NSW Budget: Some welcome initiatives but inadequate investment to prevent community crisis points

Hand cradling paper figures

Jan Barham MLC, Greens NSW spokesperson on Housing, Homelessness, and Family and Community Services has warned that the latest NSW Budget continues to fall short in preventing key pressures on communities across the state.

“The NSW Government has again failed to adequately invest in addressing the key challenges in our society, including pervasive housing stress and alarming rates of risk to children and young people, to promote wellbeing and improve the long-term social and economic outlook,” Ms Barham said.

“Ahead of the Budget the Government announced $560 million in new funding for community services over four years, including $170 million on efforts to reduce the number of children entering care.

“While this appears to be a long-overdue step toward investing in prevention and family preservation, the budget papers show that overall funding for targeted earlier intervention isn’t increasing. The sad reality remains that the major budget increase in supporting vulnerable children comes from the 1,100 more children and young people than expected entering out of home care.

“Until there is a genuine boost to genuine early intervention services, including universal supports and targeted interventions for families with risk factors for abuse and neglect, we won’t see the cycle broken. The Government can invest now to prevent the crisis or face continued growth in demand for crisis interventions.

“Fewer households were supported in social housing in 15/16 than forecast, revised down from 142,000 to 140,700 households. Even fewer households are expected to be supported in social housing in 2016/17, despite the waiting list for social housing being higher than it has ever been sitting at 60,000 households.”

“The budget for maintenance and repair of Aboriginal Housing dwellings has been cut, down from $28.4 million in 2015/16 to $15 million in 16/17. Considering the huge improvements made to people’s lives and health from repairing rundown homes, this is disappointing and could cost the health budget in the long run.”

“These cuts come as stamp duty revenues of $8.88 billion have smashed forecasts, highlighting how the NSW Government continues to rely on speculative investment in property to balance its budgets, which only makes housing more unaffordable”, said Ms Barham.

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

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

Welcome progress on Out-of-Home Care transition but effort needed on Aboriginal services and early intervention

The release of an Auditor-General’s report on the transfer of out-of-home care services to the non-government sector is welcome but some key areas of concern must be addressed by the NSW Government, says Greens spokesperson on Family and Community Services, Jan Barham.

“The transition of out-of-home care from Community Services to non-government organisations (NGOs) was a key recommendation of the 2008 Wood Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection, and the overall indication is that this process remains on track,” Ms Barham said.

“More than half of care placements are now managed by NGOs and the sector’s capacity has continued to develop. It’s essential that all vulnerable children who are unable to live with their family receive quality care that is as stable, enriching and culturally appropriate as possible.”

But Ms Barham noted that the Auditor-General had highlighted several key areas that must be addressed to ensure the wellbeing of children in out-of-home care.

“The declining trend in children being returned to their families is a troubling sign, and one that requires more focus from Government. As the number of children in out-of-home care continues to grow, it highlights that a significant boost to services for early intervention, prevention and family restoration is vital to keeping families together in the first place, reducing risk of harm and breaking the intergenerational cycle of abuse and neglect.

“The Auditor-General’s warning about the need for a clear strategy to develop Aboriginal NGOs to provide services for Aboriginal children and young people must be addressed urgently. Given the drastic overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in care, we have to do everything we can to ensure Aboriginal communities are supported by Aboriginal services,” Ms Barham said.

“In 2011-12 the Government had committed to supporting the development of new Aboriginal services, but this new report makes clear that there is a lack of strategy and a shortage of appropriate service providers. This puts at risk the capacity to ensure Aboriginal children in care grow up with a connection to their family, community and culture, and there are questions to be asked about why that Government commitment hasn’t been followed through.

“The Government must also act on the Auditor-General’s recommendation to develop wellbeing outcomes for children in care. Without a clear set of outcomes that reflect the quality of children’s lives, we remain uncertain about what is working and what isn’t in terms of ensuring services and care placements are helping children to have the best opportunities and quality of life possible.

Ms Barham also warned against using financial incentives for adoption within the out-of-home care system.

“Adoption is never going to be an appropriate or effective solution for the vast majority of children placed in care. The focus must be on ensuring the wellbeing and safety of all children by preventing the need for children to come into care in the first place, and by ensuring the out-of-home care system delivers quality care for all of those children who need it,” Ms Barham concluded.

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

BACKGROUND: Auditor-General’s report on Transferring out-of-home care to non-government organisations

Perrottet welfare attitudes defy reality

NSW Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet’s attack on welfare support lacks an understanding of the reality of struggle of low and no income families, according to Greens NSW MPs Jan Barham and John Kaye.

