Cook Government fails on Child Protection: Auditor General 

Jun 28, 2024 | Merome Beard MLA, State News

 The Cook Labor Government has failed to keep some of WA’s most vulnerable children out of state care, according to a scathing report by the Auditor General on a Department of Communities’ Child Protection strategy, says Shadow Minister for Child Protection, Merome Beard.

The report – a performance audit of the Building Safe and Strong Families: Earlier Intervention and Family Support Strategy (EIFS) – revealed the Department could not demonstrate the program was actually diverting families from state care.

“In late 2016, then-Department of Child Protection and Family Support developed the EIFS, to prevent kids from entering out-of-home care, yet eight years on, the Auditor General shows this program has failed its purpose,” Ms Beard said.

“The Labor Government has failed to implement 40 per cent of the strategy’s actions, and even the Department is saying the program isn’t delivering the intended outcomes.

“More than 80 per cent of funding has not been allocated to prevent families from entering the child protection system, which shows the Cook Labor Government has under-resourced the program.

The report said limited services are available across the regions, where Aboriginal representation is at its largest.

“To see the percentage of Aboriginal children in care has increased by 7 per cent to 60 per cent of all children – especially given the lack of regional resourcing – is disheartening,” Ms Beard said.

“The report reflects a high percentage of kids in care are from regional WA, highlighting the urgent need for more support for the regions, including returning senior managers to towns.

“Whether this strategy could have been more effective in regional Western Australia may remain unknown – once again, it seems the regions were excluded from relevant government initiatives.

“This government has failed to properly implement this strategy in our regions and address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in care.”

In 2017, the Labor Government folded the portfolio of Child Protection into the mega Department of Communities. 

“Before 2017, the Department of Child Protection had autonomy and dedicated Ministerial oversight, which meant greater scrutiny of projects such as this,” Ms Beard said.

“We have previously called on the Cook Labor Government to provide more support and attention to fix issues raised around the Child Protection portfolio, and this report further demonstrates the level of neglect the Minister has overseen.

“This Government should spend less time worrying about METRONET and more time worrying about keeping WA kids safe.

“This report reenforces what the WA Liberal Party have already emphasised – this state needs a dedicated and stand-alone Department of Child Protection.