Page 2944 - Week 08 - Thursday, 17 August 2017

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significant long-term costs to government and the community. But what have we got in this budget, Madam Assistant Speaker? A nearly $34 million increase in spending on out of home care places over the next four years.

When I queried this increase in budget estimates hearings, I was later informed that the largest factor was increased demand for the service and the number of children and young people coming into care: increased demand, not a reduction in demand. More and more of our children are entering out of home care and in many cases staying there for a longer period of time, the exact opposite of what we were told would happen under A step up for our kids. This is very worrying.

At the same time it is difficult to find a corresponding increase in funding for prevention and early intervention. In answer to one of my questions on this point, the minister highlighted programs already in place and then also noted a more than $10 million increase over four years for child and youth protection services. As Ms Cuzzillo suggested, however, CYPS is not exactly at the prevention end of the spectrum. No doubt much good is done by those who work in CYPS to respond to families at risk but by the time such families come to the attention of child and youth protection services, we have moved past prevention to at least the early stages of crisis response.

It is, therefore, important as we go forward through another year to keep our eye on what is happening in this area. As I said earlier, it is essential that we meet increased demand. These are, after all, vulnerable children and young people and it is vital that we provide safe homes for them. If we fail to do so, the cost to society—and I do not mean just a monetary cost—will be far greater. At the same time, I genuinely expect to see a shift in the pattern of investment to increase expenditure at the front end of the system. This is what we have been promised and the government must deliver on that promise.

We simply cannot afford for the demand for out of home care places to just keep rising. The cost in disrupted lives is far too great. Prevention and early intervention must be prioritised, not just with words but with the funding and the focus that will allow them to work.

This brings me to a second concern, also related to vulnerable people and disrupted lives. Another large funding increase in this year’s budget has gone to the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre. Again, it would be impossible to argue against making sure that the young people who find themselves in Bimberi have all of their needs met. The centre must be fully staffed at all times with qualified workers so that we can avoid the chaos and confusion that create opportunities for things like assaults and brawls to occur.

Educational needs absolutely must be met. Young people often enter Bimberi significantly behind in literacy and in numeracy. Making sure that detainees learn during their period of detention is vital. Most important, of course, is providing for the actual rehabilitation of those who find themselves in the youth justice centre. This is an investment not only of actual funds; the social and financial costs to our community if we do not provide genuine rehabilitation are too great. So if the need is

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