"Keep Them Safe Child Protection Initiative"

Keep Them Safe Child Protection Initiative

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Coure Mr Mark; Upton Ms Gabrielle


Questions Without Notice, QWN


Page: 28485

Mr MARK COURE: My question is addressed to the Minister for Family and Community Services. How is the Government supporting the State's most vulnerable children?

Ms GABRIELLE UPTON: I thank the member for Oatley for the question. I am honoured to work in this portfolio area, which goes to the heart of our community. Every member in this House understands that this is a portfolio which should transcend politics and electoral boundaries. The issues—the children and the families—are too important to be involved in the argy bargy of politics. Irrespective of which side of the House members sit, we all have a responsibility to work together to ensure the most vulnerable in our community are taken care of. I pay tribute to Minister Goward, who worked tirelessly in this portfolio, and I will build on her work over the past three years.

As the now absent member for Canterbury said in this House, "No child protection system in the world can prevent abuse altogether." I hope she is listening now—I am sure she is—because this is true. We must strive, however, to review and continuously improve the system. Much of the hard work done by the front-line staff of Family and Community Services goes unseen by the public. I know that the front-line staff are committed to continuous improvement of what they do. I know they are passionate and professional. I have spent some time with them over the past two weeks since I have been Minister—the caseworker who patiently listens to that call about suspected child neglect on the Helpline; the caseworker who fights for a vulnerable child to make sure that not only is that child protected but that the child has a future, has a chance to go to school and has a safe home to go to after school.

It is with great pleasure that I can advise the House that the New South Wales Government has committed to more than $340 million in funding over the next two years for the Keep Them Safe child protection and wellbeing initiative. A key premise of the Wood special commission was that child protection is everybody’s responsibility. This remains true today. That is why I welcome the support of the member for Canterbury for the funding commitment and her recognition that child protection is everyone's business.

I also welcome the Opposition's support for the Community Services (Complaints, Reviews and Monitoring) Amendment Bill, which was dealt with in the House yesterday. The public rightly expects that both sides of this House will work together to keep our children and young people safe. Keep Them Safe includes a range of programs that aim to increase the wellbeing of children, young people and families. It will enable our caseworkers to work with families to ensure that children are safe in the family home. It will increase the skills and expertise of front-line staff and it will enable the coordination of services so that those in need get the support that they need.

But the New South Wales Government cannot act alone to respond to the needs of all vulnerable children. Partnerships with non-government organisations are essential and this commitment allows them to continue that important work. As I have said, continuous improvement is imperative and a comprehensive evaluation of Keep Them Safe is underway. This side of the House believes that robust evaluation is essential to ensure our significant investment has the greatest possible impact. Two-year funding will ensure that services continue in the meantime while that evaluation is completed so that the vulnerable receive what they need. I say no more than that this side of the House is committed to improving and strengthening front-line services so that our children, our vulnerable, have a safe home for life.

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