Page 2322 - Week 07 - Thursday, 4 August 2016

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system and it is an important part of the design for a robust and accountable care system. The voice of children and young people in care is central to the intent of a step up for our kids and key to ensuring that they are a part of building a system that better meets their needs.

The children and young people engagement support service will provide a mechanism to listen to and engage with children and young people who have had a care experience. The aim of this service is to encourage and support children and young people to participate in the decisions that affect their lives, build their self-esteem and confidence, and teach them skills that enable their voice to be heard. A tender process for this service is being finalised and it is expected that it will be operating later this year.

The birth family advocacy service provides support, information and advice to birth parents of children in care or of children at risk of entering care. It aims to empower parents to effectively and in an informed way understand and participate in child protection processes. The service, operated by the Australian Red Cross, commenced in December 2015 and has already had a positive impact on birth families, having accepted over 80 referrals, 23 of which have been clients who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

The new advocacy support for foster and kinship carers will also provide support and advice to assist kinship and foster carers in their caring role. The service will advocate on behalf of foster and kinship carers and their families and provide the mechanism to support and empower them to resolve issues. It will also help to form strong working partnerships with government and non-government organisations in support of good decision-making focused on children and young people in care. This service, operated by Carers ACT, will commence operation later this month.

These innovative services are a crucial part of the system reform and are key to how we transform the way we support and respond to the needs of children and young people, vulnerable families and foster and kinship carers. We are building a service system that will improve the education, health, employment and social outcomes of our most vulnerable children and young people, giving them every chance of a happy and productive future.

MADAM SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Ms Burch.

MS BURCH: Minister, can you provide further details on the carer advocacy and support service?

DR BOURKE: Foster carers and kinship carers are the backbone of our out of home care system. Carers open their hearts and their homes to our most vulnerable children and young people. Under a step up for our kids we recognise that carers are central to the provision of a therapeutic trauma-informed system of care. Consideration and support for carers is an important part of how we support carers in their caring relationship.

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