Greens NSW Family and Community Services spokesperson Jan Barham said: “Minister Perrottet’s comments linking welfare to family breakdown and declining fertility aren’t supported by the evidence and only serve to stigmatise people the Government should be supporting.

“It’s disappointing that the Minister has allowed ideology to trump evidence in his remarks, especially in a speech that he claimed was about delivering better social policy.

“The attitudes Mr Perrottet expressed show an ignorance of the causes of family breakdown and the importance of supporting people in difficult times.

“The Government needs to look to the wellbeing of all people in our society. Investing in supports for people and families is vital, but just as important is having a safety net in place for when people’s circumstances leave them vulnerable.

“Minister Perrottet should work with his colleagues in Government to ensure that early intervention is available to address the real causes and consequences of disadvantage and dysfunction, rather than falsely laying the blame on the welfare system itself,” Ms Barham said.

Greens NSW Finance spokesperson John Kaye said: “The Minister’s ill-informed views are not compatible with his task of running the state’s finances.

“Despite OECD-published evidence to the contrary, Mr Perrottet asserts that welfare support for the elderly and single-supporting mothers contribute to declining fertility and rising divorce rates.

“Apart from a frightening absence of empathy for the plight of children in single parent homes and the elderly who are struggling to make ends meet, the most alarming aspect of the Minister’s speech was his failure to respond to evidence.

“Managing agencies with multi-billion dollar turnovers and exerting substantial influence over the state’s public finances require a far greater commitment to evidence and empathy than Minister Perrottet displayed last night,” Dr Kaye said.

For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455; Jan Barham 0447 853 891

NSW Budget fails to deliver a genuine boost to early support for at-risk families

The NSW Government’s 2015-16 Budget has not delivered the much-needed investment in support for vulnerable families to protect children and prevent child removal, says Greens MP and spokesperson on Family and Community Services and Housing.

“The Budget papers show that the Government still isn’t taking sufficient action to address the major challenges facing disadvantaged and vulnerable people in this state,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham noted that the Family and Community Services budget didn’t deliver a genuine boost to early intervention services, while the number of children and young people placed in out-of-home care has continued to rise higher than forecast.

“The Government should take no pride in its increase to the out-of-home care budget, which was required because the number of children in care has risen sharply with nearly 20,000 children and young people in care,” Ms Barham said.

“Although adequate funding of out-of-home care and support for foster carers is essential, the Government needs to put more investment into supporting at-risk families before they reach the point where child removal becomes necessary.

“The Budget has again failed to deliver a major boost to the services that would target at-risk families and prevent abuse and neglect.

“The Budget Papers have clouded the Family and Community Services funding by transferring the Office of Communities and their general community grants across from the Education cluster.

“It appears that the Government has opted for smoke and mirrors rather than delivering a genuine boost to the targeted programs that would help to keep children safe at home, and would reduce the pressure on the child protection and out-of-home care systems.”

Ms Barham warned that the Government’s focus on open adoption would only assist a small number of children in care and that a broader emphasis on building a system that supported all children and families was required.

“Children and young people who enter the out-of-home care system often face disadvantage and risk as they transition into adulthood. Many children face homelessness, involvement in the justice system and other problems when they leave care. More needs to be done to support them at that vulnerable time.

“The Government must do more to prevent children entering into the system, and to ensure that all children who are unable to be restored to their families have the opportunity and support to make a successful transition into independent adulthood,” Ms Barham concluded.

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

Incoming Government must support a fairer and more caring society

Jan Barham, the Greens’ spokesperson for the North Coast, Aboriginal Affairs, Housing, Ageing, Disabilty and Community Services, has called on the re-elected Coalition Government to adopt a more caring and strategic approach with a priority focus on housing and community services for areas of high vulnerability and disadvantage such as the North Coast.

“The high levels of people who are unemployed, aged, have a disability and receiving income and parenting support payments is an indication of the disadvantage and vulnerability in our region. The risk is that if priorities don’t change with the next government we will see a continuation of vulnerability that can result in intergenerational disadvantage. Without changes there could be more people living in poverty and excluded from full participation in society,” said Ms Barham.

“There must be a focus on investing in communities to deliver fairness and improved opportunity to participate in all aspects of life. It’s time to look at the needs of this community and prepare for the future, with a more caring and compassionate approach.

