Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

New national standards to improve the lives of children and young people in care

New national standards to improve the lives of children and young people living in foster homes and other formal out-of-home care were today agreed by federal and state and territory community services ministers.

Protecting children and their right to a safe and healthy life is one of the most important responsibilities of all governments.

Currently, child protection systems vary markedly across the country with each state and territory having its own child protection policy, standards and legislation.

The new national standards will provide a consistent benchmark for the care of children and young people who are unable to live with their parents, no matter where they are.

Developed under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020, the standards focus on the critical areas of access to health, education and training, increased support for carers and improved planning for transition from care.

The standards provide for each child to receive an individual plan that sets out their health, education and other needs. Children’s physical, developmental, psychosocial and mental health needs will be assessed and attended to in a timely way.

The standards also aim to maximise education outcomes by supporting children to engage in appropriate education, training or employment activities, as well as relevant ongoing training, development and support for carers.

They also include a transition from care plan, commencing at 15 years old, to be reviewed at least annually. This plan, to be developed in consultation with each young person, will detail the support that needs to be provided to them after leaving formal care.

The standards will also help children and young people in care to participate in social and recreational activities, just like other young people.

The national standards are the result of extensive consultation with state and territory governments, the non-government sector and children and young people who are living in, or who have left care and their carers.

This is the first time a national government had provided leadership in child protection.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s report, Child Protection Australia 2008-09, there were more than 34,000 children living in out-of-home care at 30 June 2009.

This was an increase of more than 9 per cent from the previous year.

All governments must work together to give these children every opportunity to achieve their potential.

Governments have agreed to national measurement and reporting arrangements as part of the national standards. This will ensure the new standards are effective in providing a positive environment for children living in foster homes and other formal out-of-home care.

Implementation of the national standards will commence from July 2011.

The national standards can be found at: FaHCSIA website