In response to the 2011 Cummins Inquiry into systemic problems in Victoria’s child protection system, a directions paper entitled Victoria’s Vulnerable Children – Our Shared Responsibility was created. In May 2013 a strategy for implementing the directions paper was released. The strategy is a ten-year framework to improve outcomes for vulnerable children by preventing abuse and neglect, acting earlier in situations where children are vulnerable, and improving outcomes for children in statutory care. It also realises the need for departments to work closely with government and community sectors to achieve these goals.
CHP CEO Jenny Smith recently attended the progress report to learn how the implementation of the strategy is going one year on, and to find out how the departments plan to involve various sectors, including the homelessness sector. Speakers included representatives from:
- Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD)
- Department of Human Services (DHS)
- Victorian Council of Social Services
- The Children’s Court of Victoria
From the DEECD perspective, children and youth partnerships are top of mind. They are currently working with DHS to identify kids in out of home care and developing individualised learning plans for them so that vulnerable children don’t go missing through disengagement. The DEECD also pointed out that Federal Government funding for 15 hours of 4 year old kinder is in doubt and if that was not renewed, alternative ways would have to be found to meet those needs. They are keen to create a culture that supports vulnerable children.
The end result of the failed child protection system are the courts, therefore measures are being taken to enhance their capacity. For example, a new court is being built at Broadmeadows, and the Moorabbin Court will have a senior magistrate appointed for one year to create better continuity, as families feel more comfortable seeing the same magistrate. Conciliation conferences have started taking place throughout the state, with resolution rates at around 50 percent.
In the health system, maternity services are equipping midwives to recognise and respond to risks at the point of people leaving hospital. Integrated health assessments are also taking place for kids in out of home care and there are also plans to pilot an outreach nurse.
Implementation of the strategy is ongoing.