“In this election campaign the Greens prioritised a boost in social housing with funding of $4.5 billion to build 20,000 homes over 4 years. With some of the longest waiting lists in NSW, there should be a significant increase on the north coast. The lack of affordable housing is threatening the health and wellbeing of the community and putting many at risk of homelessness, especially the young, the elderly and Aboriginal community members.

“Many older people living in caravan parks are facing unaffordable rent increases or eviction, with no other options available. NSW needs new legislation to provide the security and affordability required for our valued older citizens living in parks and villages.”

The Greens are also calling for secondary dwellings grants to assist property owners to build for the aged and disabled.

“We need to deliver appropriately designed and dedicated housing to allow people to stay living in community rather than being forced to move away from their neighbours and families. Funding support at a local level would grow the stock of housing needed and retain community cohesion,” said Ms Barham.

Ms Barham noted that with an ageing population, the NDIS, domestic violence, child protection concerns and a significant Aboriginal population, the region needs additional workers in the community services area to address and prevent risk for the most vulnerable in our community.

“Some of the disadvantage experienced in the region could be overcome with a greater investment in early intervention services and additional workers. The community service sector is in need of additional staff and the Greens are calling for a training financial assistance scheme to encourage and support more people entering the caring workforce. The need for increased Aboriginal specialist services is crucial and would create much needed employment opportunities as well as culturally appropriate services,” said Ms Barham.

Taxis are the main form of transport for some residents who have significant disabilities to allow them to access medical, health and work opportunities.

“The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme has not been increased for 16 years and this is grossly unfair. An increase in this vital service would benefit inclusion for those who are otherwise disadvantaged, especially in the regions,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham also warned that recent funding cuts by the Federal Government to parent and youth services have shown a lack of foresight and investment in the future, which the NSW Government must work to rectify.

“The Greens call on the State Government to lobby against the Federal Government funding cuts to important programs that support young people at risk and that provide skills for the transition to adulthood and independent living, and to make up for any shortfall in federal funding as they have done for pensioner concessions. The funding cuts to important programs that support new parents are a dangerous move that puts child welfare at risk, and which will end up creating additional social harms and put pressure on state services in child protection, juvenile justice and other sectors,” said Ms Barham.

“It’s time to overcome the history of the major parties ignoring the needs of the regions. While North Coast seats were a major focus in this election and coal seam gas was an especially crucial issue, the wellbeing of North Coast communities has been off the radar for too long.

“Without a commitment to social infrastructure investment for the region, there will be continuing disadvantage. The true test of a progressive society is how well we care for those in need and plan for the future wellbeing of all of our residents.

“The Greens are committed to caring for the most vulnerable in our society. I will be focusing on these issues when Parliament resumes, hopefully with two new North Coast Greens members in the Legislative Assembly to echo the focus for the region’s communities,” Ms Barham concluded.

For further comment, contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Planning for a more caring community

  1. Investment in social housing – announced $4.5 billion to deliver 20,000 new homes in NSW over 4 years
  2. Financial grants for the delivery of appropriately designed secondary dwellings for older and disabled people – $20,000 per property
  3. Care Workforce Strategy – grants to assist people in training in the community sector – aged, disability and child protection and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
  4. Residential Parks protection – legislation to secure the rights of people living in residential parks against high fees and eviction
  5. Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme – increase funding that has been stagnant for 16 years
  6. Youth programs – return funding to crucial youth programs that have been cut by federal government eg. Links to Learning, Youth Connections and REALskills – approx. $700,000 for region

Auditor-General’s report highlights the ongoing child protection crisis

A new report from the NSW Auditor-General shows that Community Services remains under-resourced to ensure the safety of children at risk and to monitor foster care placements, says Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson on Family and Community Services.

“The Auditor-General’s figures call into question whether the Government is providing adequate services and funding to meet its child protection obligations in NSW.

“The caseworker vacancy rate might be falling, but the performance figures call into question whether even a fully-staffed Community Services would be able to deal with the child protection caseload in this state,” Ms Barham said.

The Auditor-General’s performance report into Family and Community Services, released today, shows that the caseworker vacancy rate has fallen to 5% of funded full-time equivalent positions from a 13% vacancy rate in June 2013. But despite the ongoing transition of out-of-home care to the non-government sector the Community Services caseworker to child ratio for 2013-14 was 1:21, which the Auditor-General noted “is still significantly higher than the 1:12 caseworker to child ratio recommended in the NSW Ombudsman’s 2011 Keep Them Safe report.”

“The ratio of caseworkers to children remains far too high, even as Community Services approaches the Government’s definition of being fully staffed,” Ms Barham said.

