Child protection system in crisis

A cross-party Parliamentary report has found that the NSW child protection system is failing our state’s most vulnerable children and families, and requires an urgent reset.

The multi-party report demands fundamental reform and a one-off injection of funding focussed on supporting children and keeping families together rather than more and more child removals and hundreds of millions more being spent on out of home care.

Greens MP and Child Protection Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“There are deep systemic failings in the NSW child protection system despite a record annual budget of $1.9 billion.

“Currently 83% of all child protection resources are focused on removing children and keeping them in out of home care and only 17% spent on assisting families through early intervention. That’s a funding mix that guarantees generations of lost children.

“With so many resources focused on removing children and putting them into care, there aren’t the resources to do the crucial things that keep kids out of care in the first place.

“Even with this split in resources, it remains a distressing fact that of the more than 250,000 risk of serious harm reports received by FACs, only 30% of children received face to face follow up.

“Given how many children are the subject of risk of serious harm reports, and so few are already being seen, the committee could not recommend any dilution of the existing case management resources.

“In many cases children, who are acknowledged at being at risk of serious harm, have their cases closed after four weeks if there hasn’t been an additional alert or report provided to FACs.

“This is why the committee is calling for all parties to support a one off injection of funds, over a minimum five year period, that focuses on early intervention and programs that will prevent children from coming into the system in the first place.

“Once early intervention and support begins to work and keep more children in safe homes, existing resources can be switched from crisis management to evidence based early intervention. Done well this can become a virtuous cycle.

“In our Aboriginal communities there is an epidemic of child removals, with the number of Aboriginal children removed growing year after year.

“The only long term answer to this is ensuring a move to early intervention combined with far greater Aboriginal self-determination in the child protection system such as is afforded through Grandmothers Against Removals.

“It’s time governments and politicians realised that investing in families and children as every bit as important, if not more so, than investment in roads, railways and hospitals.

“It’s not just resourcing, the courts are removing children based upon a flawed legal test that looks only at the risks of a child remaining in their home and ignores the known damage caused by child removals.

“One damning statistic provided to the committee is that a child who has been removed is ten times more likely to have their own children removed when they become an adult. We have a system that is delivering entrenched intergenerational dysfunction.

“There is no doubt that in many cases FACs are removing children who are in desperate need of protection and the committee did not lose sight of this, however the increased numbers of removals and the many distressing individual cases we heard from, make it clear that systemic reform is needed.

“With all parties coming together to recognise that the system is at a crisis point, is now more important than ever to invest in lasting solutions that strengthen communities, not forced removals.” Mr Shoebridge said.

The full report is available on Parliament’s website here.

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