Page 2381 - Week 08 - Thursday, 6 June 2013

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Clauses 6 and 7 are the most important clauses in the amendment bill as they relate directly to the placement of children and young people in out-of-home care.

When the Director-General of the Community Services Directorate determines the placement of a child or young person, the best interests of the child or young person are paramount. That is, the individual circumstances and the needs of the child or the young person must be considered when determining a suitable placement. This recognises that a “one size fits all” approach cannot account for all of the circumstances and a flexible approach must be maintained.

For example, when a child or young person has come into the care of the territory, a young person at least 16 years of age may live independently in their own accommodation but still receive case work support; a child or young person may have significant needs, such as disability or serious trauma, and may be placed in a specialised health facility; or a child or young person may be placed at home for restoration purposes.

It is important to note that under the proposed changes these placements can continue to be made if one of four circumstances applies. These are: the child or young person is placed in a health facility if a doctor states in writing that it is necessary for the child or young person’s wellbeing; a young person who is at least 16 years of age may be placed in an independent living arrangement; a child or young person may be placed with their parent; or a child or young person may be placed in another arrangement where there is a court order directing that placement.

I am pleased that these amendments were able to be developed with Mr Rattenbury in a consultative and positive way. This has ensured that they have achieved his intent, without any unintended and negative consequences that might have flowed if the amendments were less thought through. Child protection is a difficult and complex matter, and we need to ensure that the law serves the children, not the other way round.

Finally, I will take this opportunity to thank the foster and kinship carers of our city and the dedicated workers of the Community Services Directorate. Care and protection and support of these vulnerable kids are a priority for any society.

MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (11.43): I rise today in support of this bill and I thank Mr Rattenbury for bringing this matter before the Assembly.

The Children and Young People Amendment Bill 2013 seeks to fix the uncertainty surrounding the requirements placed on the director-general when given responsibility for a child or young person in out-of-home care.

As the Children and Young People Act 2008 stands, the requirements of the director-general are highly interpretive. This has allowed the government to make excuses and escape taking responsibility for their failure to provide adequate care for the ACT’s most vulnerable.

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