Page 3750 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 24 August 2011

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Children and young people—abuse

MS HUNTER: My question is to the Minister for Community Services. Minister, I refer to a news report on 18 August in the Sydney Morning Herald that outlined neglect and abuse of young people in New South Wales by carers contracted by Life Without Barriers, who admit they failed to properly assess potential foster carers or appropriately match children with carers. Minister, have you assured yourself that the work out-of-home carers are contracted to do in the ACT has not resulted in abuse or neglect of children and young people?

MS BURCH: I thank Ms Hunter for her question. Certainly, out-of-home carers are dealing with some of the most vulnerable in our community. As I see it—certainly everything that has been put in front of me—there are strong systems in place where carers are assessed and there is ongoing monitoring and care in regard to making sure that all children in out-of-home care are in a safe environment.

It is always disturbing when matters come to light where kids and young children are not in the safe environment that they deserve. But, certainly, the directorate and the out-of-home care system here in the ACT take very, very much as a priority the care of children.

MR SPEAKER: Ms Hunter, a supplementary question?

MS HUNTER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, have you satisfied yourself that proper and transparent assessment processes and placement practices are in place within out-of-home care organisations? Could you give a bit of the detail about how that is monitored?

MS BURCH: The short part of the answer is yes, that I am satisfied that we have systems in place. But I think it also goes to a bill that we have tabled in this place that will come back in the next sitting weeks. It deals with working with vulnerable people checks, which is really the hallmark of ensuring that all those that are vulnerable in our community have very rigorous checks and systems around those that care for them. Some of those checks and systems are police records, spent convictions—a whole range of material that will be managed through the Office of Regulatory Services to make sure that our systems that we currently have are strengthened to the maximum that we can.

MS LE COUTEUR: A supplementary, Mr Speaker.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, Ms Le Couteur.

MS LE COUTEUR: Minister, how many reports have been made to the government in regard to abuse or neglect occurring in out-of-home care since the beginning of the Seventh Assembly?

MS BURCH: I will have to take that on notice, Mr Speaker.

MS BRESNAN: A supplementary.

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