Here’s Echonetdaily’s video from the Brunswick Heads rally against changes to single parent payments, including Jan’s comments about the importance of reversing these changes to reduce the risk of poverty and for the sake of children’s welfare and wellbeing, along with comments from Dawn Walker and some single parents and supporters who attended the rally:
At this rally and others around NSW, people collected signatures for Jan’s petition to NSW Parliament. If you haven’t signed it, please download a copy of the petition, collect some signatures and send them in.
From 1 January 2013, the Commonwealth Government has made changes that will reduce the payments of more than 80,000 single parents. These families will be transferred from Parenting Payment to Newstart as soon as their youngest child turns 8, leaving them with a lower rate of support, and driving many single parents into the stressful situation of needing to do more hours of work around the time they spend caring for their children.
You can take action to let the Federal Government know they should reverse these unfair cuts.
Download this petition, print it out and send your signatures through to Jan’s office. Jan will present the petition to call on the NSW Government to back single parents and tell the Commonwealth they should reverse the cuts.
And to stay informed about the campaign to improve the support for single parents:
UPDATE: Cate Faehrmann is calling for people to send a message to Premier O’Farrell and Minister Goward calling for the Welfare Rights Centre’s funding to be reinstated. This service provides vital support to single parents and others about their rights in social security matters.
Jan was pleased to attend the launch of the CREATE Foundation’s 2013 Report Card, titled “Experiencing Out-of-Home Care: The Views of Children and Young People”. The report card includes the results of a broad-ranging survey of more than 1,000 children and young people in out-of-home care. Jan got to hear from four impressive and articulate young people, including Billy Black, to learn how the care system can better support children. They also talked about the importance of young people’s involvement in making plans for leaving care, and the availability of support for young adults once they have left care.
“Promoting good parenting”, which includes expanded processes to require and enforce participation by parents in early intervention and parenting capacity programs;
“Providing a safe and stable home for children and young people in care”, which includes a focus on “permanency planning” and a new hierarchy of preferred long-term care options that include guardianship by a relative or open adoption; and
“Creating a child-focused system”, which includes greater use of alternative dispute resolution and casework processes rather than court orders to negotiate care and contact plans.
Each proposal is followed by a number of questions that the Government is seeking responses to. The Greens encourage community members to make personal submissions. The Greens are also preparing a detailed submission and consulting stakeholders about potential implications of these legislative reforms.
Your submission can answer as many or as few of the questions as you would like to respond to.
Key points to include in your submission are that child protection reforms should involve:
Early intervention – with collaboration rather than punitive responses: Encouraging parents who are struggling to adequately care for their children to seek and accept help is crucial. Early intervention and parenting capacity programs should provide support and encourage parental engagement.
Background: The DP includes some approaches that might discourage parents from seeking help for fear of increasing the risk of losing their children. For instance, the paper emphasises parenting capacity orders (Proposal 1) and Parent Responsibility Contracts (Proposal 2) to get parents to engage with interventions. Failure to fulfil requirements of these orders or contracts can result in a legal presumption that a child should be removed, creating a disincentive for parents to engage with the child welfare system in the first place. Other proposals (e.g., Proposal 4) endorse punitive sanctions such as fines, which can exacerbate disadvantage and work against the best interests of the child.
Commitment to adequate and appropriate intervention services: For an early intervention framework to be successful, the Government needs to commit funds and have a system in place that guarantees the right services will be provided to the families who need them.
Background: The DP notes the range of intervention programs that are available but doesn’t explain how families can be assured that individually and culturally appropriate programs will be delivered to address their needs. This could have been addressed in some of the existing proposals, e.g., Parent Responsibility Contracts (Proposal 2) could be reformed to ensure they are genuine mutual agreements in which the Government and/or service providers commit to deliver appropriate and adequate services and are accountable for failures to fulfil their obligations.
Decision-making flexibility to recognise the variability in individual cases: Although timely decision-making is important, mandatory timeframes fail to deal with the underlying causes of placement breakdowns and the need to take into account individual – and changing – circumstances.
Background: The DP promotes permanency as the highest priority in ensuring the best interests of children are served, and it is undeniable that instability and uncertainty in care placements have a negative impact on children’s wellbeing. But legislating fixed timeframes (Proposal 7) in which a permanent decision regarding care arrangements must be made ignores the variability in individual circumstances and the capacity for children’s needs to change over time. This approach attempts to mandate a seemingly simple solution to a problem – instability in care placements – that has a complex set of causes, which require dedicated specialist caseworkers, carers and services to address.
