SA Govt Accepts Responsibility for Failed Child Protection System
9 August 2016 at 9:04 am
The South Australian Government has accepted responsibility for the failings of the state’s child protection system in response to the final report of the Child Protection Systems Royal Commission.
The government has announced a commitment of an initial $200 million towards implementing the wide-ranging reforms recommended by the commission.
Commissioner Margaret Nyland’s report has made 260 recommendations aimed at improving the policies, structure and culture of South Australia’s child protection system.
Premier Weatherill apologised on behalf of the South Australian Government to the victims and families of convicted child abuser Shannon McCoole for the state’s failures to protect their children from the horrendous abuse suffered whilst in state care.
He said the government “accepts full responsibility for the failings of the child protection system in keeping children safe”.
“With one in four children in the state being the subject of some form of notification to authorities, the royal commission finds that child protection must be everybody’s business,” Weatherill said.
“We failed to protect the children left in the care of Shannon McCoole. We failed in our responsibility to keep these and other children safe from harm.
“Commissioner Nyland has provided us with a comprehensive blueprint for a new child protection system in South Australia – a chance for a fresh start.”
He said there would be some recommendations the government would implement immediately, while others that would require considerable work and consultation with the sector.
The implementation of some of the report’s recommendations, including establishing a new child protection department, is already underway.
“There will be immediate action on other recommendations – including disciplinary action which has already begun,” the premier said.
“A formal, detailed response to the royal commission will be presented before the end of this year, in line with the report’s final recommendation.”
The South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) has urged the government not to move towards implementation of any recommendations without due consultation.
“It is imperative that the government not act unilaterally on the implementation of Justice Nyland’s recommendations. History shows that in so many instances royal commission recommendations have not been successfully implemented,” SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley said.
“We urge the government to refrain from acting with undue haste, and instead we are asking for the establishment of a process involving substantial community input and involvement.
“The non-government sector plays a critical role in child protection and they must be deeply involved in the implementation process.This is our one-time opportunity to get this right.”
The government said it would provide a copy of the report to the Commonwealth Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse as well as to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) for consideration.
The Child Protection Systems Royal Commission was established in August 2014 to investigate the adequacy of the child protection system in South Australia.
In her report, Commissioner Nyland said problems with child protection systems were not unique to South Australia, and that “it became evident that governments everywhere continue to struggle to find the best possible system to protect some of the most vulnerable members of our society”.
In June 2016, Commissioner Nyland provided interim recommendations to establish a new department for Child Protection. An international recruitment process for a new chief executive of the department is currently underway.
The government’s formal and detailed response to the report will be handed down by the end of the year, in line with the Royal Commission’s recommendations.
During the lengthy hearings the commission heard from 381 witnesses including public servants, experts, non-government organisations and foster carers. The commission received 374 submissions, examined 10,800 documents and conducted 74 stakeholder engagements.
In delivering the report Nyland said “the greatest challenge was trying to find a way to fix a system in disarray. From the outset of this commission it was obvious that workers undertaking the difficult business of child protection felt undervalued, under-resourced and overwhelmed by a system which lacked the capacity to respond appropriately to children in need of care and protection.
“Regrettably, there is no quick fix to the many problems of the child protection system in this state. Some matters require urgent attention, such as the issues surrounding children in residential care, some matters need to be the subject of ongoing discussion and debate, and some matters require long-term planning.”