Page 4042 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 20 September 2011

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Protection Group within the Community Services Directorate on the residential care placement of children or young people in the care of the director-general with a non-government organisation. Apparently, that NGO was not approved as a suitable entity under the Children and Young People Act. Minister, on how many occasions have placements of this nature been made and on what basis under the act were these placements made?

MS BURCH: I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. Yes, you are right: Mrs Dunne was provided with a brief on the afternoon—I think you requested it in the morning and the brief was provided to you in the afternoon. As members would know, in September I wrote to the director-general seeking an independent review around this emergency placement, the circumstances of that placement and around issues of compliance with the act. I also sought, as part of that review, a review of current placements, on matters of compliance with the act. As we know, Public Advocate Anita Phillips is undertaking that review.

As stated in relation to this matter, I have not been happy for the act apparently to be breached. But the only circumstances in which I would find this acceptable is where officers had no alternative when they were seeking an emergency placement. I think all of us here would understand that care and protection workers do a fabulous job and act at all times in the interests of children. I think that a primary responsibility for care and protection, and as an element of the act, is that they assure safety and security for the children. Without pre-empting the review, what I hope it will find is that it will validate that the actions were done and the circumstances were in the best interests of the children.

Mr Seselja, in late July I was briefed by the directorate on a number of things, including care and protection staff shortages, the shortages of foster carers and also the occasional use of unapproved agency staff in emergency situations. I continued to ask for assurances from that point that these placements met our standards.

Information provided by the directorate centred on the fact that while ad hoc arrangements had taken place, based on the immediate necessity of removing those children into care, some of these legislative obligations may not have been attended to. That is what I have now been informed, in the last little while. So, Mr Seselja, while you are looking at me, in July I was informed that there were some ad hoc placements being made, and I sought assurances and guarantees that our standards were being met. As I continued to seek assurances and continued to ask questions, it became apparent that the matters were of concern to me. Hence I felt that last week I had no other action to take but to call for an independent review, and that is what I have done.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Seselja, a supplementary.

MR SESELJA: How many times was the law breached by your directorate in this way?

MS BURCH: Part of the independent review is to look at those compliance matters; so I think we will hold, we will wait, until the Public Advocate undertakes those

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