NSW Government Child Protection Reform

On 3 March 2009, Premier Nathan Rees and Community Services Minister Linda Burney announced the Government’s package of reforms to the State’s child protection system following Justice Wood’s landmark 2008 inquiry.

The package is in response to Justice Wood’s ‘Keep Them Safe’ report aimed at improving support for at-risk children and families. The five year plan will be developed and executed in partnership with peak bodies, NGOs, unions and government agencies to develop strategies to recruit, train and retrain front line workers who deliver local services. Stage 1 of the Government’s investment will be $230 million with further funding to be considered for the 09/10 Budget.

Key Elements of Government Package

  • Allowing DoCS to focus on serious cases and other agencies and NGOs to deliver local services;
  • Establishment of a state-wide network of Child Wellbeing units in Health, Education, Housing, Police, Juvenile Justice and Disabilities, enabling a quicker response to children who are identified as being at risk by teachers, police, doctors and other mandatory reporters;
  • Trialling new referral services to help Government agencies link families to community-based services;
  • More than $31 million for an expansion of an early intervention program which provides case management, parenting programs, child care and home visiting to families with children aged 0-8;
  • $27 million for services that work intensively with families that are facing the removal of their children;
  • More than $10 million for Home School Liaison Officers and Out Of Home Care Coordinators to be expanded so that more families are able to receive early support;
  • More than $7 million for Aboriginal caseworkers and involving the Aboriginal community in decision-making. There will be an Aboriginal Impact Statement attached to each of the actions in the plan;
  • $10 million for sustained home visiting: specialist child and family health nurses working intensively with high-need families during pregnancy and in the first two years of a child’s life; and
  • Extending background checks to new groups including volunteers in high risk roles with children and family day care providers.
  • $100 million to the non government sector in Stage One and in line with Justice Wood’s recommendation the Government will commit to a gradual transfer of responsibility for most out-of-home care services to the NGO sector.

Background of the Keep Them Safe report

  • NSW commissioned a Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW, appointing retired Supreme Court Judge, the Hon James Wood AO QC.
  • In 2008 the Department of Community Services received more than 300,000 reports about the safety of children and young people, four times the number received in 2000. One in six children in NSW is reported to the Department and Aboriginal children are more than three times likely to be reported than non-Aboriginal children.
  • The Report put forward 8 principles to guide child protection in NSW:
    1. Child protection is the collective responsibility of the whole of government and the community.
    2. Primary responsibility for rearing and supporting children should rest with families and communities, with government providing support where it is needed, either directly or through the funded nongovernment sector.
    3. The child protection system should be child focused, with the safety, welfare and wellbeing of the child or young person being of paramount concern, while recognising that supporting parents is usually in the best interests of the child or young person.
    4. Positive outcomes for children and families are achieved through development of a relationship with the family that recognises their strengths and their needs.
    5. Child safety, attachment, wellbeing and permanency should guide child protection practice.
    6. Support services should be available to ensure that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young persons are safe and connected to family, community and culture.
    7. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should participate in decision making concerning the care and protection of their children and young persons with as much self-determination as is possible, and steps should be taken to empower local communities to that end.
    8. Assessments and interventions should be evidence based, monitored and evaluated.
  • The Government response is composed of seven elements:
    1. A universal service system
    2. Strengthening early intervention and community-based services
    3. Better protection for children at risk
    4. Changing practice and systems
    5. Supporting Aboriginal children and families
    6. Strengthening partnership across the community services sector
    7. Delivering the Plan and measuring success
  • The full report is available by clicking here