"The Hansard Transcript that disappeared regarding Life Without Barriers corruption"

  lwb-wob1 South Australia Question Time Parliament House - RE: Life Without Barriers and Foster Care

The Hon. SANDRA KANCK: I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for Transport and Urban Planning, representing the Minister for Human Services, a question about foster care services.

     Leave granted.

     The Hon. SANDRA KANCK: For some time I have been expressing concern about the alternative care system that we have in South Australia. We are facing a serious shortage of foster carers at a time when there is an increase in children entering foster care with more complex needs than ever before. One of the few positive steps forward the government took was to support a longitudinal study undertaken by Flinders University. The research that tracked children entering foster care in this state was unprecedented in Australia.

     According to a letter I received from the Child and Family Welfare Association, the Department of Human Services has withdrawn funding support for the study. I have been informed that this was under the direction of Ms Roxanne Ramsey, Executive Director of the Country and Disability Division. Sector workers now inform me that the Department of Human Services is actively obstructing the study. Re­searchers are prevented from speaking to the children who were part of the study, FAYS workers have been prevented from speaking to the researchers, and carers are not allowed to talk about the wellbeing of the children with researchers.

     It has also emerged that the government commissioned consultants from New South Wales to undertake a review into alternative care in South Australia. These consultants failed to contact Flinders University regarding its research findings despite the fact that it was the longest tracking study of children in alternative care in Australia, and the second longest in the world.

     Further, I am informed that a private company called Life Without Barriers from New South Wales has been advertising for foster carers since August 2001 in South Australia. This advertising began just one month after the contract for foster care had been extended by 12 months to current service providers. Yet foster carers are being approached by Life Without Barriers and asked to defect from the existing provider for more money.

     A Sydney Morning Herald article in June this year revealed that Life Without Barriers received favoured treatment in a tender process with the New South Wales government, and that a government department is now being investigated by the New South Wales Independent Commis­sion Against Corruption. In September, the Minister for Human Services wrote to service providers saying, `Between now and 3 October 2001, 30 service providers, including Life Without Barriers, will be invited to prequalify for registration to join a provider panel to tender for provision of individual care packages for these young people.'

     Sector workers inform me that Life Without Barriers principal, Ray Dunne, flew in from New South Wales to discuss the provision of individual care packages for young people as early as July. I have been informed that Ms Roxanne Ramsey and Mr Ray Dunne are former work colleagues and that Ms Ramsey is keen to move services from existing providers to Life Without Barriers. My questions to the minister are:

     1.  Why was funding to the Flinders University terminat­ed?

     2.  Why is the Department of Human Services actively obstructing the research of Flinders University, which could assist in improving the lives of children in foster care?

     3.  Why do the consultants reviewing alternative care in South Australia not make contact with the researchers at Flinders University?

     4.  Why is Life Without Barriers advertising for foster carers when the contract has already been awarded to existing service providers?

     5.  Has the government provided any contracts to Life Without Barriers in either alternative care or disability services? If so, what tender process was entered into and what probity checks were undertaken?

     6.  Does the minister think it appropriate for the govern­ment to engage Life Without Barriers when a tender it was involved in in New South Wales is being investigated for corruption?

     7.  Has Life Without Barriers been provided with any information about foster carers in South Australia? If so, what level of detail, and how many names?

     8.  If information has been provided by DHS, have any aspects of privacy laws been broken?

     9.  If the information was not provided by DHS, will the minister institute a police investigation to ascertain how Life Without Barriers obtained the information?

     10. What is the connection between Ms Roxanne Ramsey and Life Without Barriers?

     11. What is the connection between Ms Ramsey and Mr Ray Dunne?

     The PRESIDENT: Order! Question time is for a question, not 11 questions.

    The Hon. DIANA LAIDLAW (Minister for Transport and Urban Planning): I was just wondering what was the inference of the last question, whether it was personal or professional. Did you want to clarify that in the question?

     The Hon. Sandra Kanck: No.

     The Hon. DIANA LAIDLAW: I think that is unusual. I, nevertheless, will refer at least the first nine questions to the honourable minister to bring back a reply.

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