Commission for Children and Young People

MELINA BATH (Eastern Victoria) (17:15): My statement on reports this afternoon comes from the Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) – the annual report, the latest one, of 2021–22. First of all, can I put on record my thanks to all those people that work in this industry. Can I put on record my thanks to the commission, the commissioners and their staff for doing very much the hard yards on a very, very important subject: supporting children to have better outcomes, children in care to have better outcomes, and investigating government services and appraising their outputs, certainly on how they support our children and young people.

The report goes into a number of different areas, and I would not mind covering this over a number of weeks: the reportable conduct scheme, the mental health of young children, and the death, unfortunately, within 12 months of children leaving child protection, which is something that I want to cover off on today. The report finds that there has been a sharp rise in reportable conduct occurrences – over 1200 alleged reportable conducts, indeed the highest in the last five years. It is a 62 per cent rise from one year to the next on reported alleged reportable conduct. Sixty-nine per cent of those are in the education sector. Our children certainly across the board, thousands and thousands of children, are in the education sector, and this is of grave concern. Indeed I actually heard of something this afternoon – it came into my office, an example of this, and we are treating it very seriously – from a constituent in my electorate.

The CCYP were very concerned with what is called the ‘case closures’ and looking at case closures, and indeed they reviewed 120 cases of cases closed by child protection. Indeed it is suggested that child protection actually had this as a way of dealing with high demand. To close cases early and prematurely as a way of dealing with high demand to me says that there are actually not enough resources in the system rather than that those children are now safe and can be let through. If I look at page 15 of the report, it actually goes to:

The Commission found the strategy undermined the safety of children and young people, and exacerbated the risks of poor practice, discerning similar themes to the Commission’s child death inquiries, including inadequate risk assessment and poor communication with the community services sector.

So the policy is not serving these young people. The other point that the commissioner makes on page 16:

Maintaining scrutiny of child deaths

The Commission this year continued its child death inquiries for children and young people who died within 12 months –

a year –

of their last involvement with Child Protection … we received 37 notifications of deaths, including two Aboriginal children …

This is certainly not serving our most vulnerable people.

I will do an adjournment debate on this particular issue, and indeed the one that comes from that is about children in out-of-home care. We know that our foster home and kinship home carers do the most amazing job, and I heard the minister speak only this week on that very comment, but the number of children who are self-harming or attempting suicide in out-of-home care has increased by 70 per cent since 2019. That is a shocking and alarming statistic. What the commission says in relation to this is that there need to be youth-specific mental health and other therapeutic supports that are not there now. They are not serving those children.

To know that we have got this incredible increase in children either seeking to suicide or self-harming – when a child comes into out-of-home care they are checked for physical health et cetera, but absolutely we need these wraparound services to support their mental health and mental health plans for them to go forward. Clearly we know that there are not enough psychologists and specialists in country Victoria. But these plans must be put in place, and I will certainly be raising this in my adjournment debate.