Vulnerable children removed from dangerous situations are being housed in rental apartments and hotels for an entire year — despite Family Services and Community Services Minister Pru Goward vowing to end the practice 14 months ago.
New figures show NSW children removed from violent or drug affected families now spend five months on average living temporarily in hotels, motels, caravan parks and serviced apartments.
Twenty seven children are in motels and hotels, and another 100 children languish in serviced or rental apartments — minded by rotating teams of agency shiftworkers.
FACS figures released to Upper House Green MP David Shoebridge last week after a budget estimates hearing reveal one child spent a staggering 365 days in emergency care during the entire 2017-18 financial year.
FACS boss Michael Coutts Trotter admitted in the estimates hearing the average length of stay in such emergency accommodation has blown out to five months.
“I find that deeply distressing that the average period is five months in motels and other supported care,” Mr Shoebridge said.
Mr Coutts-Trotter replied: “We find it deeply distressing too.”
Yesterday Mr Shoebridge said the fact a child could spend so long without the care of any sort of family was “a gross failure by the minister”.
“No child, especially one who has suffered trauma and been removed from their family, should ever spend a year without support like this,” he said.
In September 2017 Ms Goward told the Sunday Telegraph the practice was “unacceptable for children” and “it needs to end”.
Yesterday she said her position was “unchanged”.
“The decades’ long practice of using motels and serviced apartments needs to end,” she said. “It is an unacceptable solution for children.
“The Secretary has taken carriage of this issue and I intend to maintain the pressure to ensure this practice comes to an end. I will continue to work with the Department and the non-government sector on this. They are well aware of my position.”
Opposition FACS spokeswoman Tania Mihailuk said the “system is in crisis”.
“Instead of stopping the woeful practice of having children living in motels this Government continues to preside over a broken child protection system that is failing vulnerable children.
The Public Service Association of NSW Assistant General Secretary Troy Wright said he had spoken to a caseworker in the country who told him it was costing NSW taxpayers $80,000 a month to care for a 15-year-old girl in a hotel.
“It’s very unstable, very unsafe for the kids,” he said. “These are the kids with the highest needs in the worst types of temporary accommodation.
“Ms Goward promised to abolish it. They haven’t just not abolished it. They have institutionalised the practice. They now have a program and call it the “Alternative Care Arrangement’.”
He said when the government came under fire last year for using “flea pit” $100 a night type motels along Parramatta Road and the Hume Highway, they began using more serviced rental apartments.
Read the Daily Telegraph story HERE.