“The Auditor-General found that Community Services hasn’t conducted 46 per cent of the annual reviews of foster care placements that are supposed to be completed. He noted that these reviews of children who have been in care for more than 12 months are important to ensure their needs are being met.

“We also know from Government statistics that only 26 per cent of children who are reported at risk of significant harm receive a face to face assessment.

“The findings of this audit suggest that the Government needs urgent action to meet the shortfalls in dealing with child protection cases across the state.

“But we also need to see a much stronger commitment to investing in supports and early intervention that will reduce risk and prevent harm to children in the first place. A significant investment in support services and programs that target the risk factors for neglect and abuse is essential to deliver a long-term solution to reducing the high number suffering harm and being placed in out-of-home care,” Ms Barham said.

Auditor-General’s 2014 report on Family and Community Services

Community Services caseworker dashboard

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

Does the NSW Government even realise that it has no Social Housing Policy?

Answers to questions in the NSW Legislative Council this week have revealed that some Ministers appear to be unaware that their Government is operating without a social housing policy, says Greens MP and Housing spokesperson, Jan Barham.

“Despite the fact that the Auditor-General pointed out the need to deliver a Social Housing Policy last year, and that less than a fortnight ago our Parliamentary Inquiry repeated that call, Ministers in the Upper House seem to have no idea that their Government is operating without a policy,” Ms Barham said.

The August 2013 Auditor-General’s report on Making the best use of public housing recommended that the Government deliver by December 2013 a policy that aligns tenant management with emerging client need, including short-term and long-term targets.

More than a year later, the Select Committee on Social, Public and Affordable Housing noted that the policy had not been delivered and again recommended that it be delivered, this time setting a new deadline of 1 March 2015.

In question time yesterday, Minister for Fair Trading Matthew Mason-Cox answered a question about the sell-off of Millers Point public housing by stating, “This Government has a social housing policy whereas those opposite have got absolutely no idea.”

“When invited to table the policy, the Minister said he only had a draft answer to the question he was asked. It’s a shame that draft document didn’t warn him that he shouldn’t talk about a policy that doesn’t exist,” said Ms Barham, who served as Deputy Chair of the Select Committee.

“My attempt to clarify in question time whether the Government has finally delivered its policy, which I asked of Minister Ajaka who represents the Minister for Family and Community Services in the Upper House, was met with a non-answer.”

Ms Barham called on the Government to acknowledge the serious deficiency its lack of a social housing policy poses.

“The Government is selling off properties, dealing with a waiting list that has more than 50,000 people on it, yet they won’t even acknowledge that they are operating without a solid plan.

“The Auditor-General and the Select Committee both could not have been clearer – at this stage there is no clarity about what the Government sees as the role of social housing or their vision for its future. After more than three years in Government, it’s time that they confront the challenge of delivering a strategy for social housing,” Ms Barham concluded.

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

Hansard, 16 September 2014 – Millers Point Property Sales:

The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: My question is addressed to the Minister for Fair Trading, representing the Minister for Finance and Services. Will the Minister update the House on the recent sales of public housing properties at Millers Point?

The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX: I thank the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner for this important question. I want to outline the success of the sales process to date, despite the protestations from members of the Opposition. Let us have a look at what happened last Thursday night. I am pleased to report to the House that a five-bedroom Victorian terrace built in 1879—which was about the last time members of the Opposition reviewed their social housing policy—sold for $3.96 million. A four-bedroom property built in 1832 sold for $2.685 million. For the benefit of those opposite without a social housing policy, that adds up to $6.6 million.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Hon. Sophie Cotsis to order for the first time.

The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX: The four properties that have been sold at Millers Point in the past few weeks add up to a grand total of $11.1 million. At Millers Point there are 293 properties, and four have been sold for $11.1 million. What will this Government realise through this sale process and put back into the coffers for social housing? This Government has a social housing policy whereas those opposite have got absolutely no idea. We will sell those properties and invest those hundreds of millions of dollars into new social housing properties. The sale of these properties will produce multiple other properties. At the start of this process the Government estimated producing three times as many properties as are being sold but given the success of this sale process it will be a lot more than that. A lot more people will be housed in proper housing by this Government.

