Page 1600 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 10 May 2017

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Under-resourcing appears to be an issue. The Glanfield inquiry indicates that there were no scheduled quality assurance activities conducted on case files by experienced and qualified care and protection staff; and while internal merit review processes within CYPS were implemented, repeatedly these reviews faded out due to the need for CYPS officers to focus on increased demand for services and workforce shortages.

As stated by Glanfield:

In a context where life changing decisions are being made based on human judgement, in circumstances where errors can never be entirely eliminated, review of decisions and quality assurance arrangements can play an important role.

I could not agree more. There is a need for transparency in all decisions made by CYPS. They need to be clearly articulated and decisions need to be able to be reviewed.

This is particularly the case in instances where care and protection orders are made for children who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander or where they are made for children of parents with a disability. There are guiding principles that child and youth protection services must follow when making decisions about the placements of young Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, and cultural plans must be developed. This practice has developed over time and recognises the specific issues that are faced by this community in the shadows of the stolen generations. For this reason, the ability to review decisions not only is extremely important but also is a demonstration that the care and protection system is placing the needs of children, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, first.

We have been hearing for some time from the disability sector that parents with disabilities have a high exposure to the child protection system. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that parents with cognitive disabilities are subjected to a higher rate of child protection intervention and child removals than parents without disabilities. Allegations are that the high rates exist because of issues of prejudice, discriminatory attitudes and a severe lack of appropriate parenting supports. If this is the case, the ability and capacity for external review to occur is even more paramount.

For almost a decade, disability advocates have highlighted concerns regarding this disproportionate removal of children from the care of their parents where one or more parents have a disability, particularly a cognitive disability. It is suggested that children and families who come into contact with the child protection system often share common marginalisation and demographic characteristics. Parents with cognitive disabilities are over-represented in the child protection system and face significant barriers to equitable participation in the legal processes arising from this. We must be sure that decisions made about the placement of children of parents with disability are fair and unbiased.

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