Directions for South Australia – Invest in Early Childhood

“Children need to know that adults are here for them, that’s a tough ask for some families.” – Kelly Vincent MLC

Introduction:

Dignity Party recognises that children must be supported to develop their full potential as skilled, contributing adults of the future.  While this support normally comes from within the family, it is not always the case for some children.  Without an effective child welfare system, those children and their families suffer as individuals, with significant flow-on effects to society.

An effective child welfare system should support families and children to thrive through measures that react meaningfully, flexibly and considerately to them.  It should seek to diminish social disadvantage and dysfunction and, where necessary, it should provide intervention as early as possible.

Dignity Party agrees with SACOSS and its alliance partners that South Australia’s current system of child welfare is not fit for purpose; failing to prevent abuse and neglect of children and young people and ignoring the long-term consequences.

In 2015-16 SA was spending more in total per child ($934.70) than the rest of Australia ($883.09) but this cost is driven by out-of-home care.  This will continue to increase as long as there is underinvestment in services that strengthen families and support children to remain with parents.

In South Australia, child welfare spending is disproportionately directed towards crisis management; after a child is removed from the care of their parents.  Data from the Productivity Commission shows that in the 2015-16 financial year SA’s overall spend per child on child protection services declined, with an enormous blowout in the amount spent on out-of-home care.  Increase in demand for out-of-home care may be due to reduced spending on intensive family support each year since 2013-2014.

The graph below compares SA expenditure with Australian averages in four areas of expenditure for a single year.  It includes a figure for family support services such as; assessment of their needs, provision of support, diversionary services, counselling and referral to support networks (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision 2016).

 

Action:

Dignity Party believe that in South Australia we must:

  • Introduce legislative reform that addresses gaps in the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 to ensure a greater focus on early intervention and children’s best interests.
  • Introduce measures to provide a whole of government approach to prevention and early intervention for children and families; funding them adequately in recognition of the moral and economical imperative of prevention of harm to children.
  • Establish a Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People – given their poorer outcomes and need for advocacy – to work alongside the Commissioner for Children and Young People

Amend the Safety Act to clearly detail care leavers entitlements to support, and provide funding to extend services to young people in out of home care until at least 21 years old; to provide this disadvantaged group some of the opportunities other young people enjoy as they work towards independence


Dignity Party OPPOSE the SA Government’s underinvestment in services that strengthen families and support children to remain with parents.

Dignity Party PROPOSE the SA Government adequately fund and structure its child welfare system in recognition of the moral and economical imperative of prevention of harm to children.

Productivity Commission (2017) Report on Government Services, Community Services, Child Protection, viewed online https://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/report-on-government-services/2017/community-services/child-protection 13 December 2017

Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (2016) Report on Government Services 2016, viewed online www.pc.gov.au/research/recurring/report-on-government-services/2016 13 December 2017