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SA govt says it can fix child protection

AAP logoAAP 9/08/2016 By Marnie Banger

The South Australian government can't fix dysfunctional families but it can fix the state's toxic child protection system, Premier Jay Weatherill says, following a damning report.

A two-year royal commission, led by former Supreme Court Justice Margaret Nyland, has revealed the full extent of abuse and neglect in the system and called for dramatic changes.

The opposition says Mr Weatherill must resign, as his disregard for previous child protection recommendations renders him unfit to act on Ms Nyland's report.

"Jay Weatherill can't be trusted to implement the reforms commissioner Nyland recommends because he has failed to implement the very same recommendations in the past," Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said.

Mr Weatherill insists his government is up to the job and highlighted on Tuesday that construction has nearly finished on one of five new child services centres in the state, as part of a $25 million project in the last state budget.

The new centre in Seaton, in Adelaide's west, will be up and running by Christmas and Mr Weatherill says such centres offer services to help prevent children from needing protection in the first instance.

"More investment needs to be made in preventing these problems rather than deal with the shattered and damaged children after the event," he said.

"The government can't fix all the dysfunctional families but it can make a much stronger effort at prevention and early detection where it can make a real difference."

Meanwhile, child services agencies have stressed the need for the government to partner with their sector, foster carers and vulnerable kids as it heeds Ms Nyland's call for change.

"Sustained and effective change is only achievable through a truly collaborative and integrated response, involving communities, departments, families and the non-government sector," Anglicare SA chief executive Peter Sandeman said.

Ms Nyland's final report makes 260 recommendations, many relating to Families SA's failure to prevent the horrific crimes of carer Shannon McCoole, who is serving a 35-year jail term for sexually abusing seven children under his supervision.

They include greater screening of child protection workers, phasing out commercial childcare workers and preventing social workers from closing case files due to a lack of resources.

Ms Nyland also recommends that all complaints of abuse by carers should be investigated within 48 hours and finalised within six weeks in most cases.

On Monday, the government committed an initial $200 million to implementing the suggested reforms.

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