Minister for Human Services
Budget Reply (Part 2)

01 June 2016

 The Tasmanian Government is also committed to reducing youth homelessness and establishing safe and affordable homes for young people.  Reform initiatives to start in 2016-17 include youth head leases, the new Devonport supported youth accommodation with 25 independent units to be built, and Launceston supported youth accommodation with expansion of Thyne House.  This is in addition to the new supply initiatives already started or completed in 2015-16, including the Trinity Hill supported youth accommodation facility in North Hobart for 46 young people, including 16 units for people living with disability and the Youth at Risk Response Centre, which will provide a drop in centre as well as short-term supported accommodation for young people.  There is also Youth Castles, which is a pilot program designed to test micro-housing as an immediate short-term option for young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. 

The Tasmanian Government has new supply initiatives that target people living with disability to start in 2016-17, including more supported disability accommodation to be built in Devonport for NDIS participants, as well as minimum standards for all new supply where any new residential properties commissioned by Housing Tasmania will meet the liveability and universal design policy requirements of Housing Tasmania’s minimum standards for social housing, which also assists our ageing tenants.

Tasmania is experiencing the growth of an ageing population who need suitable housing, including universal design units with fewer bedrooms and more accessibility.  New supply initiatives that target older people to start in 2016-17 include units for older residents to age at home to commence in Somerset and Newstead and a further 30 inner city elderly units will also start with the acquisition of a Hobart site.  We have supported elderly accommodation with a site to be acquired in 2016-17 for 50 elderly residents who would otherwise be at risk of homelessness.

The recently announced redesign of Tasmania’s child protection system provides the framework to fundamentally improve the lives of vulnerable children, young people and their families.  This Government wants all Tasmanian children to grow up in a safe, supportive and loving environment.  By helping families with earlier immediate support before they fall into crisis, we can prevent child abuse and neglect from happening and reduce the longer term detrimental impacts and lifelong consequences of child neglect, such as future drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, poor health, homelessness, juvenile offending, criminality and incarceration.  This is why the Government has committed the most significant investment in the last eight years in this area of an additional $20.6 million in cross-agency investment over the next four years to support initiatives under Strong Families, Safe Kids, including $3.6 million to refocus the child protection intake service into a statewide, comprehensive advice and referral service.  This service will have a broadened focus to provide advice on other services and responses that will support the wellbeing of the child.  This service will contribute significantly towards refocusing the system away from statutory interventions of last resort to a system that is more focused on providing earlier access and integrated support to vulnerable children and their families.

Some $7.5 million is part of our whole-of-government commitment to providing services to children at risk, including $5.2 million in the Department of Education to provide services and support for children in government schools and child and family centres.  Additional intensive family support services will also be available for the families of children on the brink of entering the statutory care system.

Some $550 000 will be provided to improve information technology to support front line child safety staff.  This will include further expansion of the currents Kids Data Warehouse to support professional decision-making and improvements to the current child protection information system, CPIS.

There is $8.6 million to build a contemporary, innovative child protection system through the establishment of child safety teams, focused on one of three areas: core tasks, short-term or reunification case management, or long-term permanency case management.  This will allow staff to focus on their area of expertise, provide timely access to resources and tools and ultimately allow them to make more timely decisions as they undertake their difficult work in supporting families and keeping children safe.  This extra funding will see the recruitment over the next two years of 31 additional staff in children and youth services alone.  They will include senior practice consultants, psychologists, administrative unit coordinators, and support workers; Aboriginal and hospital liaison officers who will assist our child protection workers by providing better structures, improved personal and professional support, and more training and workforce development.  This will allow our hard-working child protection workers to focus on what they do best – keeping vulnerable children safe and supporting families.

On top of the $20.6 million, $220 000 is being provided in 2016-17 for short-term preventive support care to help keep families together, as well as a pre-placement process.

Some $600 000 is also being provided in 2016-17 to support the statewide delivery of two Save the Children programs – the supporting young people on bail and post-detention transition programs, both of which have shown outstanding results in helping young people who have offended to re-engage with education and positive influences, and to prevent re-offending.

Addressing family violence is a top priority for the Tasmanian Liberal Government, as it is for everyone in this Parliament.  The nearly $26 000 Safe Home, Safe Families, Tasmania’s Family Violence Action Plan 2015-2020 was released in August last year with funding rolling out immediately.  Of that nearly $26 million, $8.4 million has been invested in the Human Services portfolio over the four years of the action plan.  Tasmania’s Family Violence Action Plan has been acknowledged as nation leading with strong progress already being made in implementing each of the 19 actions under the plan across government.

