Changes to how child protection will be run in NT

No frontline jobs will be lost and there will be no forced redundancies, says Minister

 

UPDATED October 11, 9.14pm

 

Children and Families Minister, Robyn Lambley is putting her stamp on the portfolio with changes announced today to how those responsibilities will sit within government.  The Department of Children and Families will integrate with the Department of Education and Department of Health.

 

However, Ms Lambley is ignoring expert advice with its announced changes, according to the NT Opposition.  Shadow Minister for Children and Families Natasha Fyles says a key recommendation of the Bath Inquiry’s 2010 Growing them strong, together report  was to establish a stand-alone agency, the Department of Children and Families, to oversee and implement the reforms.


Ms Lambley’s changes will see the Office of Children and Families established within the newly named Department of Education and Children’s Services. It will be responsible for Early Years, Child Protection Services, Out of Home Care Services and Family Violence and Family Support.  Sexual Assault Services will be transferred to the Department of Health, while Homelessness Services will go to the Department of Housing.

 

“The new directions play to the strengths of the Departments at the centre of these changes,” Ms Lambley said. “Our teachers are at the front-line with children every single day and are exposed to their development and welfare. By working together, educators have direct access to expert child related advice and services and child and family workers are given access to the strong school community network.

 

“The integration into education means families are provided with consistency of contact and allows for the better utilisation of early childhood services already provided through the education system.  Teachers are among the largest group of child protection notifiers in the Territory.

 

“The changes provide a clearer communication channel between educators, child and family workers and support services for families and are consistent with the Board of Inquiry report which noted:

‘Any system aimed at protecting children must also have regard for the broader well-being and development needs of children in the context of families and communities…’

 

“There will be no change in the role of Head of Children and Familes, who will still report to the Minister. The transfer of Sexual Assault Services, including the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) is logical given much of the service is carried out by clinical staff.

 

“The Chief Executives of each department have been asked to develop transition plans to present to the Minister and staff will be fully consulted as the process proceeds. No frontline jobs will be lost and there will be no forced redundancies. ”

 

Said Ms Fyles: “The CLP’s decision to now merge this agency with the Department of Education ignores expert advice and dilutes the importance of delivering critical services to protect our most needy children. This backwards step will dismantle important progress made towards improving child protection and wellbeing services in the Territory.

 

“Terry Mills and the CLP need to stop ignoring the experts, stop shuffling around public servants and re-naming agencies and get on with the job of ensuring resources deliver better outcomes for our children and families at risk.”

 

Ms Fyles called on the CLP to commit to the ongoing implementation of the Board of Inquiry’s recommendations and confirm the continuation of the independent Child Protection External Monitoring and Reporting Committee, chaired by Professor Graham Vimpani.

 

 

Sources: NTG and Opposition media releases.

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3 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Janet Brown
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 11:31 am

    My sister works in child safety Queensland. Her complaint always is the input data. She said to increase her client base to be effective it would be nice to use a dictaphone after leaving a client with all info, and drop off to the office for entry and then in recheck fix or add info left out. But she spends 85% of her time in office with data entry.
    If children are important the FACS officers need to be released from this office duty to work in the area of children and families. My sister is also disturbed about the amount of officers straight out of uni who quit as they cannot deal with parents of children under FACS care. This is a subject with no real answers or solutions. Just trial and errors as the kids continue to be the losers. It really is a sad state of affairs when in our society when kids and elderly are abused and there is nothing productively done to protect them. Just blame games and new ideas. And no real solutions.

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  2. Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:29 am

    Impressed that the “new regime” is incorporating some of my political platform ideas into its decision-making. Health and Education (especially in the early years) are inextricably linked.
    Imperative that the new “structure” is flatter and more inclusive of the three “silos” of Health, Education and Child Protection. Solid personal communication and feedback between professional staff will help to ensure this silo mentality is eradicated.
    Professionals spending more that half of their time sitting in front of a computer screen loading “data” and report writing may not be the best use of their expertise or time.
    And now … what about that child-care centre being established at the hospital precinct in Alice Springs?

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  3. Diane de Vere
    Posted October 12, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Could not agree more with Ms Fyles’ concerns. The successful integration of these two departments would need to be led by expert practitioners from within their particular field. There would need to be a commitment to new ways of working that shift the locus of power to those who the programs are designed to support, and those who are employed to “deliver the goods.”
    There needs to be a shift in thinking, a new way of working that rebuilds trust within communities and positions children as the focus of all endeavors.
    Not more of the same but acceptance that there needs to be major systems change that requires open accountability, exchange of information and open dialogue between all stakeholders.
    Clear explicit goals and targets need to be displayed in a language and a way that is accessible and understood by all – including bureaucrats and policy makers.
    Authentic assessment and tracking strategies that require everyone to demonstrate their achievements and identify the next task to achieve the outcome desired. Practitioners who have evidence of how to engage and work respectfully with community, families, children and students need to be employed to build the capacity within the ailing systems.
    The second last paragraph says it all. Education is the key. Not more of the same deficit thinking, the same political interference and the same modus operandi.

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