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.

Budget doesn’t deliver support for vulnerable families and households

The NSW Budget has fallen short on funding to address the risks of abuse, neglect and homelessness, says Greens MP and spokesperson on Family and Community Services, Jan Barham.

“The Budget was an opportunity to deliver much-needed increases for services that support disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, but new announcements in this area were in short supply. It’s a disappointing underinvestment in prevention, which will mean too much of the burden continues to fall on crisis services,” Ms Barham said.

“We know from the experts and the evidence that early intervention and prevention services are crucial to long-term reductions in harm to children, and to tackling the alarming number of children in out-of-home care. But the funding to these services and the number of families they reach will be largely unchanged under next year’s forecast.”

Ms Barham also noted that the Budget offered little to address the housing needs of those most vulnerable to homelessness.

“Although funding to homelessness services will continue for another year under a transitional National Partnership Agreement, the long-term solution is to deliver more options for people to access social and affordable housing. The announcement of several initiatives, each of which will deliver only a few hundred dwellings, won’t do enough to help the tens of thousands of people on the waiting list for social housing,” Ms Barham said.

“Government must work to reduce the harm and hardship experienced by our society’s most vulnerable. Keeping families safe and together, and ensuring they have a stable home, are fundamental aims that needed more investment than this Budget delivered.”

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

NSW Upper House supports reversing cuts to single parent payments

The Greens have welcomed the NSW Legislative Council’s support today for a call to reverse the Commonwealth’s cuts to single parent payments.

“The NSW Upper House’s passage of this motion recognises the harmful effects of moving single parents from Parenting Payment to Newstart when their youngest child turns eight. I’m heartened that state Labor and Coalition MPs gave support to such an important community issue,” said Jan Barham, NSW Greens spokesperson on family and community services.

“The change to parenting payments has provoked widespread concern, with the Commonwealth’s own human rights committee, the UN Special Rapporteur and many social service organisations questioning its impacts. I welcome the parliamentary backing to support parents and families.

“Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has led the effort to undo these damaging changes. I hope the Federal Government takes on board this message from the NSW Parliament and takes urgent action to correct these wrongs,” Ms Barham said.

“I am pleased the NSW Legislative Council has supported this important motion,” Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on families and community services said today.

“The message from around the country and internationally is that the Government’s treatment of single parents, is neither acceptable nor appropriate. That is becoming clearer and clearer, and the Government should start listening.

“The Federal Government should take action in next week’s budget to help single parents, rather than just making things harder for them. The Greens have costed measures on the table to do this.

“We have Bills in the Parliament to increase Newstart by $50 per week and provide an additional supplement payment of $40 per week for single parents on the payment.

“By fixing the mining tax, the Government can make sure our economy supports single parents so they can raise their kids in a secure environment,” Senator Siewert concluded.

Media Enquiries:
Jan Barham – directly on 0407 065 061, or David Mallard on 0432 881 448
Senator Rachel Siewert – Chris Redman on 0418 401 180

Motion on parenting payments, passed by NSW Legislative Council 9th May 2013:

1. That this House notes that:

(a) from 1 January 2013 Commonwealth legislation altered parenting payments, affecting more than 80,000 single parent families who will be transferred from Parenting Payment to Newstart when their youngest child turns eight,

(b) this change places many single parent families at greater risk of poverty and threatens the welfare and wellbeing of affected children, and

(c) concern about this change has been expressed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights and numerous social service organisations.

2. That this House calls on the Commonwealth Government to reverse the cuts made to single parent payments, and ensure single parents receive adequate support to care for their children.

The Greens NSW submission to the Child Protection Legislative Reforms Discussion Paper

The NSW Government released a Discussion Paper on Child Protection Legislative Reforms in November 2012. In March 2013, Jan lodged a submission on behalf of The Greens NSW, responding to each of the 29 proposed reforms.

Download the Greens NSW submission [702kB PDF]

The Department of Community Services (Community Services) website has more information about the consultation process. Jan will continue to advocate for reforms that support vulnerable families and promote early interventions to prevent child abuse and neglect, and which encourage efforts to preserve and restore family relationships while ensuring the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children.

North Coast Single Parents Rally

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.

Jan Barham and Dawn Walker at Brunswick Heads Single Parents RallyJan Barham and Dawn Walker at Brunswick Heads Single Parents Rally

Government’s Welfare Rights Centre funding cuts risk leaving our most vulnerable without support

Sydney’s Welfare Rights Centre performs an important advocacy role and the NSW Government should act to reinstate secure funding for the sake of its clients, says Greens MP and spokesperson for Family and Community Services, Jan Barham.

The Centre was informed last Thursday that its funding from the NSW Department of Family and Community Services would cease at the end of the current financial year, as reported at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/welfare-groups-funding-cut-to-hit-poor/story-fn59niix-1226620669841

“It’s especially troubling that the NSW government is pulling support for advocacy services, right as the Commonwealth payment system is failing individuals and families,” Ms Barham said.

