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.