Minister For Human Services
Strong Families, Safe Kids Program
25 May 2016 [11.00 a.m.]


QUESTION

Can the minister please outline the additional support that will be provided to Child Protection staff under Strong Families, Safe Kids?

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his question and for his interest in the safety and wellbeing of Tasmania’s children and young people.  Based on the feedback from over 300 stakeholders who were involved in consultations and the recommendations in the final report entitled Redesign of Child Protection Services: Strong Families, Safe Kids, 31 more staff will be recruited over the next two years to support our hardworking child protection workers as the Hodgman Liberal Government rolls out a $20 million across-government investment to redesign the child protection system.

Across the state, additional positions will include senior practice consultants, administration co-ordinators, Aboriginal and hospital liaison officers, as well as psychologists and support workers.  The focus of these positions will be to promote safety and wellbeing and enable earlier and more effective interventions.  This will include a $3.6 million investment in refocusing the child protection intake service into an advice and referral service to provide earlier access in integrated support to vulnerable children and their families.

Also included is $8.6 million to support the establishment of child safety teams, a move away from the current single case worker model.  Child safety teams will work together and be focused on court tasks, short-term reunification, case management or long-term permanency case management.

Despite the assertions from the Opposition and the unions, these initiatives are directly based on the feedback from Child Protection Services staff to the Child Protection Redesign Reference Group through avenues such as the regional forums that were held on multiple occasions around the state, where staff were asked about what they would require to build an ideal, well-functioning child protection system.  Approximately 80 Child Protection staff attended the regional forums.  This was in addition to individual group and videoconference meetings with other Children and Youth Services staff from Youth Justice, CHAPS and family violence support teams, as well as policy and learning and development staff.

Many email submissions were also received from Child Protection staff.  Comments from staff included that embedding highly skilled workers into teams as mentors would be beneficial; court processes are adversarial, lengthy and child protection workers spend too much time in court and within court processes; Child Protection staff spend a lot of time on administrative and support worker tasks, such as transporting children; teams require dedicated child protection administrative support and an increased number of support workers; team structure, including lack of administration and support workers, is also a key issue.

The Redesign Reference Group, based on this feedback, made recommendations in the final report which the Government accepted and is now providing funding to deliver on these recommendations.  For instance, the 31 additional staff demonstrates that we are delivering on recommendation 13 that the Tasmanian Government explores the option of replicating the child protection liaison officer function that exists at the Royal Hobart Hospital to other public hospital sites in Tasmania.

We are also delivering on recommendation 14 that Aboriginal liaison officers be engaged and co-located at the front end where concerns are first reported and notifications made.  We are delivering on recommendation 21 that the existing Child Protection Services is restructured into dedicated court permanency and reunification teams.  We are also delivering on recommendation 23 that the child protection workforce be supported through increased professional mentoring, support and development, and access to personal professional counselling and support services through additional psychologists and senior practice consultants.

Likewise, we will be delivering on the remaining recommendations as well.  In addition, to most effectively redesign our child protection system we need and value the continued feedback from our staff.  Therefore an employee reference group with representatives of staff from across the state will be established to support the implementation of the redesign and to provide a key conduit of advice and information, both from the staff to the oversight committee and from the oversight committee to the staff.  This reference group will meet at times and with a frequency that is sympathetic to the work-based demands on members of the Child Protection Service.