With the Budget back on track, we are also able to invest additional funding of $330 000 over three years in the 2016-17 Budget to improve the quality and accessibility of culturally-appropriate services for Aboriginal women and children experiencing family violence.  Other initiatives include the flagship Safe Families Coordination Unit, bringing agencies together in a statewide collaborative unit of which full operations will commence in June 2016, and the Safe Choices Family Violence Service, which will deliver early intervention, advice and referral to those who want to exit violent relationships.  Catholic Care Tasmania has been selected to deliver safe choices and the service will commence in June 2016.

We are taking a lead role in supporting Let’s Stop it at the Start, the national campaign to reduce violence against women and their children.  There is the Respectful Relationships education program for all Tasmanian Government schools from kindergarten to year 12, which is on track for rollout in 2017.  There is more support for children affected by family violence with three additional psychologists and three additional social workers who have been appointed to support children in Government schools and child and family centres.

As well, there are additional counselling services for children and adults experiencing family violence, with additional funding provided while a request for proposal is being undertaken.  We are also strengthening the legislative framework with the Family Violence Amendment Bill (2015) passed in October 2015, and further changes also under consideration.  We have extended legal assistance to people experiencing family violence with additional funding being allocated to community legal services around the state.

There are more specialist police prosecutors with three additional prosecutors, one in each region having been appointed.  We have extended the forensic medical examinations at the Royal Hobart Hospital, which has commenced a pilot program offering forensic evaluation and documentation of injuries.  Family violence should never be tolerated and the Government is doing its bit to educate the community and to ensure the right support is in place for those impacted by family violence.

The Hodgman Liberal Government is committed to including more women on Tasmanian boards, which is why the 2016-17 Budget invests in the development of women’s professional and leadership skills.  A partnership arrangement between the Tasmanian Government and the Australian Institute of Company Directors, or AICD, commenced in 2015, with the Government contributing $50 000 a year over three years to provide scholarships for women to undertake AICD courses under the Government’s board diversity scholarship program.

These scholarships are giving more Tasmanian women the opportunity to learn important leadership and decision-making skills from trained mentors, and to equip them with the knowledge they will need to serve as company directors or on Government boards and committees.  This Government’s Women on Board strategy 2015-2020 includes a commitment to increase representation of women on Government boards and committees to 50 per cent by 2020.  I am delighted to say that we are already seeing a successful change to the Women on Board Strategy.

In less than 12 months, women’s representation on Government boards has gone up from 33.8 per cent to 38.7 per cent, an increase of 4.9 percentage points or 14.5 per cent.  The 2016 Government Board Diversity scholarship program will also open for applications in the latter half of 2016.  Overlying all my portfolios is the state Government’s commitment to deliver a more joined-up Human Services in partnership with the community sector.  The Government has a long-term vision for a better service experience for Tasmanians through integrated support that is easier to navigate, reduces frustration and duplication, and is focused on working with people to identify individual goals and achieve better outcomes.

Joined Up is a long-term four-stage approach to develop a joined-up service system that supports people’s access to information and support and places clients with multiple and complex needs at the centre of a case coordination service system.  The Joined Up project is delivering five initiatives that test the court system, with people at the centre, and facilitates communication and information-sharing among service providers.  Five initiatives are being undertaken to support and test mechanisms for delivering a Joined Up human services system.  The first is place-based services.  This initiative will test key design elements for delivering Joined Up human services in a specific location – the Huon Valley local government area.  This initiative aims to strengthen the service system relationships for greater collaboration and cooperation.

The second is the person-based initiative which will target a minimum of 25 individuals experiencing complex challenges such as family violence, child protection, substance abuse and mental health issues.  This initiative will provide a person-centred supportive and outcomes-based lead support coordination service, or LSCS, which will provide lead support coordinators to help clients access the services and support they need, as existing service providers will be engaged to deliver the lead support coordination service.

Next is the service improvement initiative, which will assess the effectiveness of earlier intervention through a lead support coordination approach with families where children are potentially at risk.  The initiative will determine if the intervention prevents these families being referred back to Children and Youth Services for child protection intervention over the period of the initiative.