We must not forget that 58,000 people are on the waiting list and because those opposite have no social housing policy they do not care about them. The Opposition has a bunch of carping ideologues on the front bench who cannot understand the economics and sense of this Government’s policy in this area. We are getting on with the job with a real plan, not getting on with the job of complaining about a process that is realising money for this important investment. We look forward to continuing this sales process. A further two properties will be sold as part of the pilot program which will then be assessed and reviewed. The Government will make another statement in relation to the realisation of these important assets, all the money from which will go into social housing at locations across this State. The bottom line is it is an investment of a very significant proportion of housing for the 58,000 people on the social housing waiting list who have been neglected for too long. It is a successful sales process. I congratulate both Ministers involved, and I look forward to reporting on the success of that process in the future.

The Hon. Amanda Fazio: Point of order: My point of order is that the Minister has referred to the Government’s social housing policy and under the standing orders I seek that he table a copy of that policy for the information of members of the House.

The Hon. Catherine Cusack: To the point of order: The Hon. Amanda Fazio has misunderstood the standing orders in relation to documents to be tabled if they have been quoted by the Minister. It does not refer to every single document to which a Minister might refer.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I presume the Hon. Amanda Fazio was seeking to have the document tabled under Standing Order 56?

The Hon. Amanda Fazio: Yes, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Did the Minister have a document?

The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX: I had a piece of paper to which I barely referred.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Under the standing order I am required to ask: is the document of a confidential nature or should it be more properly obtained by order?

The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX: I have just provided to Hansard the draft answer to a question I had with me.

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister has not indicated that it is either confidential or should be more properly obtained by order. Therefore, I have to put the motion.

Question—That the document be tabled—put.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Motion agreed to.

Document tabled.

Hansard, 17 September 2014 – Social Housing Policy:

Ms JAN BARHAM: My question is directed to the Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for the Illawarra, representing the Minister for Family and Community Services. Noting that in answer to a question on 16 September the Minister for Fair Trading stated:
This Government has a social housing policy …
and given that the Auditor-General’s 2013 report, “Making the best use of public housing” and the report of the Select Committee into Social, Public and Affordable Housing recommended the Government develop and release a social housing policy, can the Minister confirm that this policy has been completed and advise when the policy document will be made public?

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: I thank the Hon. Jan Barham for her question. The Government was facing deep and systemic challenges when it inherited the social housing system. The system was not delivering outcomes for tenants or taxpayers and had been managed in the worst possible way by Opposition members. It is clear that real reform was in the too-hard basket for the Australian Labor Party [ALP]. This Government is determined to change that and to deliver a better result. It has the courage of its convictions to make the necessary calls. Its vision is clear: deliver a more sustainable housing system for our most vulnerable. Unlike the ALP, our actions speak louder than words. We have already made progress. We have made waiting lists transparent to help people make better decisions. We have run amnesties to crack down on those rorting the system. We have introduced vacant bedroom charges so more people can access housing. We have made decisions about areas such as Millers Point, which will mean more money for new homes and maintenance.

The Hon. Steve Whan: Point of order: It is on relevance. The question was specific about Minister Mason-Cox’s comment yesterday that the Government “has a social housing policy”. I request that the Minister be asked to return to the point of the question.

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister was being generally relevant.

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: It is clear that social housing should be financially sustainable. It has to provide a fair safety net and ensure that those requiring housing are given an appropriate opportunity to acquire it. As has been clearly shown, the ALP had no plans or policies to make social housing more fair or sustainable. The ALP flirted with reform in Government, but the very best it could do was claim that it would reshape social housing.

The Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox: There were 58,000 on the waiting list.

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: Absolutely. Labor left the public with a backlog of housing maintenance worth close to $300 million. The reality is that this Government cares and it is taking appropriate action.

Ms JAN BARHAM: I ask a supplementary question. Could the Minister elucidate when this policy will be made publicly available?

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: Each day that this Government acts on social housing it will ensure that members opposite are well aware of it.

Auditor-General’s report

NSW Legislative Council Select Committee report

NSW Upper House supports ongoing recognition of forced adoption practices

Greens MP and spokesperson on Family and Community Services, Jan Barham, has welcomed the NSW Legislative Council’s passage of her motion calling for recognition of forced adoption practices.

“September 20 will be the second anniversary of the NSW Government’s apology for past forced adoption practices. I am gratified and deeply moved that the Upper House has supported the call for continued acts of recognition,” Ms Barham said.

“The NSW apology, along with the apologies by the Australian Government and other states and territories, were profound acts of recognition our past mistakes. But just as the impacts of forced adoptions were lifelong, the apologies should be followed by ongoing efforts to remember and understand the harms caused to many parents and children.

