Six months: Hunter New England FACS office has an extended deadline to meet Children’s Guardian accreditation standards or it will be stripped of its authority to oversee children in out of home care.
THE Hunter’s Family and Community Services (FACS) office could be stripped of itsauthority to oversee out of home care for at-risk children after failing to meetaccreditation requirements.
The Hunter New England FACS district has beengiven a “six month lifeline”to meet the Office of Children’s Guardian standards or have its accreditation withdrawn.
The move could put the safety of “thousands of Hunter children” at risk, family and community services shadow minister Tania Mihailuk said, as the “under-resourced” officemonitoredthe most children in care, and the most children at risk of harm, of any FACS office.
The districtfailed to meet accreditation standards in September 2016, when itwas given a one-year extension.
MsMihailuksaid if itdid not meet thisadditional six-month deadline, the responsibility of overseeing out of home carewould be transferred to anotherFACS district.
“It would shifta serious under-resourcing burden on to another district, instead of providing FACS with the resources it needs,” she said.
FACS hasnot revealed what criteria the Hunter New England district havefailed to meet, but aspokesperson saiditwas not due to any child protection risks.
The Hunter office monitorsmore than 3200 children in care, receivesalmost 16,000 reportsof children at risk of harm,and hasthemost child protection caseworker vacancies,FACSstatistics show.It hadthelowest rate offace-to-face assessments, seeing21 per cent of childrenreportedat risk of harm in the June 2017 quarter.
“The lifeline given to the Hunter New England office will be pointless unless it receives an urgent funding injection to meet the Children’s Guardian’s standards,”MsMihailuk said.
A FACS spokesperson said the NSW Government was spending $63 million in four years toboost the number of caseworkers andsupport workers, including in Hunter New England.
“We will work to address thefeedback provided in the coming months as part of our ongoing effort to provide the best support to children and young people in out of home care and their carers.”
Kate Washington, shadow minister for the Hunter, said the number of children in out of home care in the regionwas at “levels we have never seen before.”
“The poor staff are doing all they can with the little they have got,” she said. “But the majority of children at risk of harm aren’t having caseworkers even contact them. For the agency that is responsible for the oversight of those children once they are in careto be found to have not met accreditation criteria, is just horrifying.”