"Foster Care"

Page: 5421

Mrs ROZA SAGE: My question is directed to the Minister for Family and Community Services, and Minister for Women. What additional support is the Government giving to help carers protect vulnerable children and their families?

Ms PRU GOWARD: I thank the member for her question and for her ongoing support for services for vulnerable children and young people. This is Foster Care Week and a time to reflect particularly on the fantastic work of our State's carers.

[Interruption]

Madam Speaker, is it tinnitus or is it the member for Canterbury? The voice has got to stop.

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Canterbury will be on three calls to order very shortly if she does not come to order. I call the member for Maroubra to order for the second time. The Minister has the call.

Ms PRU GOWARD: Yesterday I was delighted to take my granddaughters to the Foster Care Carnival at Homebush. It was a wonderful day to begin Foster Care Week, with fun for the children and recognition and thanks to the foster parents. I thank the Association of Children's Welfare Agencies for organising the event and the Children's Guardian, Create, the Ombudsman's office, AbSec, Variety, which provided a special swing for children with disabilities, and of course the wonderful staff of Community Services for their voluntary presence and their significant contribution to the carnival. They made excellent and very healthy hamburgers.

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

Ms PRU GOWARD: There were also a lot of providers and corporate supporters who supplied goods, gifts and plenty of fun and music to children and carers alike. There was another organisation at the core of the carnival, preparing food and offering lucky dips to children. They are also at the core of carers' lives. That organisation is Connecting Carers. Connecting Carers' staff and volunteers have served our State for decades by caring for children and young people. That experience and wisdom assists carers across New South Wales every day with support and advice. It helps connect carers with the department and of course provides extremely valuable carer training around the State.

Connecting Carers' work helps Family and Community Services every day and its insights will also help the Government pursue real reforms by working better and smarter to improve services. That is why today we have announced a major funding boost to Connecting Carers. What better time to do it than Foster Carers Week? Connecting Carers will receive an additional $455,000 to its funding each year, which is an increase in their base funding of 33 per cent. It will be used to run regular Connecting Carers conferences for New South Wales carers. The 2010 conference was only possible due to an underspend in the previous year, but today's decision ensures that carers conferences can take place as a matter of course. Funding for accommodation and travel will ensure that city, regional and rural carers can all gather, network and support each other to discuss the issues they face every day. I am pleased that the next conference will be held at Darling Harbour in the second half of next year.

This funding boost also allows Connecting Carers to continue to offer the successful and popular regional Connecting Carers camps right across the State. They are run for authorised carers and the children and young people in their care, in Community Services regions. Last year 1,152 attended six camps and we expect there will be more. The camps give foster, kinship and relative carers, including grandparents, children and young people, an opportunity to socialise, network, rest a little and have fun in a beautiful bush or coastal setting. The activities are tailored to cater to all levels of physical and intellectual functional ability to ensure everyone enjoys the unique benefits of the programs, and Connecting Carers only chooses locations that have accommodation designed specifically to meet the needs of carers and children.

Finally this funding boost will support Connecting Carers' 24-hour support line, a 1300 number that offers a telephone support service to foster carers, kinship and grandparent carers at all times day and night. This 1300 number receives more than 3,000 calls annually. This service is well worth supporting and developing. This Government is strongly committed to transferring services such as out-of-home care to the non-government sector. The Government will consider expanding the role of Connecting Carers by contestably training carers across the sector aligned to the transfer and reform to improve services. During the next few years the Government will pursue real reform to build the capacity of the whole system to protect children and young people. I thank Connecting Carers and other non-government organisations for their work, and for contributing to improving the lives of children and young people in New South Wales.  (Source : http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/PARLMENT/hansArt.nsf/V3Key/LA20110912021?open&refNavID=HA8_1)

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