Update from Chair of the Redesign Reference Group - Maria Harries

8 January 2016

CPS Redesign Project                                                                                                            

There has been much speed and activity over a very short period of time amongst all of us involved in the re-design project, which is looking at options for further developing and refining services for the care and protection of Tasmania's children and young people. I am very grateful for the totally unambiguous support of the Minister and the energy of so many already very busy staff that have gone out of their way to make this project produce the best outcomes as quickly as possible.

We have had four Reference Group meetings – all efficient and highly challenging for us all in order to manage a lot in the time available.

I have also met with a very large number of stakeholders involved at every level of child protection - as providers, ambassadors and receivers of services. Included amongst these, and organised by the Commissioner for Children and CREATE, was a most beguiling group of young people in care who were able to clearly describe and articulate their vision for a child protection system that meets their needs.

Amidst the flurry of activity I have been struck by the huge commitment of so many workers, the ingenious means people have developed to do the very best with current resources and the capacity of those working to 'punch above their weight'. 

The last few months has been particularly challenging for those who work in the difficult and fraught area of work where the vulnerability of children and the desperate needs of families collide and where children are harmed and/or neglected. Whilst rewarding in terms of its value to children and families, it is tough work and these workers deserve all the support we can give them and more. It is they who are helping me to understand what is working well or otherwise and who are assisting us to co-design a service system that meets the needs of Tasmania's vulnerable children.

The Reference Group has been mindful of three stages of work:

The first stage is focussed on the immediate resolution of issues that are impacting on the ability of workers to deliver timely and professional assessment and intervention right now. The Unions have been actively involved in helping to navigate through these issues. 

The Reference Group receives feedback on progress of these first stage issues at every meeting and it is evident that, while there is still more to be done, much has been achieved in this area, including:

  • Sorting of what are simple but deeply symbolic technical issues such as access to stationery and mobile phones
  • Coordinated state-wide recruitment efforts
  • A Register for contract Support Workers to fill vacancies.
  • The fast tracking of Working with Children Checks.
  • Identifying opportunities to use social media to promote job opportunities.
  • Recruitment processes to enable part time or contract working.

The Reference Group are also mindful of the feedback received from staff following a series of forums in October, this included needs in areas such as:

  • Supervision and support for staff.
  • The use of mentors, coaches and clinical experts.
  • Educating the community around the positive difference made by workers.
  • Freeing up practitioner time to practice

The second stage, overlapping with the first, involves a wide ranging consultation and the development of a framework for how we can develop a more integrated set of services to support families to keep children safe and to protect those who cannot be otherwise protected within their families.

The aim we have is that such a range of services assist families as early as possible and enables those workers so charged to receive referrals/notifications and pay immediate attention to the needs of children whose vulnerability is severe and who are most highly in need of critical and highly professionalised intervention.

The Reference Group and Project team are developing the architecture for a comprehensive service model that builds on what is already working. Once complete, this will be 'road-tested' with stakeholders, costed broadly and presented to the Minister.

The third stage is implementation – and this of course will also have to be undertaken in consultation with staff and stakeholders.

One of the important jobs we have as a Reference Group is to present the logic and the business case that demonstrates the importance of this work for children and families in Tasmania. Finally, thank you to everyone who has gone out of their way to ring, email, talk and write. I read everything that comes in. There is no doubt in my mind about just how seriously so many people undertake the responsibilities of caring for kids and young people in this beautiful State and how seriously they are taking this re-design project.

Maria Harries

Chair, CPS Redesign Reference Group