Emergency grows in the care of vulnerable children

A $27 million increase in the cost of emergency care provided by Families SA in the last year detailed in the Auditor-General’s Report illustrates the depth of the crisis confronting child protection in South Australia.

The cost of emergency care for vulnerable children has more than doubled in the past two years – jumping from $37 million in 2013-14 to $82.9 million in 2015-16.

“These figures leave no doubt that there are more children than ever being housed in hotels, motels and caravan parks and they are staying in these totally inappropriate forms of accommodation for longer than ever,” said Shadow Minister for Child Protection Rachel Sanderson.

“It almost certainly means that children are still being forced to sleep on office floors when this type of temporary accommodation is full.

“Emergency care or residential care should be the very last resort for a child at risk of neglect or abuse not a standard option. These figures indicate it has become a permanent stop gap.

“Research shows that home-based care is without doubt the best option for vulnerable children and an audit would improve the chances of placing children in state care with a family.”

In 2014-15 Government run residential care in South Australia cost $235,371 per child, per annum which equates to $646 per night.

By way of contrast a Foster Family is paid just $17,825 per annum for caring for a 16-17 year-old.

“Residential care can be challenging for children and young people, adding to their feelings of instability and uncertainty, and is also extremely expensive to provide.

In 2010 then Minister for Child Protection Jennifer Rankine told State Parliament:

“I am very pleased that, within the next six months, I am very hopeful we will not have any children in long term emergency accommodation.” (Hansard 25/11/10)

“It’s time the Weatherill Government delivered on this long standing promise.”