Adoption issues – terminating parental rights requires a cautious approach: There is no clear benefit to removing the capacity to grant guardianship to non-relatives, which provides the flexibility to ensure children receive safe and stable long-term care while also maintaining the connections and rights associated with their birth families. Promoting adoption – albeit “open adoption” – in its place, particularly with new restrictions on parents’ capacity to be involved in the decision to terminate their parental rights, risks causing unintended and undue harm by permanently separating children from their family and culture. In many cases where children are unable to safely live with a birth parent, finding safe and stable care relationships does not require their parental links to be severed, and this approach could undermine efforts to maintain and restore important family relationships. This approach also raises the risk of dealing with adoptive relationships that break down.
Background: The DP sets out a hierarchy of preferred permanent care options (Proposal 6) that includes the permanent guardianship of a relative but then, with the exception of Aboriginal children, moves toward open adoption. Other proposals streamline the process of allowing foster carers to adopt (e.g., Proposals 10 & 12) and some proposals restrict the rights of birth parents to object to an adoption (Proposal 15) or even to be informed (Proposal 16). At the same time, the DP proposes removing orders available in the current laws to grant permanent parental responsibility to a long-term carer and replacing them with a guardianship order that is intended only for relatives of the child (Proposal 9).
Collaboration – a system that supports children, parents and carers is vital: It is important to recognise some innovative and potentially beneficial reforms among the proposals.
Background: Despite the shortcomings of the DP highlighted above, some of the proposals promote innovative and evidence-supported approaches to reduce the adversarial nature of the child protection system and to provide greater flexibility in dealing with changing circumstances. In particular, moves toward alternative dispute resolution (Proposals 3, 14, 19 & 21) and flexible case management approaches in care, contact and supervision orders (e.g., Proposals 17 & 18) are promising initiatives, although careful consideration and stakeholder input is required for their effective implementation and to safeguard rights such as the capacity to appeal.
You can have your say by making a submission. Write submissions in your own words, especially if you have any direct experience of the child protection system. Ensure that your submission directly responds to the questions asked in the Discussion Paper.
The NSW Greens spokesperson for Housing and Homelessness, Jan Barham MLC, is calling on the State Government to demonstrate their commitment to people across the State who find themselves homeless.
The call comes as National Homeless Person’s week is marked across the country.
“This week we will be reminded that approximately 30,000 people in NSW are considered homeless” said Jan Barham. “That’s 30,000 people spending tonight without a bed and without a home.”
“The reality is that people find themselves in this position for a whole host of reasons – they may have been rejected from their family home, have mental health issues, be fleeing domestic violence or dealing with addiction or they may just suddenly find themselves in financial trouble, unable to cope with the increasing cost of living.”
“Whatever the reason for someone becoming homeless, it’s up to all of us as a responsible and caring society to ensure there is support and help available. I am presenting a motion to the Parliament seeking a Government commitment to increase the delivery of support for these vulnerable people.”
The motion will be presented when Parliament resumes next week, calling for a range of initiatives including that:
the Premier’s Advisory Council on Homelessness be retained and meet regularly;
all Councils to have a nominated staff member responsible for ensuring their Council adheres to the Homeless Persons Protocol;
all Councils to be required to report on local initiatives for addressing homelessness in their Local Government Area in their Annual Report;
the 10 Regional Homeless Action Plans developed in July 2010 be reviewed;
the balance of funds from the NSW allocation under the 2009-10 National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness be identified for a funding program to support local government to meet the needs of homeless people;
“I believe there is a stronger role for local councils to play in the provision of services” said Jan. “They know the local problems and they know the local solutions. I’m encouraging the State to work more closely with local government to allow them to be part of the solution, working with non government organisations – but only with adequate support and funding from the State. There is a role for the Government in providing a funding source to local communities to assist in supporting those who find themselves without a home and desperately in need of access to services and support.”
The NSW Government has released an Exposure Draft Boarding Houses Bill 2012 for discussion. The Bill aims to protect vulnerable residents and comes after calls from the NSW Greens and advocacy groups for reform to the sector and distressing reports from the Ombudsman about abuses and lack of regulation and oversight.
