"Foster Carers"

Page: 8097

Mr JOHN ROBERTSON: My question is directed to the Minister for Family and Community Services, and Minister for Women. Can the Minister explain to Margaret and Jim Pope, who are kinship carers in the gallery today, why the Government has decided to make life harder for them by cutting the allowance they receive for caring for their 17-year-old granddaughter by $212 a fortnight?

Ms PRU GOWARD: I thank the member for his question. I welcome the presence of carer groups in the Parliament today. I emphasise that my door is always open to them and I would be very pleased to meet them. I acknowledge the important role that all relatives—including kinship carers and grandparents—play in caring for children who cannot live safely at home. I remind the House that the former Labor Government for many years before 2006 reduced allowances to take into account the youth allowance for young people in out-of-home care.

Ms Linda Burney: That is not true.

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Canterbury to order.

Ms PRU GOWARD: It is true and I will repeat what I said. It was the former Labor Government that for many years before 2006 reduced allowances.

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Wollongong to order.

Ms PRU GOWARD: Nevertheless, as I said when the budget was delivered last year, that was a very difficult decision for me.

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Shellharbour to order.

Ms PRU GOWARD: I have often spoken about the need to do better by adolescent young people in out-of-home care. We need to support carers—such as those in the gallery today—and young people to enable them to be on the right pathways out of disadvantage. Adolescents aged 12 to 17 make up 29 per cent of all children reported to be at risk of significant harm in the year 2010-11—that is 17,635 young people. We inherited a system in which fewer than one in five children and young people aged 12 to 17 received a response in that year. As at 30 June 2011 approximately 34.3 per cent—just over a third—of the out-of-home care population were adolescents aged between 12 and 17. As we all know, outcomes for children in out-of-home care are particularly troubling and that is why—

Mr John Robertson: Why you cut the budget.

Ms PRU GOWARD: That is why my department—

Mr John Robertson: Cut the budget.

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition to order.

Ms PRU GOWARD: That is why my department—

Mr John Robertson: You cut the budget.

Ms PRU GOWARD: Madam Speaker, does the member opposite wish to hear the answer or just do his thing?

The SPEAKER: Order! All members will come to order. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that he asked the question and I should have thought that, given the seriousness of the subject matter, he would be interested in what the Minister has to say in response to his question.

Ms PRU GOWARD: That is why my department is working to reform the way that we prepare disadvantaged adolescents for adulthood and how we support them and their carers when they are in out-of-home care. Part of this work will be to gather the best ideas from representatives of teenagers in care—especially the CREATE Foundation—as well as carers and nongovernment organisations. CREATE has reported that up to 40 per cent of young people experience homelessness within the first 12 months after leaving care.

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Wollongong to order for the second time.

Ms PRU GOWARD: Education and training are critical factors.

Ms Linda Burney: Point of order: My point of order relates to relevance under Standing Order 129. The question clearly asked for an explanation for the grandparents in the public gallery about why the Government has taken the decision to cut $200 for their payment. The Minister can say whatever she likes—

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Canterbury to order for the second time. The member will resume her seat. The Minister's answer is directly relevant to the question asked.

Ms PRU GOWARD: And I would have thought that given the disgraceful record of the member for Canterbury as a Minister she should not have taken such a point of order.

Ms Linda Burney: Don't be so nasty—

Ms PRU GOWARD: It is obvious to everyone from that interjection that members opposite are not taking this seriously; it is just another stunt. Members on this side of the House understand that education and training is the best way to avoid not only homelessness but also the cycle of intergenerational poverty and disadvantage. Not only are too many young people who leave out-of-home care homeless, but also they have very severely reduced opportunities for education and training. (Source : http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/Prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LA20120214024?open&refNavID=HA8_1)

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