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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 2 August 2018) . . Page.. 2622 ..

We expect our kinship and foster carers to meet those needs—sometimes for a long time, sometimes for a very short time—as if they were the actual parents. But they are not; so we have an entire regulatory regime looking over their shoulders to make sure that they do not mess up.

Speaking from personal experience, parenting is hard. It can be especially so with someone constantly looking over one’s shoulder. But to secure the safety of children who are in the custody of this government, we cannot afford not to monitor these placements. The best result is to give good-hearted, well-intentioned carers the clearest and most explicit guidelines to follow, and then help them to follow them.

This legislation will hopefully do just that. When a child requiring some form of restrictive practice enters a home, it will not be up to the carers alone to figure out what is best practice. Having approved positive behaviour support plans will provide kinship and foster carers with the clear guidance they need to be able to best meet a child’s individual requirements, hopefully alleviating much of their worry.

I also note that this bill provides clear legislative guidelines relating to the complaints process, and that virtually all important decisions made under this proposed legislation will be subject to external merits review. Those who may apply to ACAT for consideration of a reviewable decision are specified, but also include “any other person whose interests are affected by the decision”.

As I have stated many times already in this chamber, decisions that have a significant impact on the lives of children and young people, their families and/or their carers, all need to be accompanied by a clear complaints process and access to external merits review. This would help to avoid the situation described by Commissioner Cheryl Vardon in her 2004 review of the territory’s care and protection system, where “parents, carers and agencies relayed stories of frustration about having nowhere to go when they disagreed with decisions”. It would, in the words of former Children and Young People Commission Alasdair Roy, “promote high quality evidence-based decision-making”.

I look forward to seeing these principles applied to a far broader range of decisions by this government than just those relating to restrictive practices. I commend this bill to the Assembly.

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Community Services and Social Inclusion, Minister for Disability, Children and Youth, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations) (12.08), in reply: The Senior Practitioner Bill 2018 is a significant bill that will enable vulnerable people in the ACT to achieve a better quality of life, free from unnecessary and unreasonable interventions that limit their human rights.

I take this opportunity to thank the scrutiny committee and members of the opposition, particularly the shadow minister for disability, Ms Lee, for their careful consideration of and comment on the bill. In response to the scrutiny committee’s comments, I will table a revised explanatory statement.

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