The State Liberals are calling on the Weatherill Government to abandon its plans to spend $15 million building a new office for Families SA at the former Smithfield Plain high School site.
“This money must be reallocated to provide appropriate accommodation for children at risk rather shuffling them around hotel, motels and caravan parks as is currently the case,” said Shadow Minister for Child Protection Rachel Sanderson.
“It is ridiculous to be spending money on new office accommodation for bureaucrats when children are forced to sleep on office floors due to a lack of suitable emergency accommodation.”
This ill-conceived plan also flies in face of observations made by Commissioner Nyland regarding an earlier consolidation of services at Families SA offices.
The geographical reach for service delivery was restricted to the immediate local area, bringing advantages of a greater local focus. This included accessibility and reduced travel time for clients.
For staff, there was the capacity to hold a high level of knowledge about local conditions, local services and particularly vulnerable families in the local catchment area.
The reduced travel burden permitted a greater percentage of working time to be spent in family engagement. (Nyland Royal Commission p55)
“Once again the needs of the children are the last to be considered by the Weatherill Government,” said Ms Sanderson.
“It is critical that the use of emergency accommodation and inappropriate residential accommodation is phased out as soon as possible.”
As Justice Nyland states:
“Children in commercial emergency placements can face unplanned and disruptive changes of residence in short-term rental accommodation. During busy periods, such as the Clipsal car race, the Fringe Festival and Christmas holidays, children are sometimes moved out to make way for other tenants.” (pg 314).
“The Weatherill Government must begin building other care options immediately and the $15 million currently allocated to a new office would go a long way to providing better alternatives for vulnerable children.