New government initiative shows early results: 71 children out of emergency accommodation, hotels and motels


There are now 71 fewer foster children in NSW living in emergency accommodation – like hotels and motels – following the creation of a specialist team within the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ).

The Minister for Families and Communities, Kate Washington, labelled the initial results an early indication of the NSW Government’s resolve to address the spiralling child protection system.

Following a request from Minister Washington, DCJ established a dedicated team in November 2023 to shift children from High-Cost Emergency Arrangements (HCEA) to more suitable arrangements.

HCEA’s place children in hotels, motels, serviced apartments or rental accommodation, where they are cared for by a rotating roster of shift workers. These arrangements can cost up to $2 million a year for each child.

The work of the HCEA Team, alongside local DCJ casework teams, has resulted in the number of children in HCEA’s dropping by 71 in 3 months, from 506 (in early November last year) to 435 on 22 February.

The least desirable form of HCEA is an Alternative Care Arrangement (ACA), where for-profit labour hire firms often provide unqualified staff who can change at short notice, giving children a lack of stability. The use of ACAs has dropped 42% from 139 children in November, to 80 on February 22.

Some of the work being done by the HCEA Team and caseworkers includes:

  • intensive family finding, where caseworkers search out possible family connections who might be able to care for the child under kinship care arrangements
  • matching children to newly recruited emergency foster carers
  • working with NGO partners to fill vacancies in their contracts with government
  • eenegotiating the amount paid to HCEA providers.

Since the team began, $49 million in avoided costs has been saved to the NSW taxpayer.

More foster carers are urgently needed in NSW to ensure children who cannot live safely with family have a loving and secure home, with recruitment efforts ongoing to establish a pipeline of suitable foster carers.

To learn more about becoming an authorised carer with a non-government organisation, visit My Forever Family NSW.

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