Our Child Protection Crisis

Updated 22/04/2016

The AGE editorial 15/3 pleads for action but Victorians including their journalists still remain largely uninformed about the shift in the child protection service delivery model that has left so many of our children in care less safe.  The Baillieu/Napthine government’s model is to privatise its parental responsibility to the non-government and faith based sector.  This all began in the 90’s when our Premier was a Minister.  Mandatory reporting was introduced and costs along with notifications soared. Their answer was to outsource to a lower wage regime but with this came less experienced and trained staff, and more casualisation.  This shift has gained momentum over the last few years again.  It has transformed the NFP (not for profit) sector into some pretty profitable corporations.  There’s more mini Department’s (DHS) delivering care while the Department itself is stripped of resources.  DHS has axed 659 staff in two years, and with them, transparency and accountability is also scaled down.  The Minister’s white knight  Peter Shergold labels this all as freeing up red tape but pick up DHS’s Annual Report and then a report from the third sector and you’ll soon see the accountability difference.  Under the Minister we now have no state run residential care units anymore, only 20 secure welfare beds available, foster care cut, cottage parents gone, the state run therapeutic residential farm plagued by assaults, drug use and staff retention issues, and we have an inadequate nos of child protection practitioners working without support to follow up increased notifications from an arrangement of multiple reporters.  Yet the same people still occupy the Department’s senior echelons.  You’d wonder why it’s taken this long for the system to melt down and for the Commissioner for Children to speak out against his ‘bloody ripper Minister’.  It’s been a failure because you can’t pick winners when funding an integrated workforce and the Minister’s starve peter to feed paul approach is simplistic and leaves her culpable.  Daniel Andrews was right to ask the same questions Mary Wooldridge asked when she occupied the Opposition benches as governments who fail to put the care and protection of children above cost cutting should be routed.  This mantra applies equally in the justice, education, agriculture, health and environment portfolios under this government.    KAREN BATT

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