Media Release by Senator the Hon Anne Ruston

Community Services Ministers’ Meeting Communique

Community Services Ministers met to discuss current actions underway to support communities, families and children to manage the impact of COVID-19. All Ministers acknowledged that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on multiple aspects of daily life for families and children and Ministers renewed their commitment to support families and children to navigate successfully through this difficult and unsettling period.  

Ministers agreed to continue to meet regularly to monitor and assess the needs of Australian communities, ensuring a coordinated and consistent approach to information sharing and action. Officials from all jurisdictions will also continue to meet regularly to discuss COVID-19 responses.  

Current action in response to COVID-19

Each Minister shared advice on the implementation of support measures in their jurisdictions in response to COVID-19. These measures promote the safety of all children in our community, with particular focus on the protection of children and young people in out-of-home care.    

Supporting children, families, carers and services to stay informed:

  • All jurisdictions are implementing communication strategies to provide information to children, families, carers and services, including through maintaining up-to-date COVID-19 websites, regular meetings with peak bodies and direct communication with service providers.  
  • These strategies also include regular engagement with stakeholders to hear directly from them about the impacts of the pandemic for clients and services.  

Supporting children and families to stay safe:

  • Urgent action is being taken across all jurisdictions to respond to anticipated increases in domestic and family violence and child abuse, with significant funding provided for specialist child and family support services, crisis accommodation and support, crisis telephone support and community awareness campaigns.   
  • Contingency planning is continuing to ensure support can be provided to children and young people in care who contract the coronavirus, including suitable housing to allow for isolation requirements and hospitalisation and ambulance transfers where needed. 
  • Statutory child protection agencies across Australia are working closely together to consider operational and practice issues.   

Maintaining frontline service delivery:

  • Significant efforts are being made to ensure statutory responsibilities related to child safety are continuing to be met. Agencies are identifying new ways to provide services, including the use of remote technology, so that individuals needing assistance can receive it, whilst reducing the need for face-to-face contact.   
  • Flexible funding arrangements are being introduced for critical frontline services to enable them to meet increased demand and respond to changing business operation requirements.  
  • Support and information is being provided to frontline services to ensure responsive and fit for purpose models of intervention to manage the operational impacts of responding to COVID-19.   

Ministers affirmed their strong commitment to working closely with stakeholders to maintain the health and safety of children and young people during COVID-19.

Support for young people in care transitioning to adulthood

Ministers acknowledged the additional challenges faced by young people transitioning from out-of-home care to independence as a result of COVID-19. Ministers noted that flexible arrangements have been put in place in all states and territories to support young people leaving care in this time including transition plans to provide the supports young people need as they transition to independence. This may include young people being provided with additional supports to maintain stable living conditions or remain in their current placement.   

The National Centre of the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

Ministers noted the progress made on the establishment of the National Centre for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, which was a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The results of consultations with stakeholders and the timetable for action towards the development of a detailed business case for the National Centre by the end of 2020 were acknowledged.