The Palaszczuk Government has today laid out the next steps in an ambitious agenda to reform the state’s child protection system.
Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women Di Farmer said today’s release of Supporting Families Changing Futures 2019-23 marked the halfway point of a ten-year reform plan arising from the Carmody Report in 2013.
“Our goal is to support families and children who are at risk to break the cycle of disadvantage, to change their future to one where kids and their families are healthy, they are completing education and getting jobs,”
“We want to do more than just keep kids safe – we want them to thrive and achieve.
“That means taking a big picture view with families at the centre, and everyone working together to strengthen the support networks of our families, children and young people.”
Ms Farmer said the next 5 year phase would focus on four key areas: making sure children have safe, secure and stable places to live; supporting children’s mental, physical and emotional health; helping children into education from kindergarten through to their transitioning into adulthood; and making sure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are connected with culture and community.
“The strategy lays out how different government and non-government agencies will work together in a unified way to achieve important outcomes for Queensland children and young people,” she said.
“It looks at everything from improving child immunisation rates, to getting more kids involved in sport, supporting parents through the Triple P program, and looking at ways to support young people in care getting into university.
“Through this strategy and Our Way, our 20 year strategy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, we will continue to build on our work to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care, strengthen their connections to community and culture, in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities.”
Ms Farmer said the Carmody Report recommended reviewing the child protection system at the halfway point of the reform program, to make sure policies and practices were still in line with best practice.
“In the five years since we began reforming the child protection system, the needs of the families we’re working with have changed significantly, so this halfway point is an opportunity to adapt what we’re doing to meet those needs,” she said.
“Our child protection system is strong, even though workers are seeing more and more complexity in the cases they’re dealing with – ice, for example, wasn’t on our radar in 2013.
“In just the past year, we’ve seen a 20 percent jump in the number of families we come into contact with who are or have been affected by methamphetamines.
“We’re also much more aware of domestic and family violence as a community, and its effects on families and children.”
Ms Farmer said the Child Safety reporting would be updated to be more accurately reflect the way Child Safety was working with families.
“We have the highest standards in the country, because we must sight every child at the centre of a child safety investigation and this will continue,” she said.
“For our most urgent cases, once which must commence within 24 hours, we will continue to consider that investigation has commenced only when a child safety officer has sighted that child.
“Five and ten day matters will commence once a Child Safety Officer starts gathering and reviewing information about the case, which brings our reporting into line with other jurisdictions.”
Ms Farmer said completion timeframes would also be extended to reflect the more intensive work being done with families.
“Our Child Safety Officers are working with increasingly complex cases, and from the very start of an investigation they’re working much more intensively to reduce risk to the child,” she said.
“This means investigations are taking longer, but the results are that fewer children are in need of protection after those investigations are complete, which is the outcome Justice Carmody wanted.
“These changes will better align Queensland’s practice with other Australian jurisdictions and maintain our high standards – and importantly, continuing to deliver positive outcomes for Queensland families.”