The System Development and Operational Improvement Project took place between March and July 2006. In its Report on Child Protection Services in Tasmania, it found the child protection system in Tasmania to be deeply flawed at a systemic and cultural level. The Report made a number of recommendations to improve the system.
The Project was set up by David Llewellyn, the Minister for Health and Human Services. The Deputy-Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Alison Jacob, and the Commissioner for Children, David Fanning, carried it out. In all, they conducted 70 interviews with Departmental staff, stakeholders, and experts in the field of children's welfare.
They found that:
the present child protection system is not only overwhelmed and struggling to cope, but it is failing to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children to the extent that would be expected by government and the wider community.
An important reason was that, due to mandatory reporting and other factors, the number of notifications to child protection services had increased so much that, despite the creation of 96 new staff positions since 2003, child protection workers were unable to cope. One consequence was that it was difficult to find enough time to make initial assessments. This meant that some children remained at risk while others, in order to hurry up the process, possibly came into the Department's care unnecessarily. Between 2003-4 and 2005-6, there had been an 80 percent increase in notifications and a 40 percent increase in the number of children becoming state wards.
Jacob and Fanning found that child protection needed to be more firmly integrated with other children and family services which, in turn, should be strengthened so that they could carry more of the load. Of particular importance was supporting families with children in their first five years of life. One way of achieving this would be to create four regional integrated service teams that included health and children's therapy services, family and child support services, family violence counselling and support, sexual assault services, and child protection.
Families needed to be assisted to keep their children. If they could not, kinship care should be more of an option. Where children were unlikely to return to their birth families, a stable form of care would have to be set up. Jacob and Fanning recommended adoption in some cases.
Jacob and Fanning suggested that the Department work more closely with other Departments, such as Police or Education, that had contact with children.
They argued that the status of child protection work needed to be improved in order to attract well qualified workers. Where necessary, those already employed should be helped to improve their qualifications.
Child protection workers needed better electronic equipment for record keeping and, in the South of the state, more family friendly and less drab offices.
Jacob and Fanning also stated that the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act should be more thoroughly implemented and, in places, amended.
Sources used to compile this entry: Jacob, Alison and Fanning, David, Report on Child Protection Services in Tasmania, Hobart, October 2006, http://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/32967/child_protection_report_6_October.pdf.
Prepared by: Caroline Evans
Created: 22 May 2014, Last modified: 23 May 2014