“We know that tens of thousands of single parents are being placed under greater pressure with changes to parenting payments, and that the low rate of Newstart and other allowances risks entrenching poverty and long-term unemployment. The NSW Government should be supporting a service that helps vulnerable households with advice and advocacy to ensure they get the payments they are entitled to and they know their rights.”

Ms Barham warned that local advocacy services shouldn’t be lost in a dispute over Commonwealth versus state responsibilities. “Community Services might say the Welfare Rights Centre isn’t part of their primary focus on child protection, but we can’t let already vulnerable households fall through the cracks between different governments and departments.”

“It is in the interests of New South Wales to ensure that disadvantaged groups have access to support that addresses financial hardship and other stresses on their households. I call on the Premier to ensure that this funding finds a place in his Government’s budget, even if it no longer falls under Community Services,” Ms Barham said.

“The Welfare Rights Centre keeps NSW residents from incurring debt and penalties as a result of wrongful social security decisions. Those results help to keep households afloat and able to contribute to the NSW economy.”

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

Petition – Reverse the Cuts to Single Parent Payments

URGENT: Funding cuts to the Welfare Rights Centre – contact the Premier and Minister for Family and Community Services

TAKE ACTION – DOWNLOAD THE PETITION

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.

Jan Barham supporting single parents at a Martin Place rally

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.

Send your message here.

CREATE Foundation 2013 Report Card launched

Jan Barham and Billy Black at the CREATE Foundation 2013 Report Card launch

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.

Child Protection Legislative Reform Discussion Paper: Submission Guide

Download this Submission Guide as a PDF

The NSW Government has released a Discussion Paper (DP) on proposed legislative reforms to the child protection system. You can access the paper at http://haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au/child-protection-reforms. The paper contains 29 proposals within three sections:

  1. “Promoting good parenting”, which includes expanded processes to require and enforce participation by parents in early intervention and parenting capacity programs;
  2. “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
  3. “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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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).

  5. 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.

You can lodge a submission online or by downloading the feedback form from http://haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au/child-protection-reforms. Alternatively, you can create your own submission document and upload it to the website, or email it to cpreforms@facs.nsw.gov.au.

Submissions close 8 March 2013

Make sure the Government gets child protection right

MEDIA RELEASE – 21 DECEMBER 2012

The NSW Greens spokesperson for Family and Community Services, Jan Barham, has welcomed discussion about how to improve the child protection system, and calls on young people, carers and other stakeholders to speak up for a system that supports their needs.

“The Government’s proposed reforms have enormous implications for how children, parents, carers and service providers engage within the child protection system,” Ms Barham said. “Although the stated aims of the reforms – early intervention to address parenting capacity concerns, promoting stability and permanence in care arrangements, and making the system more child-focused – are positive goals, we need to carefully consider how to address the best interests of every child who comes into contact with the child protection system.”

Ms Barham noted that although an emphasis on early prevention and helping parents who were having difficulties was important, the discussion paper focused on how the system would set expectations and enforce breaches by parents, while saying little about how the necessary support would be delivered. The discussion paper proposes introducing a new type of court order that would require parents to attend parenting capacity programs, as well as proposing expansion of Parent Responsibility Contracts to early interventions and unborn children. Breaching these contracts can result in a presumption that a child is in need of care and protection.

“Putting parenting orders and contracts in place, which leave parents at greater risk of losing their children if something goes wrong, does no good unless there is a clear guarantee that appropriate, adequately funded support services will be available to those who need help,” Ms Barham said. “Research tells us that early intervention services make a vital difference to the health and well-being of children and parents, and that’s why the Government needs to be clearly explaining how it will deliver assistance to families at risk.”

“The discussion paper’s emphasis on having fixed timeframes to make permanent decisions about children’s care also deserves scrutiny,” said Ms Barham. “Although it is obviously crucial to ensure children have safe and stable care arrangements, it is also important to maintain children’s connection with their birth family whenever possible, and to make the best possible effort to restore families. The proposals that emphasise moving toward adoption on short timeframes, and in some cases reducing the barriers for birth parents’ consent and involvement, need to be looked at very carefully.”

Submissions on the Child Protection Discussion Paper close on 8 March 2013. The paper can be downloaded from the Have Your Say website. There are upcoming stakeholder briefing sessions with Community Services:

  • Dubbo RSL, 8 February 2013, 1.30pm – 4.30pm
  • The Shellharbour Club, 12 February 2013, 1.30pm – 4.30pm
  • Sydney Masonic Centre, 13 February 2013, 1.30pm – 4.30pm
  • Ballina RSL, 22 February 2013, 12.30pm – 3.30pm

RSVP to geetha.nair@facs.nsw.gov.au by 31 January 2013

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

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