The Victorian Auditor-General today tabled a Report on Residential Care Services for Children in the Victorian Parliament. CEO of the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare Deb Tsorbaris welcomed the release of the report.
The release of the report comes after public exposure of the risk for children in residential care from paedophile activity and the Victorian Government’s release of Out of Home Care: A Five Year Plan.
The Auditor-General recommends that the Department of Human Services should more accurately identify future demand for residential care so as to ensure adequate funding is available. The Auditor-General’s report identified that the Department of Human Services had, through the budget process over the previous five years, alerted Government to the demand pressures on the residential care system. The development of a new demand forecasting tool is positive and should provide the evidence for sufficient and appropriate care arrangements for young people.
The release of Out of Home Care: A Five Year Plan sets out proposals to transform Victoria’s residential care arrangements to a therapeutic care model and the Minister for Community Service believes this can be achieved within the next two years.
“This is significant and responds to longstanding calls by community service organisations for the full scale implementation of the therapeutic care approach.” said Ms Tsorbaris.
The Auditor-General’s report also focuses on the benefits of therapeutic care and the obvious problems of the current single worker residential care model. The introduction of flexible packages will need careful evaluation to ensure that the needs of children shape the kind of care they receive.
The Auditor General’s report identified that 13 per cent of children in residential care were identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children. The Centre welcomes the establishment of Taskforce 1000, co-chaired by Andrew Jackomos, Aboriginal Commissioner for Children and Young People and Gill Callister, Secretary, Department of Human Services to focus on reducing the number of Aboriginal children and young people in out of home care.
The Department of Human Services has accepted the Auditor-General’s recommendation to strengthen the residential care workforce through further training and learning opportunities. This is also a key focus of Out of Home Care: A Five Year Plan. The Centre is a significant provider of training in this area and looks forward to further collaboration with the Department of Human Services to meet workforce priorities.
The focus on children’s outcomes in the Auditor-General’s report and the need for an independent complaints process for young people in residential care is key to a child-focused approach.
“The Auditor-General’s report and Out of Home Care: A Five Year Plan identify the key challenges facing out of home care. Their recommendations if harnessed by government, departments and service providers have a real potential to significantly improve the lives of children and young people in State care. The Centre also notes the Auditor-General’s intention to follow up to ensure the issues raised in the report are being addressed” said Ms Tsorbaris.
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