Report confirms more needs to be done to keep children safe

“An Auditor General report released today shows that the NSW Government is still failing to meet its obligations to children and young people at risk of serious harm and those in out-of-home care”, says Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson for Family and Community Services.

“The report shows that while there has been some improvement in the monitoring of foster care placements, the Department of Family and Community Services is still not meeting key requirements designed to keep children safe.

“Although there has been a marked improvement in the number of annual placement reviews of children in out-of-home care, 23.5% of placements went without a review in 2014/15.

“This raises the question as to whether the Department is adequately resourced to meet its legislated requirement to conduct one review every 12 months for these vulnerable children and young people.”

Ms Barham also commented on the report’s findings about caseworker assessment of children reported at risk.

“The number of face-to-face assessments for children at risk of serious harm remains disappointingly low, with only 28% receiving a face-to-face response from a caseworker.

“These assessments have hovered around 26% and 28% since 2013, suggesting that more resources are needed to improve contact with the 73,432 children and young people reported at risk of serious harm.

“The low rate of face-to-face assessments and annual placement reviews calls into question whether there are enough caseworkers funded to meet the Government’s child protection obligations. Only 5% of caseworker vacancies went unfilled in 2014/15, yet there remain significant shortfalls in placement reviews and face-to-face assessments.”

“Even if all caseworker vacancies were filled, the figures suggest that the Department would still be grossly under-resourced to fulfil its responsibilities to children and young people in the child protection system.

“The NSW Government must boost resources to the Department of Family and Community Services so it can meet its obligations to keep children and young people safe from harm. However, more needs to be done to curb the high number of children entering the child protection system in the first place. The NSW Government must invest in early intervention and support services to better support families and prevent abuse and neglect, and alleviate pressure on an overburdened child protection system,” Ms Barham said.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

You can read the Auditor General’s report here

South Australia’s net zero ambition is an example New South Wales should outdo

NSW Greens MP Jan Barham has welcomed the South Australian Government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050 and has called on all parties in NSW to support ambition and accountability to address climate change.

“States and territories can lead the way on climate action, and with the federal government holding to inadequate targets it’s important that they do,” Ms Barham said.

“I commend the South Australian Government for commissioning the Low Carbon Economy Expert Panel’s report, and for taking on board the clear advice that we can and must transform to a zero emissions society in the next few decades.

“New South Wales needs similar ambition and commitment. The Climate Change Bill that I’ve introduced into Parliament would mandate a target of net zero emissions by 2040, and put in place the planning framework and legal accountability to ensure current and future governments keep us on target.”

Ms Barham noted that the Baird Government had failed to show leadership or take responsibility for climate action.

“Unfortunately the Premier didn’t lodge the submission his environment department had prepared calling for stronger federal targets for post-2020 emissions reductions. The NSW Government has also been quick to talk down the possibility that the state could meet requirements the Greens’ legislation would set in place.

“Will NSW Labor show the same commitment to lock in strong climate action as their South Australian counterparts?” Ms Barham asked.

“Climate science has made clear for decades that we need to limit global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions rapidly. Experts in energy and other sectors have shown that the transformation is not only possible, but that the benefits of acting early are great and the failure to act brings with it significant risks and costs.

“It’s disappointing that the NSW Government continues following the pessimistic line pushed by vested interests rather than recognising the capacity and power of our people and industries to act.

“The United Nations conference in Paris is just days away and every community, organisation and government at every level should be contributing to global action. This isn’t just a matter for the Australian Government, especially when their actions have undermined international efforts. At state level, every party should be backing sensible emissions targets and legislation to deliver on climate action,” Ms Barham concluded.


NSW Government on Climate Change Bill: Low on ambition, high on pessimism, and unwilling to take responsibility

Greens MP Jan Barham has said the NSW Government’s opposition to legislation that would lock in sensible climate action shows their rhetoric fails to match their

“The Climate Change Bill I introduced to the NSW Parliament would hold the current and future NSW Governments accountable for delivering action to reduce emissions and prepare for climate change across the whole of government.

“The Baird Government’s alarmist claims in opposing the Bill show that despite all their talk about wanting to be a leader in renewable energy, they’re not serious about doing what’s necessary to ensure the future wellbeing and success of this state,” Ms Barham said.

The Greens’ legislation would mandate a target of net-zero emissions by 2040, with every Government required to produce four-year plans for emissions reductions and climate change adaptation. Governments would be accountable for following through on their plans through annual reporting and the possibility of legal proceedings against decisions that would decrease the state’s ability to meet its targets.

“In defending its record on climate change, the Government pointed to its Energy Savings Scheme, which they say will deliver emissions reductions of 1.9 million tonnes by 2020. That’s less than 1.5% of the state’s annual emissions. They’re tinkering around the edges when we need dedicated action across the whole of government to drive the transition to a clean society and economy,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham accused the Government of failing to adequately consider the risks and costs facing the state without significant emissions reductions starting immediately.

“On the same day that a new Climate Council report told us that the fire season has extended by almost 19% since 1979 and that the number of professional firefighters would need to double by 2030 to meet demand, the Government tried to claim that it was the Greens’ legislation that would create problems for emergency services.

“We’re capable of making the changes needed to limit global warming and prepare for the impacts of climate change, and by acting now New South Wales would be seizing the opportunity to establish new jobs and industries while reducing the future costs and risks. The Greens’ RenewAustralia plan shows how Australia can reach 90% renewables by 2030, and we could take the lead in this state.

“It’s unfortunate that Mike Baird’s Government shows the same lack of political will as his federal counterparts. Instead of seizing the opportunity and leading with ambition, he has fallen back on the same scare tactics and wants to avoid responsibility for addressing climate change,” Ms Barham concluded.