Promoting Wellbeing for Children and Young People: The Challenge of Child Poverty

Wednesday, 7 August 2013, 2pm-4:30pm
Jubilee Room
NSW Parliament House
Macquarie Street, Sydney

Recent debates about the adequacy of parenting payments and issues of child welfare have highlighted just some of the challenges to enhancing children’s wellbeing. This forum will bring together the experience and insights of representatives from the social service and child welfare sectors, along with representatives of children and young people, to discuss the crucial issues of enhancing wellbeing and eliminating poverty for children and young people. Members of the public as well as stakeholders from other organisations are invited to attend and to participate in the discussion about the causes and impacts of child and youth poverty, and the way forward in improving social and economic circumstances for our children and young people.

Metiria Turei

With special guest Metiria Turei, co-leader of the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand and spokesperson for Social Equity (http://www.greens.org.nz/endchildpoverty)
Panel of speakers and discussants includes:

  • Alison Peters, Director, Council of Social Service of NSW (NCOSS)
  • Andrew McCallum, CEO, Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA)
  • Vicki Curran, Wollongong City Councillor and social justice advocate
  • Madeleine Read, CREATE Foundation
  • Chris, a young person in care

Hosted by Jan Barham, Greens MLC and spokesperson on Family and Community Services

RSVP to Jan Barham’s office, jan.barham@parliament.nsw.gov.au, (02) 9230 2603.

Call for Parliamentary inquiry following dire report into public housing

Greens MP and Housing spokesperson, Jan Barham, is calling for a Parliamentary inquiry into the housing affordability crisis, after an Auditor-General’s report today highlighted the failure of the public housing system.

“The Auditor-General has shown that the social housing sector isn’t able to meet the needs of our most vulnerable, yet the demand for urgent support is increasing. Between increasing housing affordability pressures and deteriorating public housing stock, the Government is unable to meet the needs of many vulnerable people across the state,” Ms Barham said.

“The existing public housing stock is old and neglected, and the Auditor-General’s recognition of the lack of planning for housing is of great concern.

“A Parliamentary inquiry into housing affordability is essential following this damning report. The inquiry must look at the social factors and the impact of disadvantage that can ultimately lead to homelessness, as well as the economic and planning issues affecting housing affordability. The crisis in housing demands new ideas to provide shelter for the vulnerable and make housing more affordable.

“We also need a clear picture about what the Government can do to deliver housing stock that is socially and financially sustainable. There are outstanding questions for the Government around the funds from the sale of lands and what is to be delivered from those sales,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham also expressed concern that the pressure to accommodate new priority tenants might see existing tenants who are also vulnerable or disadvantaged exposed to increased financial pressure and social disruption.

“The conclusions and recommendations in this report highlight the massive waiting lists and demands on social housing, but it’s important to also meet the ongoing needs of existing tenants, many of whom are from disadvantaged groups.

“The introduction of a bedroom tax and changes to tenancy succession could harm the financial and social wellbeing of existing tenants, many of whom are older or have a disability. An inquiry must consider strategies that recognise the importance of people’s existing community connections, while ensuring that more tenants can be accommodated in the public housing system,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

Auditor-General’s report on Making the best use of public housing

Opportunity for Aboriginal regional partnerships to engage in Local Decision Making

Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs, is calling on Aboriginal community organisations to take advantage of the opportunity to take part in the NSW Government’s new Local Decision Making programme.

“I welcome the approach Minister Dominello has taken to engage Aboriginal communities and organisations in setting policy directions, including the review of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act and the development of the Government’s OCHRE plan for Aboriginal affairs,” Ms Barham said.

“A key part of the Government’s OCHRE plan is to develop models for local Aboriginal organisations to take a strong role in governance and decision making. The first round of Local Decision Making partnerships are open for expressions of interest now, with existing or newly-created partnerships able to receive support from the Government in developing their capacity for local governance.”

Ms Barham encouraged Aboriginal community organisations from all across the state to consider developing a Local Decision Making proposal. “The initial phase will involve three regional partnerships, with one each selected from urban, country and remote parts of the state.”