The Bill proposes a new legislative framework that aims to protect vulnerable residents and comes after calls from the NSW Greens and advocacy groups for reform to the sector. The situation with boarding houses that accommodate people with disabilities is desperately in need of reform as there is a history of abuses. The lack of a state wide register of premises has made it difficult to monitor the performance of the premises and this is addressed in the new proposal. A new scheme of occupancy rights for residents is provided and an increase in penalties for offences, criminal checks for staff and provisions that allow authorised advocates to enter premises.
Below is a Briefing Paper that outlines some of the key aspects of the Bill. A Submission Guide is also provided for those who would like to formally respond to the Government.
The NSW Government is currently conducting a review of the Mobility Parking Scheme. It’s generally acknowledged that the current system could be improved and The Greens support measures to ensure the scheme is fair and robust. The review is also part of moves towards a national scheme that will provide certainty and clarity to users across all States. A discussion paper was released in May and Jan has provided a submission in response. Please find below a copy of both documents.
The NSW Greens spokesperson for Disability Services, Jan Barham is calling on the Premier and the State Government to commit the necessary funding to enable the full implementation of a trial in New South Wales of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The call comes after the Prime Minister announced on Wednesday that an agreement to implement trials of the scheme had been reached with Tasmania, South Australia and the A.C.T but that the NSW State Government had failed to commit the funds necessary to implement the trial proposed for the Hunter region.
“The NSW Government should not be playing politics with some of the state’s most vulnerable people” said Jan Barham. “The NDIS trial is essential for NSW to identify the practical issues for implementation”.
“The NDIS is a ground breaking process for people with disabilities that will provide self determination and dignity for those people and their families”
The proposed trial in NSW would have meant that 10,000 individuals in the Hunter region would have been involved and benefited. But its implementation would require the NSW government to provide $70million in funding over three years – money that Premier Barry O’Farrell says should be coming from the Commonwealth government. Jan Barham says the NDIS should be a top priority and the money should be allocated.
“It’s a great disappointment that the prioritising of funds for this important project are not being made available” said Jan Barham. “NSW will suffer if there isn’t a trial and people with disabilities are right to be disappointed. The recognition of the rights of people with a disability is long overdue and by not progressing the NDIS, this disadvantage is continuing rather than being resolved.”
“Both the State and Commonwealth Governments have indicated a willingness to keep negotiating and I strongly encourage them to do so in a spirit of cooperation and good will to secure an improved living standard for people with a disability in NSW because every Australian counts”.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can expect to live substantially shorter lives than other Australians – up to 20 years less in some cases. Babies born to Aboriginal mothers die at more than twice the rate of other Australian babies, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience higher rates of preventable illness such as heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes.
In response to this dire situation, Australia’s peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous health bodies, health professional bodies and human rights organisations came together in March 2006 to initiate the “Close the Gap” Campaign. The Campaign’s goal is to raise the health and life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within a generation: to close the gap by 2030. It aims to do this through education, by raising awareness and by mobilising the public to advocate for policy change.
Last Wednesday, March 14th, in a speech marking the beginning of Senior’s Week, I made the following comments regarding the gap in life expectancy for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians:
“It is a well-known yet shameful fact that life expectancy is not uniform across populations within Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience a much shorter life expectancy than non-Indigenous Australians. It is recognised that a significant gap exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians – that gap is consistently identified as being between 10 and 17 years. The inexcusable reality is that our Indigenous Australians are missing out on a whole decade of life experiences—a decade of enjoying life, watching grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up and passing on knowledge and wisdom to the rest of the community”
I commend the initiatives that have been implemented under the Close the Gap campaign and I encourage everyone to use tomorrow, Thursday 22nd March which is national Close the Gap day, to raise awareness of the need for genuine commitment from all levels of government to Aboriginal Australians.
One step the State Government should take is to lower the eligibility age for a Seniors Card for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to 45 years. With a lowering of the age for this disadvantaged group, they would become entitled to important concessions and benefits that would support an enhanced quality of life.
Community Resilience is the capacity to live sustainably by coming together in a way that strengthens how we adapt to change, enhance wellbeing and build social cohesion. There are many ways communities can take action to equip themselves to cope with crisis and encourage social inclusion.
Volunteering and community involvement are key components for building resilience, creating opportunities for people to communicate and engage with others, repair the environment, support cultural activities, address the challenges of climate change and prepare for disasters.