National Standard Eight of the National Standards for Out-of-Home Care states – “Children and young people in care are supported to participate in social and/or recreational activities of their choice, such as sporting, cultural or community activity”. This is one of 12 National Standards that describe how the Australian Government expects children and young people in care should be treated.
CREATE’s research suggests a significant barrier for children and young people in care wishing to engage in activities is the need to obtain special official permission before they can participate. We have heard loud and clear from children young people over the years about the difficulties they and their carers face in gaining permission to do various activities from the department responsible for their care. For example in our report Out-of-Home Care in Australia: Children and Young People’s Views After 5 Years of National Standards released last year, we asked 1275 children and young people in care around Australia about how they found the process of obtaining permission to undertaken chosen activities (a rating out of 100 with 0: Very difficult and 100: Very easy). The report notes that there was quite a bit of difference between states and territories in the ease of obtaining permissions. Children and young people in NSW and TAS seemed to find the process the easiest, but the highest rating was still only 68. Those in ACT and QLD found the process more difficult.
The issue of permission to participate in activities was also among the top issues raised by the 424 children and young people who chose to answer a question in the survey about the BIG issues the care system needed to address. Comments from children and young people included:
The amount of time it takes for CSO [Child Safety Officer] to approve things (e.g., school forms). I am unable to attend school until this has been approved.
When you live in a resi it’s really hard to get permission to do things, and you feel really different from your friends who aren’t in care.
Carers should have more permission to sign things for school and stuff because it takes a long time to get things signed by the department.
It’s hard to get permission to go on excursions. They take a really long time to give permission. I’ve had to miss out in the past because they took too long.
This issue isn’t new – it was also raised by children and young people in the survey CREATE undertook for our 2013 report: Experiencing Out-of-Home Care in Australia: The Views of Children and Young People.
The good news? In the NT and QLD we have seen some recent changes to Departmental policy which will make the permissions process smoother and easier. CREATE’s advocacy, through our research reports, submissions and the passionate work of many Young Consultants, has contributed to CHANGE!
Late last year the CREATE team in the NT celebrated a big win when the NT government made a change to policy that meant carers can now provide consent for most decisions, with Territory Families approval only required for high risk activities, complex health care and interstate/international travel. The new updated Territory Families policy states that when case manager approval is required, they “must ensure that consents are considered and provided in a timely manner to ensure that the child does not miss an opportunity participate” and that “carers are to be advised of the expected time frame for consent to be provided”.
CREATE’s Youth Advisory Group* and Young Consultants** in the NT had raised this issue consistently over the last couple of years and this change is at least in part thanks to their skillful and tenacious advocacy! Congrats to everyone involved!!!
Also in late 2019 the Queensland government announced changes to permissions processes for children and young people in care, aimed at increasing the ability of carers to provide permission for children and young people to participate in different activities. The new changes reduce the range of activities children and young people need the approval of the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women to participate in, for example carers can now provide permission for activities like:
- Travel via air in Queensland or another state for up to 3 nights when the travel is not in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements
- Consenting to day excursions within Australia undertaken by tourism operators involving high and very high risk activities (where guardianship is with Child Safety)
- Consenting to school excursions in Australia (where guardianship is with Child Safety)
CREATE Young Consultants in Queensland had regularly raised the issue that timely decision making was a challenge and that they missed out on activities like camps due to departmental approval processes. The issue had been identified as a high priority area by the G-Force group (led by Young Consultants) and had featured in submissions CREATE had made to the Queensland government about permanency and stability. Way to go team – YOU SAID IT AND TOGETHER WE DID IT!
*What are CREATE Youth Advisory Groups? Youth Advisory Groups (YAG’s) are an easy way to talk with CREATE about everyday issues you are currently having because you are in care. By sitting down and having a conversation with the group you will be amazed that a lot of the time you are not the only one experiencing it. If it turns out other young people are having the same problems then we look at how as a group we can come up with a solution that CREATE can take to decision makers to make changes to the system so it doesn’t happen to others in care too.
**How does a young person become a Young Consultant ? Young Consultants are young people with a care experience aged 14-25 yrs, who undertake CREATE’s Speak Up training. Visit out Speak Up page to find out more!