Our Opinion

Children and families need a cohesive and integrated social policy platform


The posting of PeakCare’s recently released blog, Youth justice ‘crack down’: It takes a village has elicited an incredibly strong response on our Facebook page. While there are a few comments that reflect very different views to those held by PeakCare, they are far outweighed by over 1,100 ‘likes’ and around 300 ‘shares’ – an outstanding response and one that is continuing to grow.

This strong response suggests that there are many Queenslanders (and people from elsewhere) who welcome and engage in nuanced discussion about complex social issues. They are people who think beyond and expect more than ‘quick fix’ remedies and, in considering the issues, draw on both their compassion and intellect. They are to be applauded for these qualities.

As flagged within the blog, PeakCare is concerned about some emerging commentary that points a finger of blame at the child protection system for alleged youth justice ‘problems’. Our concern is that whatever understandings PeakCare and our Members may have about shortfalls within the child protection system and ways in which they can be constructively addressed, it’s likely that these understandings will differ markedly from the understandings held by some others about the ‘failures’ of child protection and the means for their correction. Now is not the time to be simplistically looking for scapegoats or using ‘throw-away’ lines to attribute blame in ways that can be easily misconstrued.

At the core of these concerns is an apparent reluctance to accept that no matter how well statutory child protection or youth justice services are managed and administered, conceptually they are inherently flawed. They inevitably represent and deliver the end products of struggles being experienced by a society to protect and care for its children and support their families. No matter how much these systems are improved (and, of course, they should be), they will always remain imperfect solutions to an imperfect world. They too often become, as described by Tim Carmody during the 2013 Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry, the ‘ambulances at the bottom of the cliff’. To truly make a difference, our aspirations must move beyond tinkering with these systems and extend to incrementally bringing about the social conditions that enable these services to be no longer required. Step by step, we should be working towards their demise.

PeakCare looks forward to a time when we do not measure the impact of social policy by the number of new prisons and youth detention centres that are being built, but rather by the number of new, well-resourced schools, neighbourhood and parenting centres, and accessible early childhood education and care, disability support and community health services that are being opened. We look forward to a time when we are not opening more residential care services or seeking more foster carers to meet increasing demand for homes in which children can live, but rather we are measuring our success by the number of children living safely and well within their own families, communities and culture. We look forward to a time when children who may be unable to be cared for by their parents, are being cared for by kin without the need for these children to enter care in order for their carers or these children to access the support they need. We look forward to a time when the rights and entitlements of all children to safety, well-being and equitable access to life opportunities are actively respected and families are free from poverty, racism, fear of violence and inadequate access to affordable housing and other basic living entitlements.

Now more than ever, it is critical for the Queensland Government, with bi-partisan support, to develop a well-articulated and cohesive social policy framework that places children’s rights and entitlements to safety, well-being and equitable access to life opportunities and the support of their families at the centre of all government-led decisions and activities. This is a framework that should not be driven by piecemeal child protection or youth justice policies. Rather, child protection and youth justice policies need to be located within and remain responsive to this framework. It is a framework that should be used to powerfully influence financial investment and decision-making across all areas of Government activity and used to hold all government agencies and the non-government sector to account. Without a bi-partisan supported overarching framework of this type, Queensland children and families are at risk of becoming victims of reactive and fractured policy decisions that place greater importance on expediency and politics than on an evidence-based and values-driven vision for Queensland’s greatest resource – our children.

Please enter your comments, anonymously if you prefer, below, or over on our Facebook page.

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