“I understand that the NSW Minister, Gabrielle Upton, will take the issue forward by seeking national cooperation for an annual day of recognition. I welcome the Minister’s commitment to ongoing commemoration of forced adoption practices, and I appreciate the support for this issue among all Members of our Parliament,” Ms Barham concluded.

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

Motion on Forced Adoption Recognition as passed by the Legislative Council, 11 September 2014:

1. That this House commends:
(a) the NSW State Government for their delivery on Thursday 20 September 2012 of a State Apology for Forced Adoption Practices,
(b) the Commonwealth Government for their delivery on Thursday 21 March 2013 of a National Apology for Forced Adoptions, and
(c) all of the other state and territory governments of Australia, each of whom has delivered or announced their intention to deliver an apology to those affected by forced adoption practices.

2. That this House acknowledges that offering apologies for an injustice is an essential step toward reconciliation and reparation, but that apology must be followed by ongoing efforts to recognise the harms caused and to provide support to those affected.

3. That this House calls on the Government to:
(a) establish an annual Day of Recognition of Forced Adoption Practices,
(b) construct a public memorial to commemorate the apology to those affected by forced adoption practices in NSW,
(c) 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.

Greens raise concerns about Government approach to community services delivery and funding

The State Delegates’ Council of the Greens NSW has called on the NSW Government to review and improve its approach to resourcing and delivering vital community services for vulnerable people, including children at risk and women in need of refuge.

Jan Barham, Greens NSW spokesperson on Family and Community Services, Disability Services, Ageing and Housing, said:

“The Greens are concerned that the Government has not committed to key recommendations of the recent inquiry into outsourcing community service delivery. Given the widespread concern we’ve seen following the recent tender outcomes for homelessness services, it’s essential that the Government takes responsibility for ensuring the quality and availability of services.

“The Government’s refusal to ensure it will act as a provider of last resort leaves vulnerable people at risk when non-government services are unavailable or unsuitable. I also note that the Government is considering whether to enhance the Auditor-General’s role in evaluating the performance of non-government social services that receive public funding,” Ms Barham said.

Dr Mehreen Faruqi, Greens NSW spokesperson for Women, said:

“This ‘one size fits all’ approach that the Government has taken to domestic violence and homelessness is counterproductive and dangerous.

“Women-only services like the Muslim Women’s Support Centre, Immigrant Women’s Speakout and the Lillian Howell Project have, for decades, provided high quality specialist services where women work with women to keep them safe from violence and provide counselling and resources that can help prevent violence from occurring again.

“Women-only refuges across the state are facing closure or being handed over to generalist service providers resulting in the loss of long serving and dedicated staff. The collective expertise that these staff have in working with women at risk and their families is a devastating loss to our community.

“The Government must provide long term funding to women-only specialist services and reverse the decisions of this flawed “Going Home Staying Home” program,” Dr Faruqi concluded.

For Further Comment:

Jan Barham: 0447 853 891
Mehreen Faruqi: 0419 142 200 | 9230 2625

Statement adopted by the Greens NSW State Delegates’ Council, Sunday 17 August 2014:

The Greens NSW at their State Delegates’ Council in Hornsby in August 2014 expressed grave concerns about:

  1. the NSW Government’s response to the Parliamentary inquiry into Outsourcing Community Services Delivery’s final report, particularly their refusal to guarantee that the Government would act as a “provider of last resort” in human services delivery when non-government service providers are unable to address people’s needs, and their lack of commitment to ensuring adequate Government responsibility and public accountability for promoting the safety, welfare and wellbeing of vulnerable people; and
  2. the NSW Government’s flawed competitive tendering approach to non-government services, including the Going Home Staying Home homelessness packages which have provoked widespread dismay at the loss of localised, experienced specialist women’s refuges and other services, and which have caused upheaval for organisations, staff and communities based on a process that emphasised minimising costs over recognising the importance of local connections and experienced support services.

The Greens NSW call on the NSW Government to:

  1. ensure that all government departments and agencies involved in human services are adequately funded and staffed to deliver on their service responsibilities to the whole population in need, including increasing child protection caseworker numbers to allow Community Services to protect children who may be at risk of significant harm and ensure the welfare of the state’s most vulnerable children and young people;
  2. increase investment in prevention and early intervention services across all areas of Family and Community Services, including programmes for families at risk of child abuse and neglect, for people at risk of homelessness, and to address the alarming over-representation of Aboriginal children in the child protection system; and
  3. urgently review the funding needs of specialist services including women’s refuges that are at risk of closure through the Going Home Staying Home reforms and ensure continuity of vital services.
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