GOVERNMENT RESPONDS TO OUT OF HOME CARE REPORT

Posted on 26. May, 2010 in News

Minister for Community Services Minister Lisa Neville today welcomed the Ombudsman’s own motion report into Victoria’s out of home care system and said the Government would implement all but one of his recommendations.

“The report comes at a time when over 5000 children are being cared for by foster parents, extended families or in residential care every day,” Ms Neville said.

“They are there because their parents are either unwilling or unable to care for them.  The Ombudsman describes them as having ‘suffered abuse and neglect from parents who have betrayed the most basic of trusts’.

“The Ombudsman recognises that overwhelmingly, children in kinship, foster and residential care in Victoria have benefited from this care.

“He says: ‘It should be noted…that the majority of carers do not harm or mistreat the children in their care’.

“However, we know there are some people in our community who betray the trust of our most vulnerable children.

“The care of young Victorians who can no longer live with their parents is my top priority – and we will continue to provide record funding and support to deliver a better system.”

Ms Neville said the Ombudsman had raised issues around quality of care in a number of individual cases.

“In 10 of those cases the children were removed, in eight cases the carer was either de-registered or sacked – and all allegations of assault were referred to police at the time of the allegations,” she said.

The Ombudsman also made recommendations relating to standards for community service organisations, financial support and training for carers, and auditing and reporting of incidents.

In response to his recommendations, Ms Neville outlined the action that will be taken, including:

  • Extending specialist training to all home-based carers including kinship carers;
  • Lifting the standard of reporting and analysis of incidents;
  • Prioritising access to mental health services;
  • Extending carer payments until the child completes secondary school, rather than cutting payments off when they turn 18; and
  • Providing additional education support for children.

 

Ms Neville also announced today that the Government would relieve the pressure on foster and kinship carers when it came to the cost of putting children through school.

“From Term 3 this year, an additional $4 million in support for foster parents and relatives such as grandparents will help with the cost of schooling for children in their care,” she said.

“We will provide up to $300 for primary-aged children and up to $450 for secondary-aged children for expenses such as books and other equipment and also establish an education support guarantee that will provide a ‘learning mentor’ to each student.

“Carers will also be entitled to a wide range of discounts under the new Carer Card to be introduced from July 1.”

Ms Neville stated that the Government did not support the recommendation for a new independent registration body for community service organisations.

“I believe that we can achieve the same outcome the Ombudsman is seeking without adding another layer of costly bureaucracy,” she said.

“I have instead directed the Department to separate the regulation of these 40 agencies from the policy area – to provide dedicated and coordinated oversight.”

In 2008, the Government commenced a major review into out of home care and last year launched a new reform direction, backed by significant funding.

“The past two budgets have delivered a record $183.7 million boost, including $34.7 million announced in this year’s State Budget specifically for out of home care,” Ns Neville said

“This funding is already addressing a number of the Ombudsman’s concerns, particularly the work we are doing to build greater choice of placement options.

“We are also improving and increasing training and support not just for our staff, but also for frontline carers in the community.”

Ms Neville said the Ombudsman had acknowledged the Government was ‘taking positive steps in the area of policy reform’.

“The lives and the issues these children experience are complex and sometimes harrowing, and they deserve our best efforts,” she said.

“We will continue the reform, we will make the changes and we will deliver a better system.”

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