Protecting children is everyone’s responsibility. Parents, communities, community based organisations and government agencies all have a role to play.
Children who are removed from their family and placed into care are a highly vulnerable group. Many will have lived through a range of traumatic childhood experiences, including abuse and neglect. Past trauma can make it much harder for them to think clearly and react calmly, even when doing ordinary day to day activities like going to school. If children are unable to get early access to the required services and supports at the right time, they can become more disadvantaged resulting in poor life outcomes in many areas such as health, mental health and education.
The Department of Communities (Communities) is reviewing the way that Western Australian State Government agencies can enhance services to children and young people with a care experience.
State Government agencies have a shared responsibility and commitment to actively support children and young people in its care and care leavers to access the right services and supports for them as early as possible. Early access to the services they need will give them the best chance of managing any health and developmental difficulties they have so they can make the most of their schooling, further education and training, live in good health and develop the skills to foster stable relationships, employment and housing.
Coordinated and timely services to address children and young people’s needs and difficulties could include health and developmental screening, education and training support, dental therapy, speech and occupational therapy, access to stable accommodation, transition support to adult services, mental health and wellbeing services, and access to community activities such as sport and recreation.
The shared commitment of State Government agencies to meet the needs of children in care and care leavers is currently reflected in the “Rapid Response” framework, which will undergo review and rebranding. COVID-19 has recently caused a delay in this project. However, it has also created new opportunities as government and non-government agencies are working harder than ever together through the COVID-19 Children in Care Taskforce to identify and resolve issues for children in care and care leavers – with this cohort being internationally recognised as particularly vulnerable during the pandemic.
As the pandemic subsides, a new rebranded framework will be developed to improve the way certain state government agencies work alongside Communities to support children in care and care leavers so they receive access to the services they require as early as possible. These agencies include the Departments of Education, Justice, Training and Workforce Development, and Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, WA Health and the Mental Health Commission.
Communities has developed an infographic to show current statistics regarding children in care and those with a care experience. It provides a snapshot of the data, which includes findings from consultations undertaken with children in care, care leavers and carers. The infographic will be used to raise awareness across agencies about the needs of this vulnerable cohort and supports the evidence that providing early access to State Government services can help improve their life outcomes.