support since July 2004, we have a greater capacity to respond to the community’s concerns about children and young people who are at risk of neglect.

The government’s commitment to delivering a quality child protection system for vulnerable children and young people has not diminished. For example, we are recruiting and retaining more child protection workers. In 2005-06 the office is funded for 155 positions in care and protection, and recruitment to date has brought front-line staff to 115, up from 51 in April 2004.

The government is also making progress in building better services for at-risk children and young people. As members know, out-of-home care services for children and young people were outsourced some years ago. New three-level agreements with out-of-home care sector agencies will expand the range of foster care and residential services in the ACT and provide 156 foster care placements in this year.

In 2006 there will also be an increase in the range of available residential care placements, rising from 32 places to 51. This increase broadens the availability of specific support services for children and young people in care. It is now almost one year since Narrabundah House opened, providing a support service to indigenous young men. Narrabundah House can accommodate up to four young people and staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Since 1 March the hostel has accepted 20 referrals, with young people staying for varied lengths of time.

An important part of building the capacity for response lies in strengthening partnerships within government and between government and non-government agencies. This has been a primary focus for the past six months. Greater collaboration is also occurring across government. A practical example of this is the co-location of both a police officer and an ACT Health staff member within the centralised intake service at the office. This exchange of expertise is having real benefits in better coordination of services to children and young people in need.

Having a Children and Young People Commissioner within the Human Rights Commission will further strengthen government focus on the provision of quality services for children and young people. The commissioner will have an important role in providing feedback and resolving complaints to the betterment of ongoing service delivery and will also provide a means for children and young people from all backgrounds to make their views known in a sympathetic and supportive environment.

Collaboration is also under way between the office and its government and non-government partners to develop a model of integrated case management. This will improve service delivery and provide support to families in ways that will reduce the risk of children and young people needing to be involved in care and protection or youth justice services. The leadership team and final structure of the office is now bedded down. I remind members that this includes the first identified indigenous position at the executive level across the ACT Public Service.

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