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    Media Statements

    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    Premier and Minister for the Arts
    The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk

    External expert panel appointed to improve foster care and Blue Card

    Premier and Minister for the Arts
    The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk

    Sunday, September 25, 2016

    External expert panel appointed to improve foster care and Blue Card

    An external expert panel has been appointed to help develop and implement improvements to the assessment and approval foster carers and the operation of the Blue Card system in Queensland, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said today.

    “We have a rigorous system for foster carers and Blue Cards. My Government is determined to make whatever improvements necessary to the operation of foster care and Blue Cards in Queensland,” the Premier said.

    “With the independent Queensland Family and Child Commission, the external expert panel will provide a comprehensive inquiry into the operation of foster care and Blue Cards.”

    “We have more than 5000 foster carers and thousands more Blue Card holders.” the Premier said.

    “The overwhelming majority are working in the best interests of the children in their care”

    “Both are crucial to the care and well-being of children in Queensland.”

    “I pay tribute to the thousands of Queenslanders, as Blue Card holders or as foster carers, working in the best interests of children across the State.

    The Premier said the expert panel would work with the independent Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC), which is undertaking a broader review into information-sharing between agencies to protect children.

    The members of the expert panel, to work with QFCC Principal Commissioner Cheryl Vardon and Commissioner Tammy Williams, are:

    • former Director-General, Queensland Department of Communities Linda Apelt;
    • Bravehearts Founder and Chair Hetty Johnston AM;
    • former Queensland Police Services Assistant Commissioner – Ethical Standards Command, Paul Doyle; and
    • Foster Care Queensland Executive Director Bryan Smith.

    The QFCC is finalising a review into information-sharing between agencies to protect children following the “When a Child is Missing” inquiry into Queensland children missing from out-of-home care, following the disappearance and death of Tiahleigh Palmer. This report was released on 11 July 2016.

    Last week, the Commissioner’s inquiry was expanded to look at the processes for assessing and approving foster carers. In addition, the Commissioner was asked to examine the operation of Blue Cards with the transfer of responsibility from the Public Safety Business Agency to the Department of Justice and Attorney-General

    “To support the work of the Commission, my Government has appointed an expert panel to have input into the Commission’s inquiry, its recommendations and implementing those recommendations,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

    “I want the best for Queensland children. My Government has been working to restore frontline services in our hospitals and in our schools. We have also been restoring frontline services in child safety.”

    “There are an additional 166 child safety workers over the last two years, and there will be another 47 appointed before the end of the year.”

    The Premier said the appointment of the expert panel would enable the Government to implement interim findings of the Commission.

    The Principal Commissioner Cheryl Vardon said here would work include consultation with key stakeholders.

    Review of Child Safety Services within the Department of Communities

    The Premier said Ms Apelt would undertake an assessment of the Child Safety Services within Department of Child Safety, including:

    • the cuts to the Department from 2012-13 including the loss of 225 positions from Child Safety Services,
    • the restoration of frontline and frontline support positions; and
    • pressure points in the Department’s service delivery.

    National approach to improve response to allegations of child abuse, neglect

    The Government will work with other jurisdictions, through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), to progress a proposal for nationally harmonised reportable conduct schemes to improve response to allegations of child abuse and neglect.

    A reportable conduct scheme oversees how allegations of abuse or neglect are handled by organisations and agencies.

    COAG has agreed, in-principle, to harmonise reportable conduct schemes, similar to the current model in operation in NSW and announced in the ACT and Victoria.

    Background

    QFCC powers and responsibilities

    The QFCC was established under the Family and Child Commission

    Act 2014 to “be independent from line agencies and will provide the cross-sectoral leadership required to successfully deliver a new child protection system for Queensland…..The Queensland Family and Child Commission will provide systemic oversight of the child protection system delivered by public sector and publicly funded non-government agencies providing child safety services or support to families.“ Then Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie, 24 March 2014.

    The Commissioner’s independent statutory role meets regularly with senior officers of the Queensland Police Service and the Crime and Corruption Commission to consider current threats to the safety of children in Queensland.

    QFCC inquiry into Tiahleigh Palmer disappearance, “When a Child is Missing”

    On 10 November 2015, the Premier requested Commissioner Vardon undertake a broad whole of government systems review of child safety, education, health and police service systems worked effectively and “everything possible was done when concerns were first raised about Tiahleigh’s recent disappearance”.

    The scope of the QFCC review included whether current systems were adequate for responding to children missing from out-of-home care, and whether everything possible was done when concerns were raised about Tiahleigh’s disappearance.

    The Review found that a there was a delayed response to Tiahleigh’s disappearance and a factor in this delay was confusion about the authorisation requirements across relevant agencies for issuing a media release to seek public information into her disappearance.

    The QFCC report, “When a Child is Missing”, and its 29 recommendations were publicly released on 11 July 2016.

    Link to 11 July media statement http://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2016/7/11/new-protocol-strengthens-response-for-children-missing-from-outofhome-care

    Link to the QFCC report http://www.qfcc.qld.gov.au/sites/default/files/For%20professionals/when-a-child-is-missing-report.pdf

    The Government announced all recommendations, including the development of a new joint agency protocol that strengthens the response of Queensland Government agencies to children missing from out-of-home care, would be implemented. The protocol was implemented on 11 July.

    The recommendations improve systems, culture and practice including better information sharing, cultural change to build shared responsibility, consistent practices statewide, development of media protocols, and guidance and direction for agencies and foster carers to ensure timely action when a child in out-of-home care is missing.

    Recommendation #28 for a supplementary “review of legislation, policies and practices relating to information sharing between all parties, particularly the Queensland Police Service, Child Safety Services and Department of Education and Training as responsible agencies for undertaking internal risk assessments and decision-making about the safety of all children in regulated service environments”.

    The Commissioner is to provide advice to Government in October.

    Extended QFCC review

    Last week, the Government asked QFCC Principal Commissioner Cheryl Vardon in addition to the (Recommendation #28) review to undertake a whole-of-system review of the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening Act) 2000 and its operation with consideration to:

    • “the work you are undertaking in regards to Recommendation 28 of When a Child is Missing report relating to review of legislation, policies and practices relating to information sharing between government agencies responsible for undertaking decision making about child safety
    • recommendations of the August 2015 report, working with Children Checks (WWCC) by the Royal Commission into Institutional responses to Child Sexual Abuse, including those recommendation relating to a nationally consistent approach
    • the July 2016 paper from the Royal Commission, Creating Child Safe Institutions, and any further relevant reports to be released by the Commission in coming months, related to the quality and safeguards for children in out of home care
    • any comments contained in the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry report (Taking Responsibility: A Roadmap for Queensland Child Protection) published in June 2013
    • any specific issues experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children
    • relevant developments in other jurisdictions.”

    Media contact: Kirby Anderson 0417 263 791