Page 578 - Week 02 - Thursday, 6 March 2008

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The bill before us today—the Children and Young People Bill 2008—takes these reforms even further. Specifically, it addresses the welfare of children and young people at risk of abuse and neglect, as well as the sentencing of people who have offended while they were a child or young person. It also addresses the administration of sentences given to young offenders, the administration of the youth detention centre, the regulation of childcare centres, and the employment of children and young people. As well as this, the bill also implements a number of recommendations from inquiries relating to children and young people in the territory. These inquiries included the Vardon report, the Murray report, the inquiry into the rights, wellbeing and interests of children and young people, and the human rights audit of the Quamby Youth Detention Centre.

Last year, an exposure draft of the bill was released for community consultation. The findings from this consultation further contributed to the development of the bill. The bill introduces a range of key policy changes. In the area of care and protection, the bill allows the chief executive to commence a range of actions in response to concerns received about the abuse or neglect of a child or young person. These actions would follow an initial risk assessment and could include voluntary support options. New appraisal orders and more comprehensive assessment powers are established to assess and respond, at the earliest stage, to children and young people who are suspected to be at risk of abuse and neglect.

The bill also establishes a more transparent system for drug testing primary caregivers, through the introduction of standards for drug testing and care, as well as protection orders with drug use provisions. These orders will allow an assessment of a primary caregiver’s use of substances in order to assess parenting capacity. There will be greater stability and certainty for children and young people subject to care and protection orders. This would be achieved through the introduction of stability proposals in care plans and, in circumstances where a parent is unlikely to resume care, the introduction of a statutory rule that favours the extension of orders until the child or young person turns 18. There will be improved protections for children and young people exposed to domestic violence who are the subject of care and protection proceedings.

The bill also enables the Children’s Court to make interim and final protection orders for children and young people who are exposed to domestic violence in their home. The bill introduces improved safeguards for children and young people who are subject to therapeutic protection orders, to ensure that the orders are only used as a last resort. It also limits the period of confinement and exercise of powers to that which is reasonably necessary to safeguard the child’s or young person’s wellbeing, interests or human rights.

Children who may be at risk of abuse or neglect at birth will be better protected through the introduction of powers to share pre-natal information with certain agencies. This will be in cases where the consent of the pregnant woman has been sought but not obtained. Finally, protections for children and young people who live in out-of-home care will be enhanced through the establishment of a clear framework to assess and monitor the ongoing suitability of carers and care services. Out-of-home

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