The Department of Communities (Communities) Director General Michelle Andrews and the Minister for Child Protection, the Honourable Simone McGurk MLA, have strongly committed to establishing a new Specialist Child Protection Unit. The Unit aims to strengthen child protection expertise at senior leadership levels, improve the stewardship of the child protection system and ultimately drive improved outcomes for both children in care and their families, and those at risk for entering the system.
The new Unit will be co-led by two senior practitioners, at least one of whom will be Aboriginal. It will focus on the systemic factors impacting on child protection practice, undertake research and ensure that Communities is at the forefront of global best practice.
The project is a key priority for Communities’ Agency Capability Program (ACP), which is seeking to reform the agency’s capability to better deliver services. The ACP aligns projects that increase our outward focus, strengthen our people and enhance our systems and processes, using different ways of working to build the agency’s partnership approach, cultural competence and integrity.
Since its creation following the 2017 machinery of government changes, Communities has become one of the State’s largest departments, with the reach and influence to have a significant impact on the Western Australia community.
Since that time, reviews and other opportunities for reflection have highlighted the opportunity for Communities to elevate the profile of its child protection function, both within the agency and wider sector.
In undertaking the establishment of a Specialist Child Protection Unit, it is acknowledged that child protection work is a complex, multi-faceted and challenging profession. It is also acknowledged that there are many examples of excellent and innovative child protection practice occurring within Communities and the significant contribution child protection practitioners continue to make to the lives of many children and their families.
It is anticipated that the Unit will be up and running by the end of 2020. Timeframes are subject to change, dependent on approvals and the current context with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic response.
To date, the following activities have been undertaken:
The next phase will be collating and analysing feedback collected through the consultation process, developing a functional model for the Unit, and seeking approval from the Communities Leadership Team.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank our staff and external stakeholders for taking the time to provide feedback on the establishment of the new Unit. We will incorporate your responses into our planning and provide a summary of the feedback in the near future.
The Internal Working Group and External Reference Group for the proposed Specialist Child Protection Unit have now been established and have had their initial meetings. This is an exciting milestone in the establishment of the Unit and shows Communities continued commitment to work transparently across these reforms and to listen to those most affected by changes.
The Internal Working Group includes representation from Strategy and Partnerships, Community Services, Aboriginal Outcomes, Finance and Integrity and Reform. Internal Working Group members will be responsible for sharing information and consulting with staff across their division, and relaying any information, issues and/or concerns back to the working group.
The External Reference Group includes representation from academia, non-government sector, research bodies and the Aboriginal Cultural Council.
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