Number of NSW children and young people in out-of-home care declining

by Jason Roberts

January 24, 2019

The rate of children and young people entering out-of-home care in New South Wales is declining, new data from the Productivity Commission in its Report on Government Services (RoGs) has shown.

 

The report shows that entries to care in NSW have dropped from 2.3 per 1,000 children in 2015-16 to 1.2 per 1,000 in 2017-18.

 

The Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA) has welcomed the new data, with Acting CEO Dr Wendy Foote saying that while these statistics – which offer key insight into the functioning of Australia’s child protection system – are encouraging, there is more work to do to effectively tackle the problem of child abuse and neglect within the community.

 

“These latest figures offer a ray of hope that reforms being implemented across NSW to keep families safely together are making a difference, and ACWA is extremely proud of the critical role the non-government workforce is playing in supporting children under these new initiatives as well as its traditional early intervention services,” Dr Foote said.

 

“However, there needs to be a firm and ongoing focus on giving vulnerable families reliable access to universal and targeted early intervention services if NSW is going to effectively stem the numbers of children and young people entering care.

 

“We are looking to see a greater level of co-ordinated work across government departments such as Family and Community Services, health, education and juvenile justice to link up services and to ensure the inclusion of all vulnerable children and families.”

 

ACWA is the NSW peak body representing non-government organisations that provide services to vulnerable children, young people and their families.

 

The role of ECEC in child protection

 

The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) National Quality Standards 2.3.4 states that “Educators, co-ordinators and staff members are aware of their roles and responsibilities to respond to every child at risk of abuse or neglect.”

 

Recently, the Creating Better Futures website launched with the aims of refining practice and promoting partnership between ECEC and the child protection and health sectors, all working together to support children and families who are experiencing difficulties.

 

National child protection statistics

 

The RoGs shows that as at 30 June 2018, the total recurrent expenditure on child protection, out-of-home care, family support services and intensive family support services was $5.8 billion nationally (an increase of 10.3 per cent from 2016-17), with:

 

  • 56,412 children aged 0–17 years were on care and protection orders nationally, 20,484 of whom were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
  • 45,756 children were in out-of-home care nationally, 17,787 of whom were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

 

Child protection services provide supports and interventions to promote child and family wellbeing, and to protect children and young people aged 0‑17 years who are at risk of abuse and neglect within their families, or whose families do not have the capacity to provide care and protection.

 

The Productivity Commission explains that state and territory governments have responsibility for funding and/or providing child protection services in Australia. The RoGs report states “Each jurisdiction has its own legislation that determines the policies and practices of its child protection system, and while this legislation varies in detail, its intent is similar across jurisdictions.”

 

The Productivity Commission acknowledges that other service systems can have a role in child protection, including early childhood education and care (ECEC) services.

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