In this volume, the Royal Commission examined child sexual abuse in out-of-home care and made recommendations to prevent it and to provide effective responses if it does occur.
The Victorian Government is working to strengthen mechanisms to prevent child sexual abuse in care services and provide an effective response if abuse does occur.
The review of the Victorian Community Services Client Incident Management System is currently underway. The Victorian Government acknowledges the importance of ensuring incident systems provide sufficient data on risks to client harm and will consider what data is collected about those who perpetrate sexual abuse as part of the review.
The enhancements made to the Child Protection National Minimum Data Set on a national level meant that Victoria and all other Australian jurisdictions provided data for the inaugural national Safety of children in care 2020–21 report, which was published on 10 December 2021. The first report provides baseline data for ongoing monitoring and reporting and will be provided on an ongoing basis. This report aims to bring together the available data across the country to strengthen the evidence to build a more coherent picture of abuse in care in Australia. This information will help to inform government policies and practice and will assist in the planning and delivery of prevention and intervention programs.
Victoria and other Australian jurisdictions have developed contextual material for inclusion in the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services 2023, summarising how jurisdictions currently measure the health and wellbeing of children in care locally. This is a placeholder until a national approach to this indicator is developed.
Regulation of social services
All organisations providing services to children in Victoria, including government and non-government out-of-home care service providers, must comply with Victoria's Child Safe Standards. This is monitored and enforced separately from the existing accreditation process.
As discussed in the section on Recordkeeping and information sharing (Volume 8), on 1 July 2024, a comprehensive new regulatory scheme for social service providers will commence, including for out-of-home care providers.
All out-of-home care providers will be required to register and comply with the new Social Services Standards. An independent Social Services Regulator, appointed in mid-2023, will be responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance with the new Social Services Standards and the Child Safe Standards across government and non-government out-of-home care service providers.
This approach acknowledges the interrelated nature of government delivered child protection services, externally delivered child and family services, and other related social services.
Between January 2022 and August 2023, regulations will be developed which will complete the legal basis within which the new regulator will operate. The regulator will have a suite of regulatory powers that will strengthen oversight of child protection and out-of-home care service providers. This includes a registration process that will assess the capability and suitability of service providers to deliver social services including out-of-home care.
Sexual Abuse Prevention Education Strategy for children in out-of-home care
The Healthy Eating, Active Living Matters (HEALing Matters) program is a Victorian Government funded online training package and resource repository for care services workers and home-based carers. The program was developed by Monash University, in consultation with young people.
Using a trauma-informed philosophy and building on general models of therapeutic care, the training package supports staff and carers to provide care that promotes the health, wellbeing and life skills of young people in their care, including young people with a disability. This includes training modules on sexual health and respectful relationships and gender and sexual diversity, recognising that every young person has the right to healthy sexual relationships and positive sex education. The program is available state-wide to support carers and young people in Victoria.
The Power to Kids: Respecting Sexual Safety Program, continues to be delivered by Mackillop Family Services. The program is being made available state-wide to all care types through a grant from Westpac.
Safe and stable placements for children in care
Work has commenced to review the Placement Coordination and Placement Planning Framework including developing guidance on placement principles, placement matching and strengthening the voice of the child in decision making.
Since its launch in April 2017, Carer KaFÉ has delivered a range of information, training, and supports to ensure statutory kinship carers and accredited foster carers are well-informed and adequately prepared to support the children they care for. In 2021, Carer KaFÉ was expanded to include permanent carers through the Strong carers, stronger children: Carer Strategy, Victoria's strategy to transform kinship, foster and permanent carers' experience.
In April 2022, the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing concluded a review to assess the effectiveness of Carer KaFÉ in achieving its objective of providing an evidence-informed learning system for empowering and supporting carers to provide safe, stable, quality care. The aim of the review was to ensure that all home-based carers (including kinship, foster and permanent carers) have access to training that is tailored to their needs.
Work is currently underway to implement the recommendations of the review to ensure Carer KaFÉ continues to provide relevant and timely training to empower and support carers to provide safe, stable, quality and culturally connected care.
Wungurilwil Gapgapduir: Aboriginal Children and Families Agreement
The Wungurilwil Gapgapduir: Aboriginal Children and Families Agreement and accompanying Strategic Action Plan (2021-24) seeks to prioritise efforts to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in child protection and care services.
Implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle (ATSICPP) continues as a priority action for the Victorian Government. Legislative amendments to embed all five aspects of the ATSICPP in the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 were introduced to the Victorian Parliament as part of the Children, Youth and Families Amendment (Child Protection) Bill 2021. These changes will need to be considered by Parliament in the future.
Young people transitioning from care
Young people transitioning from care and receiving support from Better Futures and Home Stretch have access to flexible funding to assist them with accessing specialist counselling services, including sexual assault counselling. Flexible funding can be used for public and private counselling services, as young people may face the challenge of long waiting lists.
In 2022-23, the Victorian Government funded the Brotherhood of St Laurence to undertake induction training for providers of Better Futures, including the facilitation of Communities of Practice. The government will update the training modules to include information that builds providers’ capability to support this cohort of young people. This will include inviting subject matter experts to speak at future Community of Practice forums.
The Victorian Government will consult with the sector and key stakeholders to inform specialist practice advice that will be finalised by mid-2023.