Would you accept an apology from a person who continued the behavior they were apologising for? That’s exactly what the Tasmanian Government expects us to do. The opportunity to apologise for failing our most vulnerable children in the past attracts a conga line of politicians but when it comes to taking action to stop failing children today, they are thin on the ground.
Every child in our state who is reported at risk of harm or abuse should be allocated a professional child safety officer. That child safety officer should have access to all the services and resources needed to support that child, either within their family or in another care arrangement. They should be able to get help from all parts of the State Service and community sector to meet the health, housing and education needs of that child. They should also have access to personal wellbeing support, so they remain healthy while doing this important but stressful work.
This is not happening in Tasmania today because of a lack of resources. In 2022, after years of understaffing, exacerbated by COVID absences, child safety management decided to remove children in care on long-term orders from their child safety officers and allocate them to a team. This wasn’t done because it was a better way to support these children, but because our Government wasn’t willing to allocate the resources needed to provide these children with individual care. The Rockliff Government chose to prioritise other spending decisions over the care of these vulnerable children.
Every year the number of children reported at risk increases. Every year the number of reports that are substantiated increases, meaning the number of children in our out of home care system increases. Despite this there is no link between the number of children needing care and support, and funding for the child safety service. It should be simple – we know the resources needed to provide care and support for a child reported at risk to give them the best possible outcome and we know the number of children being reported at risk. Funding for this vital service should be needs-and demand-based, so every child gets the help they deserve instead of child safety workers being forced to spread the available funding thinner and thinner, with many kids missing out.
We don’t need more crocodile tears, more faux apologies or more spinning the facts. We need a Government that says, ‘no more’, ‘on our watch every child reported at risk of harm or abuse will have the support of a professional child safety officer.’ Premier Rockliff told Tasmanians his would be a Government with heart. There will be no better measure of this Government’s heart than whether it steps up and properly funds child safety.
Community & Public Sector Union