Last weeks episode on ABC’s Four Corners, titled ‘Broken Homes’, raises troubling issues surrounding out-of-home residential care for vulnerable children, both across Australia and in the ACT. The investigation highlighted the shift of foster care to the private sector over the past 20 years and reported numerous instances of sexual abuse and neglect in the system, said Elizabeth Kikkert, Shadow Minister for Families, Youth and Community Services.
“Under new arrangements implemented by the Barr government, from July this year, out-of-home residential care in the ACT is provided by a consortium of organisations, including one of the for-profit providers investigated in the Four Corners program,” Mrs Kikkert said today.
“We need to know with certainty that children who are living in residential care homes in the ACT are being provided for in the best possible ways.
“We look forward to receiving evidence that this is the case – something more substantial than just the Minister’s assurance that no one has reported any problems to her.
“Rachel Stephen-Smith, ACT Minister for Disability, Children and Youth, has noted that each home is checked at least once a month by ‘official visitors’ who report directly to her. However despite having been a MLA for only a few weeks, I have already heard from ACT residents with concerns similar to some of those discussed in the Four Corners program.
“First we need to do everything we can to invest in and strengthen families to stop kids coming into care. But when they do, we need to be certain that providers are adequately staffed, adequately trained, adequately funded and closely monitored. We simply can’t afford to put vulnerable children at any further risk,” Mrs Kikkert concluded.