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Action needed on child protection standards

Uniting Care Australia has welcomed the draft child protection standards welcome but said an independent national children’s commissioner is still needed.

Susan Helyar, National Director of Uniting Care Australia said the 34,000 children in out of home care in Australia will be better off once the draft national child protection standards released by the Federal Government today are implemented.

Ms Helyar said governments take on significant responsibility to provide whatever is necessary for a vastly improved life when they remove children from circumstances of neglect and abuse.

“The draft standards released today will go a long way to filling policy gaps and ensuring the needs of vulnerable children are met,” Ms Helyar said.

“The Government has clearly listened to the views of agencies working at the coal face and it is pleasing to see so many of the sector’s recommendations reflected in the draft.

“The standards will ensure a more child-centred, rights-based approach.

But it is unclear who will police the standards.

“UnitingCare Australia repeats its call for an independent National Children’s Commissioner to ensure the standards are applied appropriately in the interests of vulnerable children in out of home care.

“The Commissioner must have the capacity to enforce the standards through regular reporting requirements, the power to conduct audits of government out of home care providers, and sufficient resources to establish an ambitious quality improvement program for agencies that cannot meet the standards.

“It is equally important that the states and territories work with the Federal Government to support the implementation of the standards.

“The successful implementation of the standards is also heavily dependent on the non government sector’s capacity to deliver innovative, high quality services,” Ms Helyar said.

The 14 draft standards, which are consistent with the principles of the recently established National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, focus on health; education; case planning; connection to family; culture and community; transition from care; training and support for carers; belonging and identity; and stability and safety of children and young people in out of home care.

Ms Helyar said UnitingCare Australia looks forward to working with the Government as it irons out unresolved implementation issues in the lead up to 1 July next year.

The UnitingCare network is one of the largest providers of social services in Australia delivering care in over 1,300 sites in remote, regional and metropolitan communities.