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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 24 September 2015) . . Page.. 3496 ..

This is a very important issue. The care and protection of young Canberrans is very important. I refer members to paragraph 2.5, where the audit report concluded:

Whether the Community Services Directorate is providing ‘adequate and immediate support to children and young people deemed to be at high risk and vulnerable’ was not able to be determined due to issues reported on in this audit. However, it is recognised that the Directorate has invested considerable resources since early 2012 into a change agenda, Refreshing the Service Culture, and has been successful in recruiting caseworkers from overseas to address local staff shortages. While having these caseworkers is fundamental for providing ‘adequate and immediate support’, given the issues identified, the Directorate’s ability to provide ‘adequate and immediate support’ is at risk. The Public Advocate and the Children and Young People Commissioner (in the Human Rights Commission) are monitoring and overseeing the support services provided by the Community Services Directorate. However, their effectiveness and efficiency is restricted due particularly to a lack of clarity of terms in the legislation.

As a consequence of those comments and the subsequent communications we have had with the ministers, the committee has determined to table this report, and there are six recommendations.

The first recommendation says that the government in consultation with statutory office holders should review the current model for funding inquiries into systemic matters by statutory office-holders. This comes about because sometimes if you get a large inquiry these offices have small budgets and they sometimes cannot carry out their functions properly.

In a footnote in the report, part 8(d) of recommendation 8 suggested the directorate should identify:

… how funding, when needed, is provided to the Human Rights Commission to undertake major inquiries/investigations on ‘systemic matters’.

The directorate responded by indicating that the Financial Management Act provides a clear framework for the appropriation of funds through the budget process. All funds for systemic inquiries have to go through a budget process, and of course that may take time. I refer to paragraph 3.10:

In the Committee’s view this response avoids the substance of the recommendation. The Audit findings indicate not only that statutory office-holders in these areas are limited, by resources, in their capacity to inquire into systemic matters, but also that their reliance on the conventional budget bid process makes them reliant on the good grace of government for inquiries of any scale.

And it goes on to say:

For this reason the Committee considers that the Government position, stating that the status quo should prevail, is not an adequate response to the recommendation.

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