You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

NSW Families Dept not 'child-safe'

AAP logoAAP 15/08/2016 By Miranda Forster

Hundreds of NSW children in state care could be at risk after some Department of Families districts failed to meet the government's own criteria for a child-safe organisation, an inquiry has heard.

NSW Children's Guardian Kerryn Boland confirmed to a NSW parliamentary inquiry that three of the state's 15 Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) districts needed "substantial work" before they could become accredited as child-safe organisations.

Ms Boland was responding to questions from Greens MP David Shoebridge at an upper house inquiry into the NSW child protection system.

Louise Coe, of the Office of the Children's Guardian, confirmed to the inquiry that FACS was given 10 years to meet accreditation criteria, and that period was extended for a further three years before expiring last month.

"We undertook a number of assessments of the different districts and the community service centres in that district and ... we determined we were in a position to accredit 12 of those districts," she said.

"There were three districts that did not meet minimum criteria and we're looking at the options in relation to the children in those districts at this point in time."

Ms Coe said there were around 1200 affected children in the three districts, which weren't named.

Ms Boland said the system was set up in a way that where accreditation criteria wasn't met, children need to be moved to an accredited agency or centre.

She said the office was looking to do that where possible in this case but it had to be looked at in the best interests of children.

"We're talking about dislocation of children's placements and huge upheavals," she said.

"We are talking to the department about what the options are in relation to those children and that needs to be balanced against the children's own interests."

Earlier the inquiry heard claims that neglected children were being left to languish in their homes because their cases weren't deemed serious enough.

In a submission to the inquiry, child protection charity Barnardos Australia said children were regularly referred for foster care who had already been the subject of multiple "risk of significant harm" reports.

They had suffered significant trauma by the time they were removed to care, the submission by Barnardos Australia head Deirdre Cheers said.

"This is particularly the case where looking at child neglect," she said.

Ms Cheers added that a child welfare conference had recently been told that cases of children who weren't physically abused were often not deemed a child protection matter, but that neglect over time for small children was "very damaging".

"So a child who is left hungry or unsupervised or alone or exposed to high levels of violence may not be physically hurt themselves, (but) will in fact be damaged over time," Ms Cheers said.

The inquiry's next public hearing is scheduled for September 26.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon