An across-government policy initiative, Rapid Response was developed to ensure that children and young people under the guardianship of the Minister received the health, education, welfare, housing and disability services to which they were entitled.
An evaluation report released in June 2010 reports that the five-year persistence with Rapid Response has paid off with greatly increased awareness of the circumstances and needs of children and young people under guardianship. Focus group participants reported increased inter-agency collaboration and recognition that agencies adopt different practices to meet their needs.
Matt Kay, Social Worker at the Marion Families SA Office describes how well cooperation can work for young people in care.
When her carers noticed that a client had dental issues that were affecting her health, the young woman was dismissive, saying that health services don’t listen, don’t understand and don’t do what you need.
The nurse I contacted at the public dental clinic was very understanding and promised to be flexible with the appointment timing, to explain carefully what needed to be done and to allow time to do as much work as possible at the one appointment to minimise return visits. The young woman got what she needed and was pleased.
Not all services respond quite this flexibly but we don’t always have to bring up Rapid Response – some services just get it.
The Report notes that prioritising of children and young people under guardianship for services had been most effective where additional resources had been provided, such as special funding to CAMHS. Where the resources were not topped up, they were sometimes in competition with other young people and families with high needs or children at risk. These are the very early interventions that might prevent young people coming into care. Flagging that children and young people were under guardianship did not automatically create the necessary capacity to respond where the level of demand was already high or where clinical assessment was a prerequisite for service.
Elissa-Jane Dix, Supervisor of the Connected Care Team at Port Pirie Families SA Office reports that their office has good relationships with its local agencies.
We can just make a call so it isn’t often necessary to invoke Rapid Response formally. The awareness of guardianship children is already there in most agencies but this may have been an effect of Rapid Response.
Colleague, and Supervisor of the Family Support and Child Safety Team Christy Brown adds,
Many of our local agencies are proactive, like our dental service that actually contacts us to make sure their lists are up to date.
Getting services for children who are placed in Adelaide can be a bit slower but this is probably due to the high demand on services.
The report concludes that Rapid Response has had considerable success and that there is value in continued investment in training, information, resources and the ongoing support of senior management.