GOVERNMENT MEASURES GIVE YOUNG PEOPLE BETTER PROTECTIONSAssociate Minister of Social Welfare
The Government is working to establish grievance panels for children and young people in Department of Social Welfare residential care, says Associate Minister of Social Welfare, Hon. Dr Nick Smith.
"The grievance panels will give children and young people an independent forum of redress, if once having gone through the internal complaint process they are still dissatisfied with the outcome.
"Each residence will have its own panel made up of community representatives who will be appointed by the Minister of Social Welfare after consultation with the Principal Youth Court Judge, Principal Family Court Judge and the Commissioner for Children.
"Grievance procedures currently exist for children and young people in residences but the establishment of panels will create a permanent, independent mechanism for hearing unresolved grievances and monitoring compliance with grievance procedure.
Agreement to establish grievance panels as a matter of urgency is part of the Government's response to the report of the Regulations Review Committee on investigation into Children, Young Persons and Their Families (Residential Care) Regulations 1996, which was tabled in the House of Representatives today.
The Government will also promote legislation to include basic principles of search of children and young persons and seizure of items, and the rights of residents in relation to search and seizure, in the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act. Currently these provisions are in regulation.
The Coalition Government is also proposing to amend section 447 of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act to clarify the empowering provision for the regulations and be explicit about the limits of the search powers.
It is proposed that the amending legislation be introduced into the House in 1998.
"All these measures will ultimately provide better protections for young people in Department of Social Welfare residential care," says Dr Smith.