Anglicare SA

Let’s get the Child Protection Bill right

AnglicareSA has used its appearance before the Select Committee on Statutory Child Protection and Care in South Australia to outline further changes required in the new Children and Young People (Safety) Bill 2017.

“We have a once in a generation opportunity to make the fundamental changes required to South Australia’s child protection system,” AnglicareSA CEO Peter Sandeman said.

“Previous reforms have failed and we must make sure we get the changes right, because some of the most vulnerable young people in our community are counting on us to.”

AnglicareSA believes that ‘to do no harm’ or ‘keep children safe’ is not a sufficient ambition for our child protection system or the community.

“The Bill should be amended to make the best interests of the child the paramount consideration. Safety is important, but our aspirations must be much higher,” Peter said.

“We must aim for a system and a society that enables children, no matter their situation, to flourish, have fullness of life and fulfil their potential to become positive, contributing adults.

“To achieve this, however, we need to be open-minded and have the wisdom to provide a sound legislative foundation on which to base these interventions.”

Peter said there has been a large amount of commentary about legislating for early intervention and prevention, and while AnglicareSA agrees this is necessary, it believes should be done in a joint review of the Family and Community Services Act.

“Our concern is that by including early intervention and prevention in the new Bill, we’re treating it as an ‘add-on’ to current legislation that is focused entirely on legislating the statutory powers relating to removal and safety,” Peter said.

“This will ultimately end up blurring the scope, relevance and purpose of the Children and Young People Safety Bill 2017, the Family and Community Services Act 1972 and Oversight and Advocacy Bodies Act 2016.

“Rather than trying to pack everything into this Bill, legislation needs to be changed in a coordinated and holistic way.”

At the Select Committee, AnglicareSA also highlighted its disappointment regarding a missed opportunity to provide the option for extending care to age 21.

“Most young people aren’t ready to leave home at the age of 18 yet we require young people in care to be out of home at this age. Given their background, most care leavers are just not ready to exit the system and live independently at 18,” Peter said.

“We know that 63% of homeless young people are care leavers, 46% of young men and 22% of young women who have been in care are in the juvenile justice system, and 65% of care leavers do not complete year 12.

“The life outcomes of care leavers will be enhanced by extending care to 21. The USA, Canada, UK and New Zealand have seen the wisdom, so why can’t South Australia set the standard here in Australia?”