Outsoucing out-of-home care won’t fix the child protection system in NSW.
The NSW Government has announced plans to transfer an additional $123 million from the Community Services budget to fund to a private sector take over of out-of-home care (foster care) services.
Community Services currently provides 85% of out-of-home care services to children and young people in NSW.
This decision will mean that the private sector will attract around 55% of all public funding for out-of-home care in NSW, but provide services to up to only 1/3 of all children in out-of-home care.
“The impact of this decision will be crippling for child protection in NSW and won’t improve services to vulnerable children and young people in out-of-home care”, said Steve Turner, PSA Assistant General Secretary.
“Much of the money will go towards building infrastructure and capacity which already exists within Community Services.”
The 2008 Wood Report into child protection in NSW has been relied upon by government to make the case for outsourcing out-of-home care. Wood argued that the community as a whole has a responsibility to care for vulnerable children, and bringing private providers into the overwhelmed public system would strengthen it.
But simply outsourcing out-of-home care to private providers does not build capacity across the system, rather it transfers existing problems to less regulated, less accountable, less experienced providers.
“The Wood report’s overarching message is one of building capacity for child protection, of improving and adding to what we have, not merely shifting responsibility from government to the private sector.”
“Rather than reinventing the wheel, we should be looking at the sector holistically – both government and non-government – investing in our strengths and improving on our weaknesses.”
“Experience shows the private sector simply doesn’t have the expertise, infrastructure, capacity or oversight to deliver out-of-home care.”
“Ripping money out of the Community Services budget to pay for privatisation will mean fewer child protection caseworkers in NSW, and place vulnerable children and young people at greater risk of harm.” Mr Turner said.