Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services Linda Burney said that incoming Minister Gabrielle Upton must commit to cleaning up the mess left behind by Pru Goward.
Earlier this month, the NSW Ombudsman issued a devastating report on child protection services – prompting Labor to demand Goward’s removal from the portfolio.
The Ombudsman’s report found:
• “Young people continuing to get lost in the system”. (p6)
• “The statutory child protection system is still struggling to meet the demands placed on it”. (p8)
• “Response rates will remain inadequate without the injection of further targeted resources”. (p13)
The Ombudsman also criticised the slow progress made by Goward in recruiting caseworkers to check up on vulnerable children – noting that the number of cases closed due to “insufficient resources” has jumped by an extraordinary 25,000 since 2010-11.
“The decision to remove Pru Goward from Community Services is appropriate and one that Labor has long demanded – however it is extraordinary that she has been rewarded for her incompetence,” Burney said.
“This follows her failed three years as Minister which lurched from crisis to crisis.
“Pru Goward left a system at breaking point thanks to her heartless cuts and inability to deliver on her own promise to fill all 2068 child protection caseworker positions.
“Goward’s legacy is more than 40,000 vulnerable children a year having their cases quietly buried and shredded because the Liberal Government has failed to resource Community Services.
“The Liberal Party has turned to a relative novice in Gabrielle Upton in what is a critical area of social policy for our State.
“ Upton must immediately detail how she will make headway where Pru Goward so badly failed.”
Pru Goward’s record as Minister for Family and Community Services included;
• Quietly closing the cases of 40,555 vulnerable children reported to Community Services in 2012-13 due to resource constraints – up from 15,570 in 2010-11.
• Repeatedly failing to fill the 2068 full-time budgeted caseworker positions after belatedly directing her own Department to do so in early 2013.
• Butchering post adoption allowances from $16,000 to $1,500.
• Chronic caseworker shortages across Western Sydney, South West Sydney, Nepean Blue Mountains, Northern Sydney, Hunter New England and Southern NSW.
• Only 18 per cent of children reported to DOCS in Western Sydney are receiving a visit by Community Services.
“The NSW Ombudsman has shined a light on the full extent of the crisis in NSW child protection,” Burney said.
“Minister Upton must commit to implementing all the Ombudsman’s recommendations and righting the child protection tragedy that is unfolding across our State.”
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