The NSW government has removed over 2000 children from their homes in the past five years only to place them in motels, apartments and hotels.

Data obtained by Greens NSW MP David Shoebridge shows that the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) removed 250 children to live in “alternative accommodation” in just the past year alone.

These children are being taken from their families and simply stored in motels. Almost half of the children placed in motels are Aboriginal children.

Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson, David Shoebridge said.

“Despite the current and former FACS minister making repeated promises to fix this issue, children are still being removed and housed in unstable and unstable environments.”

“Hotels and motels are no place for children already dealing with being separated from their families

“Aboriginal children who have been taken from their families bear the brunt of this policy failure.

“Aboriginal children are ten times more likely to be taken from their families than their non-Indigenous counterparts. This data shows they are almost 15 times more likely to be placed in motels than non-Aboriginal kids.

“This rate of forced removals of Aboriginal children is causing ongoing damage to Aboriginal communities.

“By removing children and placing them in the worst kind of care the NSW government is creating a pipeline from FACS to juvenile justice.

“We need a firm commitment that this practice will stop unless there are compelling circumstances, with no ‘alternative care placement’ being allowed without the express approval of the Minister,” Mr Shoebridge said.

Background

In 2017 the then Minister for Family Services Minister Pru Goward told a parliamentary hearing:

The decades-long practice of utilising motels and serviced apartments departments I think does need to end. It is unacceptable for children. It has been going on for a long time. I have instructed the department to look at it and to present me with some solutions. I have to reiterate though that I will not be building institutions for children”.

Despite this promise the Department continues to put hundreds of children in motels every year.

Data obtained by Greens MP David Shoebridge under freedom of information laws shows almost 2,000 children have been held in motels and other alternate accommodation in the past 5 years, with more than 600 in just the last two years.

Year Aboriginal Non-Aboriginal Total
2014/2015 financial vear 74 100 174
2015/2016 financial vear 230 285 515
2016/2017 financial year 256 367 623
2017/2018 financial year 154 196 350
1 July 2018 to 6 June 19 118 146 264
Total 832 1094 1926

 

Aboriginal children make up just 3% of the children in NSW, yet are 43% of all the children in alternative accommodation. This means Aboriginal children are 14 times more likely to be placed in this sub-standard alternative accommodation than non-Aboriginal children.

When asked in Parliament in June this year the current Minister said:

I am advised that FACS uses alternative care arrangements as a last resort, and only in emergency situations.

There are currently significant efforts underway to reduce the amount of children and young people in alternative care arrangements and to increase permanency for all children and young people within NSW.

I am advised that FACS closely monitors the use of alternative care placements, and significant work has and will continue to be implemented to reduce the need for them.

There are very significant sums of money spent on this. The last full year data we have on expenditure is from 2017/18 FY and it showed the costs of motels, apartments and hotels was $43.4 million: