"Out of Home Care"

Page: 14246

Mr CHARLES CASUSCELLI: My question is addressed to the Minister for Family and Community Services. How is the Government working to improve the lives of vulnerable children in out-of-home care?

Ms PRU GOWARD: I thank the member for Strathfield for that question. Like all his Coalition colleagues he is a strong advocate for improving the lives of children and young people. The O'Farrell Government has worked hard on real reforms to out-of-home care. In only 18 months it is well on the way to turning around a legacy of an expensive and inflexible out-of-home care system left to it by the Labor Government. That system often delivered poor outcomes for many children and young people. In March 2011 there were 17,900 children and young people in out-of-home care: that is 11 in 1,000 children and young people or more than one in 100. Wildly different, unfair and unsustainable prices were paid under the Labor Government to non-government organisations for the same out-of-home care service.

Mrs Barbara Perry: That is not right.

Ms PRU GOWARD: It is absolutely right.

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Auburn will cease interjecting.

Ms PRU GOWARD: The member had better get the arithmetic right. Hopefully it will be better than the member's preselection maths because that was not too good. On 12 July I was proud to announce another important milestone: the chance for accredited non-government organisations to tender for out-of-home care services. In 2008 Justice Wood recommended out-of-home care services be extended to accredited non-government organisations because great non-government agencies are seen to be better placed to support and improve the lives of vulnerable children and young people. In July I announced the results of a contestable tender process. There are 38 agencies, including 18 new providers, that have been awarded total funding of almost $124 million over four years to support up to 6,800 children who cannot live safely with their parents.

Those agencies include well-known household names being welcomed into the out-of-home care family: agencies such as the Salvation Army, House with No Steps and Challenge Disability Services. I was delighted to be joined by leaders across the sector all committed to doing better for kids through this transfer. The Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Children's Welfare Agencies, Andrew McCallum, said the transfer will not only improve out-of-home care services but help community services to "stick to its knitting" to improve statutory child protection. The Chief Executive Officer of Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care, State Secretariat, Bill Pritchard, welcomed the capacity building and the growth for Aboriginal non-government organisations. Mr Pritchard particularly welcomed the partnership that we are forging between established non-Aboriginal agencies and new Aboriginal services. Mr Pritchard said it was something that had been talked about in the past and was now being done.

The transfer in this reform is widely supported across the community except for the union bosses in the Public Service Association. This explains the industrial action over the past few weeks. Labor was all spin and no action in government and that is why we will continue to see disruption through industrial action. The backbenchers need to be aware of this because Labor is frightened of these reforms. Labor never supported them in practice—only talked about them—because the Public Service Association did not support the reforms. It was the Public Service Association that described non-government organisations such as the Salvation Army as "private operators". The Salvation Army is one of the great charities of the world and yet it is described in terms such as that by the Public Service Association. The association has led a campaign of disruption because it opposes the transfer, putting children first, and a system that seeks the flexibility and the nimbleness of the non-government sector in partnering with government organisations to ensure that the best possible care is provided to children in out-of-home care. The community will continue to see work bans being imposed on community services and restricted work practices being sought by this union as part of a campaign against a reform heralded and supported by Justice James Wood and, at the time, by both sides of the House. The Opposition has joined in an appalling union campaign that is based on its own concerns about losing control of the system. This public sector association is not interested in reform, does not reply to letters inviting a partnership but instead looks to preserve its own control of this system. It is a system that had ended up with an out-of-home— [Time expired.] (Source : http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LA20120822020?open&refNavID=HA8_1)

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