Welcome back to the Guardian’s first blog post for 2024!
While our blog has been on a short hiatus since the end of last year, we’ve been busy working behind the scenes to make sure children and young people in care and detention have the supports they need to thrive in 2024.
Here’s a quick rundown of what we’ve been up to.
Advocacy spotlight: School enrolments
One thing that always keeps us busy in January is enquiries about children and young people in care who aren’t enrolled in school yet.
Of course, there’s lots of reasons why children might not be enrolled. It could be that they’ve recently moved, it might be taking time to find the right school for them or maybe they’ve had trouble attending school in the past and extra planning is happening to make sure they’re supported through the term.
But sometimes around this time of year we see that children in care can get lost in the rush of enrolments, or maybe more could be done by either the school or caseworkers to get that enrolment over the line.
Did you know?
Under the Charter of Rights, children and young people in care have the right to a good education! This means:
- Going to a school or training that is right for them
- Having the tools that help their learning (like a laptop, the internet and textbooks)
- Getting extra support if they need it, especially if they have a disability or learning difficulties
- Having their potential recognised, with opportunities to develop their talents and interests
- Learning life sills, like cooking and budgeting
- Getting the foundation, support and guidance they need to get the job they want to do in the future
If you know of a young person in care who is having trouble with their school enrolment, the first step is to contact their case worker – as the legal guardian, it’s DCP’s responsibility to make sure that they are enrolled in school.
But if that doesn’t work, remember you can always call us for information, advice or help advocating for the best interests of a child in care.
Sharpening our teeth – Guardian attends internationally-renowned investigative course for oversight bodies
Last week, Shona travelled to Hobart to attend sessions facilitated by the Ontario Ombudsman, Paul Dubé, alongside Diana Cook (Director, Child and Youth) – and kindly hosted by the Tasmanian Commissioner for Children and Young People, Leanne Mclean.
The intensive course teaches advanced investigation techniques, using the Ontario Ombudsman’s proven models for conducting systemic investigations. Topics included interviewing witnesses, writing investigation reports, telling compelling stories and using new technologies – all focused on trauma-informed, child-focused techniques to promote the best interests of children and young people.
We are so grateful to Paul and Diana for their inspiring and informative training, and to Leanne for her vision and work in bringing this important training event to Australian independent oversight bodies and watchdogs!
When asked about her biggest takeaway from the training, Shona told us:
”the importance of comprehensive, thorough and fair oversight is fundamental in supporting systems improvements and real change for children and young people. This course and insights from the Ontario Ombudsman were invaluable and I look forward to bringing some of this to life in SA.”
Guardian’s response to raising the age of criminal responsibility
As many of you will have seen, the South Australian government yesterday released a discussion paper, with a proposal to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 years.
Under the proposed model, there are still exceptions where children aged 10 or 11 could be charged with criminal offences. The paper also sets out an ‘alternative diversion’ approach, which expands community service supports but also proposes new powers to detain children under 12 years in some circumstances.
Responding to the news, the Guardian published a media release yesterday – here’s a little bit about what she had to say:
“This is an important step in the right direction. [Raising the age to 12 years] will help protect our children from harm, help them grow and develop, help guide them to better choices and it will help our communities be stronger and safer – now and into the future”, Ms Reid said.
“Whilst I welcome this first step, I have to say I am disappointed that our government is only proposing to raise the age to 12. My position has been firm, and it remains so. The age of criminal responsibility must be raised to at least 14 years, without exception. The evidence is clear and our obligations to children’s rights is clear.”
“The way we treat children today, right now, will directly impact their interaction with society when they become adults. So, I urge us all to think about what want for our future generations – because the decisions we make today will dictate that.”
You can read the Guardian’s full media release on our website.
Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services
Data from the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services was published last week – which means our policy team is busily crunching numbers to understand trends in the delivery of out-of-home care and youth detention services.
Last year, we published a comprehensive report on child protection expenditure which set out some of our concerns around making sure there’s proper investment in the lives of children in care. So this year we’re looking to see what’s improved, and where there’s still a need for government to make changes.
Thanks for being part of the Guardian’s blog readership in 2024, we look forward to keeping you up to date on the latest news in the sector, and what we’re doing to promote the rights and best interests of children and young people in care and detention. Please also think about following us on Facebook and LinkedIn for further information and updates.