“Aboriginal communities must have control over the decisions that affect their wellbeing. The support and funding in this Local Decision Making programme is an opportunity for local organisations to take the lead in working with government and having a say about services that affect their community,” Ms Barham said.

Applications for the initial phase of Local Decision Making close on 25 September 2013. Details about the programme and application forms are available at http://www.aboriginalaffairs.nsw.gov.au/local-decision-making/

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

More Jobs for People with a Disability

The NSW Greens spokesperson on Disability, Jan Barham is encouraging employers to provide jobs to people with a disability.

“The New South Wales Government introduced legislation that supports employers and people with a disability in the workforce. I have written to all Chambers of Commerce in NSW to advise them of the funding that is available. I look forward to an increase in opportunities created,” said Jan Barham.

“There are well over 300,000 people with a disability in NSW of a working age who are not in the labour force and 260 614 receiving the Disability Support Pension, with only 8.1% of those reporting earnings. Many of these people want the opportunity to participate in the workforce and more should be done to assist them,” Jan Barham said.

Australia currently ranks 21 out of 29 OECD countries for employment levels of people with a disability and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2009 had an employment participation rate of 54%, much lower than the general population of 83%.

Ms Barham noted that a recent report by Deloitte Access Economics found that closing the gap between labour market participation rates and unemployment rates for people with and without a disability by one third would result in a cumulative $43 billion increase in Australia’s GDP over the next decade.

“It’s of great concern that a Deloitte Access Economics report found that people with disabilities who are excluded from the workforce have lower standards of living and less financial control,” said Jan Barham.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

NSW Payroll Tax Rebate Scheme – Disability Employment

Employment Assistance Fund

The Deloitte Access Economics Report

Children at risk must be our highest priority: Goward must clarify casework figures

Staffing and funding for child protection and targeted early intervention services must be urgently increased if the current levels are unable to meet the demand for support, says Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson for Family and Community Services.

Her comments follow the release of figures indicating that only around one-quarter of children reported at risk of significant harm were interviewed by a caseworker and given a safety check: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/44899-children-unchecked-20130709-2pofc.html

“Identifying families where children are at risk and delivering appropriate action, including early intervention services and assessment of whether a child is in need of care and protection, must be urgent priorities,” Ms Barham said.

“I’m concerned that the recent NSW Budget doesn’t show a funding commitment to prioritise the support for vulnerable children. Recent reports have highlighted that child protection caseworkers aren’t able to keep up with the number of reports received and concerns have been raised about the time spent on paperwork rather than face-to-face visits and checks.

“The budget only allocated a 2.8 percent funding increase to statutory child protection and even worse, funding for targeted early intervention to support vulnerable families has been cut by more than 8 percent.

“A Government Discussion Paper on child protection released last year recognised the need for targeted action to prevent harm to children, including early intervention and parenting programs.

Ms Barham noted that the foster care system was already under strain, with more than 18,000 children currently in out-of-home care.

“Foster carers play a vital role caring for the 18,000 children who are unable to live with their own families. But more support is needed to increase the number of carers.

“The Government must clarify the current situation with caseworkers and how reports of risk of significant harm are handled. There also must be enough caseworkers so that reports of significant risk can be assessed, and early intervention and prevention services have to be expanded Children at risk must be the highest priority in NSW,” Ms Barham said.

For Further Comment, please contact: Jan Barham 0407 065 061; David Mallard 0432 881 448

Background

Budget 2013/14:

Statutory Child Protection
Risk of significant harm (ROSH) reports: 61,000 in 12/13; 59,500 in 13/14
ROSH reports receiving a face-to-face assessment or service: 37,000 in 12/13; 38,000 in 13/14

Budget for Statutory Child Protection:
2012/13 (revised): $423.0 million
2013/14 (budget): $445.6 million – real increase of 2.8% (5.3% nominal increase)

Targeted Earlier Intervention (incl. domestic violence services, etc., as well as children)
Budget for Targeted Earlier Intervention:
2012/13 (revised): $262.2 million
2013/14 (budget): $245.8 million – real decrease of 8.5% (6.3% nominal decrease)

Out-of-Home Care
Children in OOHC: 18,400 in 12/13; 18,400 in 13/14
NGO statutory OOHC placements: 38% in 12/13; 58% in 13/14

