Page 245 - Week 01 - Thursday, 16 February 2006

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A team of family support workers has been created to work with care and protection staff and with youth justice staff to monitor service provision to indigenous children and young people. This team helps other staff respond in culturally sensitive and appropriate ways to particular needs of indigenous children, young people and their families, and coordinates additional service provision. The specialised indigenous foster care service inaugurated seven months ago is also helping deliver better quality care to the indigenous community. Recruitment of indigenous foster carers and the provision of training for them support the government’s goal of working with the indigenous community to combat some of the disadvantages they carry.

The changes I am speaking about here today are underpinned by an improved regime of compliance and accountability. I can report to the Assembly that statutory compliance obligations under the Children and Young People Act are being met. Section 162 (2) reports as well as section 267 annual review reports are being provided to the Community Advocate, as required. The timeliness of response, as required by the Community Advocate’s office, is also improving.

The Community Advocate has also recognised that other practice improvements are occurring. The new MOU between the office and the Community Advocate has an emphasis on monitoring quality outcomes for children and young people in care, as well as statutory compliance. To ensure a sustained focus on quality decision making and reporting, the office has again engaged Ms Gwenn Murray, consultant to the Vardon review, to work with Care and Protection Services on a follow-up file audit and case review. This work commences next week.

Quality assurance has also been addressed in the establishment of the Advocacy, Review and Quality Branch within the Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services. The branch coordinates service review functions, internal review and complaints management.

While much has been achieved in implementing the agreed recommendations of The territory as parent and The territory’s children reports, the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support is also working on other service priorities. Amendments to the Children and Young People’s Act have been introduced into the Assembly, and we are working closely with non-government agencies and the Foster Carers Association to develop strategies for the recruitment and training of foster carers. Support for kinship carers is also a high priority.

Not only are we increasing our capacity to respond to client needs but also we are making sure that what we do is determined by evidence-based research, which will continue to improve the quality of service delivery to children and young people in the ACT. In 2004 the Stanhope government agreed to establish the Institute of Child Protection Studies at the Australian Catholic University. We are also collaborating with the ANU and the University of South Australia. These partnerships provide immediate input into the work of the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support, characterised by collaborative research; support for new graduates; support for creation of postgraduate opportunities; support for research-driven policy and program development in child protection; support for in-built evaluation mechanisms in program

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