Friday, 31 July 2020

Law Society welcomes report on child and youth protection services

The ACT Law Society has welcomed yesterday's report from the Standing Committee on Health, Ageing and Community Services on its inquiry into child and youth protection services. The report looked into 'the ability to share information in the care and protection system in accordance with the Children and Young People Act 2008, with a view to providing the maximum transparency and accountability so as to maintain community confidence in the ACT’s care and protection system'.

The Committee has made 44 recommendations, all of which are directed to requiring the Directorate of Children and Youth Services to properly consider the best interests of the child when taking any action.

“Importantly, the Committee has recommended restoring the right of a person to obtain information about themselves under the Freedom of Information Act, a right that was legislated away in an omnibus bill last year," said Chris Donohue, President of the ACT Law Society. 

"Carers and family members have been denied any right of appeal against decisions made by the Child and Youth Services Directorate regarding children in care. The report states that this represents a culture of secrecy that is not in the best interests of a child or young person, and goes on to recommend that the rights to external appeal and a fair hearing be restored, in accordance with section 21 of the Human Rights Act.

"We call on the ACT Government to accept all of the Committee's recommendations and we ask the Minister for Children, Youth and Families to ensure that the Directorate immediately change their processes to reflect the spirit of the recommendations. These corrections can in due course be underpinned by legislative change.

"In its report, the Committee noted that trust in the ACT care and protection system has been in decline for many years. Implementing the Committee's recommendations will go a long way to restoring that trust, and will help build a system that will truly work to the best interests of the child."

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