Page 357 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 17 February 2015

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I can provide members with an insight into the impact of trauma by referring to the $3.05 million investment in Melaleuca Place, the trauma recovery centre. One of the driving forces of “A step up for our kids” is its focus on trauma-informed support, looking closely at the trauma a child or young person has endured when developing their support. Melaleuca Place, which I was honoured to open last July, is seeing this trauma-informed support already being provided. For the first time in the ACT we are providing a range of services under one roof for children up to the age of 12 who have experienced trauma as a result of abuse or neglect, and it is working. All of the respondents to a survey of families receiving services from Melaleuca Place within the first six months said the support had made a positive difference and half said the services had made a significant difference.

“A step up for our kids” is a major part of our better services suite of initiatives that has the key aim of providing the right service at the right time and for the right duration. It has been developed over a two-year period, following extensive consultation with all areas of our community involved in out of home care.

I have talked about some of the initiatives under this strategy and would now like to highlight some more. There will be an extension to carer subsidy payments which will no longer automatically cease at 18 but, where appropriate, will be extended until the young person reaches 21. We know that although kinship carers are the largest carer group in the ACT they have not always had the access to or been provided with the support that they have needed. We will provide enhanced training for kinship carers, reflecting the fact that they are members of the child’s family and that the circumstances leading to kinship carers stepping up for their children are often complex.

New carer advocacy services will be funded to give independent advice and support to carers and birth families who feel their voice has not been accounted for by child protection and out of home care services. We will be setting up in the interim the Children and Youth Services Council to oversee this reform process. It will be chaired by one of Australia’s leading foster care advocates, Ms Bev Orr OAM. Ms Orr brings with her more than 40 years work with children, young people and families. She was a longstanding executive of the Australian Foster Care Association and Families Australia.

But while we have, with the community’s input, identified components of a more effective system, we now need to work with carers and service providers to deliver these services. The implementation of the strategy has already begun.

We recognise the importance of working with the community and listening to the voices of people at the core of our care system. I know that people involved in the consultation to develop our strategy will see their issues reflected in “A step up for our kids”. Many people have been working towards this day for a long time—children, carers, advocates, and staff in the Community Services Directorate. We have put together a way forward that recasts our support for vulnerable children, putting them at the centre of a radically new system. The pathway has been mapped out and now it is time for us all to take the first step and step up for our children and young people.

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