Adjournment-‘Lost, not forgotten’ report on child protection

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Child Protection.

It follows the recent tabling of the ‘Lost, not forgotten’ report of Victoria’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Liana Buchanan. By any measure, the revelations in the report are chilling. Specifically, it scrutinised the actions (or, more to the point, the lack of actions) of Child Protection and child and family services in relation to the repeated and severe neglect of each of 35 children, in particular.  These 35 children (who were all aged between 12 and 17) ultimately committed suicide (in the years from 2007 to 2019), typically after their cases were closed or passed to other agencies who were not appropriately placed or equipped to help them. All of that is horrifying enough.  However, there is a range of other detail in the document that is also profoundly disturbing. I don’t have the time this evening to work my way through all of that – but it includes, for example, the generally inadequate tracking of families’ engagement with services; the disproportionate number of Indigenous children among those neglected; a pattern of reports and referrals essentially gathering dust; wholly ineffective early intervention approaches; and a general culture (in Ms Buchanan’s words) of increasing hopelessness and despair. The release of the report also closely followed the emergence of news that over 14,000 calls to the State’s Child Protection Hotline were not even answered during a 20-month period in 2018 and 2019. Similarly, a recent VAGO report made a series of scathing findings about the administrative inadequacies of DHHS and other public health services responsible for child youth mental health services. Each of these points is very disturbing in its own right.  But, collectively, they paint a clear picture of serious systemic failings in Victoria’s child protection framework. Consequently, the action I seek from the Minister is that he clarify whether the new funding and resources for which Ms Buchanan has called will, as she has recommended, be urgently released into the child protection system. As part of that clarification, I would also be grateful if he could confirm whether he accepts Ms Buchanan’s observations that, of the total child and family service budget, only a quarter is spent on early intervention. If so (and given that Berry Street has also reportedly presented the Government with detailed modelling recently on the myriad benefits of early intervention), I would also appreciate it if he could comment on whether any new funding will directly address this specific shortfall.