Budget for Out-of-Home Care:
2012/13 (revised): $776.8 million
2013/14 (budget): $798.9 million – real increase of 0.3% (2.8% nominal increase)

Community Services Expenditure on Consultancies (FACS 2011/12 Annual Report):

Ernst & Young, Child Protection Caseload Review Phase 2: $363,619
KPMG, Community Services NSW Organisational Review: $342,223
Ernst & Young, Review of Subsidies and Grants Program: $ 81,565

DoCS/FACS Annual Reports:

 

2008/9

2009/10

2010/11

2011/12

CP reports

309,676

256,088

215,272

228,821

Rate per 1 000 population in ROSH

Reports (further assessment)

71.1

55.4

37.3

38.3

ROSH reports

226,946

163,200

98,845

99,283

JIRT team referrals accepted

3,436

3,877

4,249

4,070

Numbers in OOHC

16,524

17,400

17,896

18,169

Numbers of caseworkers

2,187

2,212

2,320

2,229

Budget Estimates 2012/13 – discussion of casework/assessment:

The Hon. HELEN WESTWOOD: Of the assessments that were made of risk of significant harm, how many children received a face-to-face assessment by a caseworker in the past six months?
Ms PRU GOWARD: I am very pleased you asked that question because we have put an enormous effort into improving the baseline. As you know, in August 2011 the Ombudsman observed that 24 per cent of children had their cases closed without assessment. We have introduced a number of measures. Of course, the safety assessment, risk assessment [SARA] tool is working much more effectively. That has enabled us to increase the number of face-to-face assessments by 27 per cent since last year. In fact, 25,684 assessments were completed in 2011-12 compared with 20,204 in the previous year. That is almost 30 per cent more children and young people benefiting from improved services.

Increase state funding for public libraries: Sign the petition; Request the stickers

Public libraries are a vital community service. But the NSW Government’s contribution to library funding hasn’t kept pace with rising costs, which has seen the burden shift across to local government. Councils now contribute more than 90% of the funding for public libraries; thirty years ago, their contribution was around three-quarters.

Here’s how you can show your support for public libraries:

  1. Download this petition. Sign it yourself, collect as many signatures as you can, send send it to Jan Barham’s office. Your signatures will be tabled in Parliament.
  2. Request stickers from Jan Barham’s office – email jan.barham@parliament.nsw.gov.au or call (02) 9230 2603 and let us know how many you would like and where to send them.

Increase State Funding for Public Libraries

Petition – Recognition of Forced Adoption Practices

Help provide ongoing recognition of forced adoption practices – Download the petition

The NSW Government delivered an Apology for Forced Adoption Practices on 20th September 2012, which was adopted by both Houses of the NSW Parliament (view Jan Barham’s apology speech on YouTube). The Australian Government has also delivered its apology on 21st March 2013. The governments of each other state and territory have also delivered an apology, or have announced their intention to do so.

But apology is only one step in the process of reconciliation and reparation following an injustice. Ongoing acknowledgement of the impact of forced adoption practices, and awareness of the apology delivered to those affected, are important next steps. On behalf of The Greens, Jan Barham has a motion before the Parliament calling on the Government to:

  • establish an annual Day of Recognition of Forced Adoption Practices,
  • construct a public memorial to commemorate the apology to those affected by forced adoption practices in NSW, and
  • develop information resources and a communications strategy to raise public awareness of past forced adoption practices and the traumatic effects of forced adoptions, and to highlight the support services available to those affected by forced adoption practices.

These would be significant acts of acknowledgement that could have a lasting impact. This is something the NSW Government should adopt as a permanent recognition of forced adoptions, and of their apology.

You can help to show the Government that this is a motion worth supporting. Download the petition, sign it yourself, then collect as many signatures as you can and send it to Jan’s office. When Parliament resumes on 20th August, Jan will be able to table the petition in the NSW Legislative Council, formally recording that there is public support for these three actions.

Download the petition here. The address to return your petitions is at the bottom of the sheet. If you have any questions or would like to raise any issues, please contact Jan’s office – email jan.barham@parliament.nsw.gov.au or call (02) 9230 2603.