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Statement by The Hon Bill Shorten MP

Community and Disability Services Ministers’ Conference – Communique

Joint Statement with:

  • Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

Community Services

National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children

Today, Community and Disability Services Ministers met in Melbourne to progress the important National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children.

The Framework is due to be presented to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) at its next meeting.

Ministers discussed two key areas of work for the Framework.

Data collection

The Commonwealth has agreed to provide $1.3 million to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) to improve child protection data collection across Australia. Reform to data collection will enable confidentialised unit record data to be collected to deliver a more accurate picture of child abuse and neglect in Australia.

Currently the data collection system cannot detect overlap between the number of notifications, investigations and substantiations, children on care orders and children in out of home care, resulting in some children being counted multiple times in the figures. Therefore it is difficult to measure the number of new children in the system each year.

The proposed new data system will enable the AIHW to analyse the average length of time of various pathways through the child protection system, and the proportion of children returning to the child protection system.

State and Territory Ministers agreed to work with the Commonwealth on this project.

Information sharing

Prior agreement to improve the sharing of information about children at risk has already seen new protocols implemented to share information between Centrelink and state child protection agencies. Centrelink is also now participating in the child protection alert system.

Since the information sharing protocol commenced on 1 January 2009, Centrelink has processed more than 680 requests for information from State and Territory child protection agencies.

Ministers agreed to improve the sharing of information in relation to families and children at risk. Information sharing is critical to keeping children safe. Ministers supported further work on tools and process to support and expand the national protocol with a focus on early intervention and prevention for children at risk.

Development of the Framework

Ministers discussed the high level outcomes and high level performance indicators that will underpin the framework. Detailed strategies and their associated indicators will be agreed in the final Framework.

Governance arrangements for the Framework were also discussed.

Ministers noted the COAG reforms on housing, homelessness, disability, education and health, and those to close the gap on outcomes for Indigenous Australians are critical foundations for improving the safety and wellbeing of Australian children.

Disability Services

Ministers agreed to develop a comprehensive implementation plan for the National Disability Agreement (NDA) by July 2009, which identifies the work to be undertaken over the next five years and includes reporting arrangements, details about progress, timelines, milestones and outcomes.

Ministers agreed to develop proposals for data development, collection and research arrangements for progressing and monitoring the NDA.

The Ministers agreed that due to the lack of research into disability issues, compared to other human services, they would, subject to an agreed agenda and governance structure, contribute a total of $10 million over 5 years from the NDA for research in this area. Ministers will consider a proposal on the best way to facilitate this research at their next meeting.

In order to better deliver disability services Minsters agreed to a series of timelines to develop national standards to implement the NDA:

  • A national model to estimate demand will be developed by mid-2010, and there will be improvements in the data collected through the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers which will provide a stronger basis for demand estimates;
  • A National Population Benchmarking Framework will be developed, and initial population benchmarking of disability services, based on information available, will be achieved by mid-2010;
  • A National Disability Quality Framework will be developed to introduce a national approach to quality assurance and continuous improvement of disability services by mid-2010;
  • A national workforce strategy will be developed to address qualifications, training and establish the disability sector as an “industry of choice” by the end of 2010;
  • Ministers agreed on overall objectives on early intervention and prevention in December 2008, further to this a database of resources of early intervention has been developed; and
  • An Early Intervention and Prevention Strategy will be developed by mid-2011.

Ministers noted the progress made on implementing the funding for the $100 million supported accommodation initiative to assist older carers.

Ministers agreed that States and Territories would provide information every six months, at the CDSMC meetings, on the progress of key elements of the National Disability Agreement, including the Disability Assistance Package, the Young People in Residential Aged Care and the $100 million supported accommodation initiative.

Ministers also noted the progress made by each state on moving young people from residential aged care, or preventing them from being placed in residential aged care, through the Young People with a Disability in Residential Aged Care Program.

  • As of December 2008, after six months of operation, a total of 70 young people across Australia had been assisted out of residential aged care into more suitable facilities.
  • As of December 2008, a total of 129 young people across Australia had been diverted from entering residential aged care.

Ministers also endorsed the continued development of a proposal for a National Traumatic Injury Insurance Scheme through a series of roundtable discussions on issues identified to date (NDS).

Ministers agreed to the proposed co-operative approach which will allow States and Territories to have input into the Australian Government’s National Disability Strategy.

A State and territories reference group has been established to work with the Australian Government to develop the strategy. The reference group has been briefed by KPMG on the preliminary analysis of consultation on the Strategy which took place in October-December 2008.

A fuller analysis of these consultations will be used to develop a draft NDS consultation feedback report.

The draft report will be circulated to State and Territory Governments for comment before it is publicly released by the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities.

The NDS is intended to be a high level strategy document, designed to build strategies and innovations to improve inclusion and participation of people with disability in the community.

The final strategy will provide an organising and monitoring framework for existing work and bring together other key initiatives currently under review or development.

Volunteering

Ministers acknowledged the importance of volunteers to the fabric of Australian life at today’s meeting of Ministers for the voluntary sector. The recent bushfires and floods have highlighted, once again, how much Australia depends on volunteers and volunteer organisations.

Some of the priority areas that were discussed included, attracting and retaining volunteers across diverse age, socio-economic, disabilities and cultural groups; skills development and training; effective communication strategies; reward and recognition; and links between volunteering and transition to employment.

In an effort to remove barriers to volunteering and improve the viability of the sector in Australia, Ministers considered how governments can work collaboratively across jurisdictions.

Ministers discussed the need for an Australian National Volunteering Strategy to mark the 10 year anniversary of the United Nations Year of Volunteering in 2011. It was agreed that a long term vision is needed to strengthen volunteering in Australia and a National Volunteering Strategy would help the viability of the sector.

In relation to the broader non-profit sector, conference members discussed the next stage in the development of a National Compact with the non-profit sector. The Compact is part of the government’s reform program to build an Australia for the 21st century.

The Compact, an agreement between the non-profit sector and the Commonwealth, will represent the government’s commitment to work in partnership with non-profit organisations to build stronger communities and improve the lives of all Australians. Members were advised that the next stage will involve a comprehensive consultation process to be undertaken in 2009 to inform the development of a National Compact.