Page 3486 - Week 11 - Thursday, 24 September 2015

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processes, and quicker decision making for carers, children and young people. We want to make sure that children are given every chance to stay with their families, and where that is not possible they have all the support they need to build new lives. We are putting in place a strong framework to support this by enabling placement stability as early as possible for children and young people.

The bill supports timely decision making about permanency and long-term arrangements for children and young people in care. We will reduce the amount of time that children must wait before long-term arrangements can be made. A child’s emotional and brain development in the first two years of their lives can have a major bearing on how they progress throughout the rest of their lives. It is therefore appropriate that the long-term care arrangements of a baby under two years of age be considered after a year, given the potential lifelong impact.

In recognition of the particular vulnerabilities of children younger than two years old, I propose to change the period of time before long-term orders can be considered. The period of time will reduce from not longer than two years to one year. For children over the age of two years the period of time will remain at two years. I also propose to reduce the period of time that a child or young person is required to be in care and living with the carer who will be assuming full parental responsibility under an enduring parental responsibility order. The period of time will reduce from two years to one year or a total of one year in the previous two years.

It should be noted that under existing provisions of the Children and Young People Act, the Children’s Court can already make long-term care orders in shorter time frames. These amendments recognise the importance of providing secure, loving relationships for children to lay the groundwork for healthy social, emotional and cognitive development. This is particularly important for very young children.

I should emphasise that these amendments do not mean that long-term arrangements will be automatically granted by the Children’s Court after a minimum period of time a child or young person spends in care. This is particularly so in cases where individuals are actively engaged with supports and making progress. However, these amendments will facilitate timely decision making without undue delay about a child or young person’s long-term care—either reunified with their birth parents or, when this is not possible, in an alternative loving family.

We understand that issues experienced by families in the care system are often complex. That is why we are commissioning a whole new suite of intensive in-home services to support parents—the strengthening high risk families domain, we call it. We will retain the flexibility to continue to work with families, where they are fully engaged in services, making progress towards successful family unification, and it is in the best interests of the child and young person. We are stepping up for foster carers and kinship carers, more so than ever before, with a more equitable system of support, better information and streamlined processes.

The bill will protect the integrity of carers and the out of home care system by requiring the authorisation of approved carers to be renewed at least every three years. This process will be tied to renewal of working with vulnerable people checks to

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