18:02 AEST Tue Aug 30 2011
Some children are being let down by the reforms to NSW's child protection system and it's "inconceivable" a strong welfare regime will be delivered in the near future, the state's ombudsman says.
In a scathing report released on Tuesday, Ombudsman Bruce Barbour identified serious concerns about the capacity of the reformed system to adequately protect children from harm.
The report reviews the first 12 months of the "Keep Them Safe" action plan - from January to December last year - a regime put in place to respond to the 2008 commission of inquiry into child protection.
Mr Barbour said fewer children and families were now receiving face-to-face assessments, despite the significant fall in demand following the commission's recommendation to lift the reporting threshold.
More worrying was the closure by the NSW Department of Community Services, without further assessment, of a quarter of the reports which had indicated risk of significant harm.
Chronic staff shortages in regional and remote parts of the state were also identified in the report.
Mr Barbour saidOn any measure, it is unacceptable that 25 per cent of all reports assessed by Community Services as requiring some intervention received no response in the first 12 months of Keep Them Safe.
These children, at the very least, need Community Services to check on their circumstances and, when required, intervene to protect them.
Reports about high-risk older children and adolescents, and habitual school absenteeism receive a very low level of response.
Mr Barbour said the solution was not simply to call for more resources but to use them "more effectively".
Mr Barbour saidBased on information obtained by my office for this report, it is inconceivable that a strong and integrated child-protection system will be able to be delivered in the near future.
It is now time to take stock of the reform program and establish clear priorities for prompt action.
NSW Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward blamed the former government for "a child-protection system seriously lacking in capacity to adequately protect children from harm".
NSW Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward saidThe government will build on the Department of Family and Community Services Action Plan to Improve Capacity in Child Protection, so that more children can be seen more often
Sue Richards, CEO of NSW Family Services saidOutcomes for vulnerable children wouldn't change while "we keep doing the same things
For years we have been stuck with a system that is very process driven and which gives scant attention to outcomes for children
That 79 per cent of reports of children being at risk of significant harm do not lead to the child being seen should have us not only very, very worried, but also ashamed.
The amount of money that has been spent on infrastructure would appear to have been wasted, unless we can say that children are now safer than they were 18 months ago.
Wayne Butler, Shared Parenting Council saidAnd today in the Sydney Morning Herald, we see the same Government that Pru Goward tells us will be building on the department, announcing possibly up to 80 thousand Public Servants are to go. Oh and yes let's not forget the the most recent statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW, 2011) report that, as of 30 June 2010, there were 35,895 Australian children living in out-of-home care. In NSW 16,175 with (55.6%) of those placed with relatives or kin.