Page 3918 - Week 10 - Thursday, 28 August 2008

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Public housing—eviction policy

DR FOSKEY: My question is to the Minister for Children and Young People. The minister would be aware that some months ago I raised concerns with her office regarding the conflict of interest created by the territory parent also having responsibility for housing. In one fairly recent situation, a woman was evicted from her government home due to ongoing behaviour of the visiting father of her children. The Residential Tenancies Tribunal heard from case workers that an eviction would almost certainly result in those children being removed from the mother, and that if Housing could offer another home instead, the mother and children’s services staff were prepared to work on a different visiting regime in the hope of preventing the situation recurring. Housing ACT, however, did not offer the mother another house but proceeded with eviction. That woman died soon after the decision was made. I am not aware of the fate of the children.

Minister, why aren’t their processes in place that ensure that Housing ACT works with children’s services staff to ensure that the best interests of children are made the priority when decisions on tenancy matters are made?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Dr Foskey for the question. I can certainly answer from the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support side of matters. In fact, I have found that since the department of housing, the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support and Disability ACT were put together, the process of working across government and ensuring good outcomes for families has been greatly improved. We have a chief executive who has a whole range of responsibilities, but I can absolutely assure you that that chief executive puts the interests of children in the care of the territory, whether that be in permanent arrangements or in particular types of orders, as being paramount in all decision making.

I am aware of many cases involving the 500 children that are in the care of the territory at this point—perhaps it is a bit higher than that; 510—and the thousands of children that we are working with across the territory, and their interests are right at the forefront of all decision making. If it involves a housing matter, there are separate processes leading to the eviction of families through the Residential Tenancies Tribunal. It is often a way that we can offer increased support to families if their tenancy is placed under pressure or if, ultimately, they are evicted.

I am happy to provide Dr Foskey with all the protocols that are in place. They are extensive. We have been doing an enormous amount of work on this. In fact, the department has almost finalised a piece of work for me particularly around this subject. We have gone back and looked at all the tenancies which have children who we have had contact with in the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support. We have looked at the support that we are providing to them. We have looked at whether it needs to increase. We have done home visits and reassessments. It is all about making sure that the rights, interests and wellbeing of the children are number one. I cannot speak in this place on that case in particular, but I have had probably hundreds of cases cross my desk where the interagency work that is done to sustain these families is extremely impressive.

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