The McGowan Government will invest an additional $114 million into the child protection system and supporting services to protect vulnerable children and their families, and steer at‑risk children away from the justice system.
The 2022-23 State Budget allocates more than $75 million to frontline staff and services to support children in care and those that can remain safely at home.
This includes $36.7 million to help deliver and enhance child protection services, with 36 new child protection workers to boost capacity on the frontline.
A new position of Chief Practitioner will also be created to oversee the Specialist Child Protection Unit at the Department of Communities.
The extra resourcing is in addition to a previous $6.1 million commitment to support children in care through the creation of a new Midland Care Team. The new Care Team is the ninth in the district and comprises of 14 additional staff.
In the last reporting year and for the first time since 1997, the total number of children in care in Western Australia dropped by 2.8 per cent.
The McGowan Government will build on that achievement, with an additional $23.9 million allocated in the State Budget to expand successful programs that provide support services to families with children who are at risk of coming into care.
The Earlier Intervention and Family Support (EIFS) Strategy aims to prevent children from entering care and reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in the child protection system. It strives to help children remain safely at home with their parents by providing counselling and in-home support to families to improve their parenting skills and to help keep children safe.
The additional funding will enable EIFS services to reach more children and families, and meet increased demand in Midland and Armadale, while the programs will also be trialled in Halls Creek and the South-West.
The McGowan Government’s flagship Target 120 program will also be rolled out to nine additional locations, with an $11.1 million boost allocated in the State Budget.
Target 120 supports at-risk young people and their families, helping to create safer communities by steering teenagers away from the justice system. Since its inception in 2018, the program has been linked to better outcomes for participants, with about half having no further contact with police.
An additional $18.6 million has been provided to boost out-of-home care service contracts to keep WA children safe and to fund quality assurance to ensure children are provided with the best possible care.
A further $9.1 million will also be allocated to keep WA kids in early childhood education safe.
An extra $5.7 million will be allocated to services that support children in the justice system.
The McGowan Government is also delivering on its commitment to implement recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, with $2.7 million for a pilot Harmful Sexual Behaviours Intervention Program.
As stated by Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk:
“The McGowan Government is committed to protecting vulnerable children and keeping families safely together to reduce the rate of children entering care.
“We have increased spending in child protection by almost 25 per cent and increased the child protection workforce by more than 20 per cent since 2017. That includes 218 full-time case workers.
“The 2022-23 State Budget continues to build on this, with $114 million committed to continue to boost our child protection services, frontline child protection workers and other supporting programs that keep children safe.
“Every child deserves to grow up in a safe and loving environment – and taking children into care is always a last resort.
“As a Government, we recognise the best long-term strategy is to invest in initiatives that support families so their children can remain safely with them at home.
“We know early intervention initiatives work – we are seeing the first reduction in the number of children entering care in a quarter of a century, and our additional investment in these programs demonstrates our ongoing commitment to keep families together.
“The State Government is also making communities safer by expanding its highly successful Target 120 program that gives at-risk youth the tools to turn their lives around.
“These important programs make up the McGowan Government’s multi-faceted approach to protecting vulnerable children, families and individuals, and to support our local communities to thrive.”