Update on joint protocol to help keep kids in residential care out of the criminal justice system

Update on joint protocol to help keep kids in residential care out of the criminal justice system

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Care Not Custody – a new approach to keep kids in residential care out of the criminal justice system

We have asked for an update on the Victorian government’s continuing commitment to a joint protocol to deal with low-level incidents within state residential care for vulnerable children.

We do not want children in residential care to continue to come into contact with police and the courts unnecessarily.

The need for a joint protocol between the government’s child protection authority, the Department of Health and Human Services, residential care providers and Victoria Police was clearly identified in our research report, Care Not Custody.

Our report is built on a sound evidence base and examines the experiences of young legal aid clients going into out-of-home care.

It found that almost one-in-three children we assist who are placed in out-of-home care later returns to us for help with criminal charges – often within months of their placement in care.

In January this year we released a statement to welcome what we understood to be a commitment by the Victorian government to progress a joint protocol. This protocol exists in other comparable jurisdictions.

A joint protocol to deal with low-level incidents within residential care would further support the government’s positive efforts to improve the child protection system, and protect some of Victoria’s most vulnerable children.

Strong support for a protocol  

We worked with many organisations and individuals on our Care Not Custody report, and everyone was keenly invested in the desired outcome for the government to commit to developing a joint protocol.

This was to happen through a working group set up by the Department of Health and Human Services under the watch of the Roadmap for Reform Implementation Advisory Group.

That working group has now been disbanded. We have since been advised that the issue remains on the agenda for the government and are encouraged by this.

We believe, however, that the development of a protocol requires a clear and open commitment and a process involving all affected, including legal assistance providers and representatives of children, young people and families.

We will continue to advocate for a joint protocol to improve our child protection clients’ experiences. We have also offered to provide further related data or de-identified case studies that might help the Department develop an effective and enduring protocol.

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More information

For more information, please contact Senior Policy and Projects Officer Hannah Northover – (03) 9280 3723.

If you have a media enquiry, please contact Senior Communications Adviser Paula Wilson – (03) 9269 0620 or 0438 612 289.