Advice and Referral Line audit falls short on child safety
The Auditor General’s Report on the Strong Families Safe Kids Advice and Referral Line is welcome, but its findings appear to have been affected by the limitations of the report.
While the report found that, as the primary point of access, the Advice and Referral Line had been implemented effectively to provide expected levels of service, it still made seven recommendations to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.
However, the scope of the audit only looked at the Advice and Referral Line itself, without taking into account what happens beyond that point, which would paint a fuller picture of the system as a whole.
It is positive to see a reduction in referrals to child safety services and in children placed in out-of-home care, but that is not the whole story.
The Auditor General Rod Whitehead said himself that there had not yet been a detailed review of client satisfaction with the Advice and Referral Line, meaning its success is only partially known.
A particularly concerning finding of the report is an increase in the turnover rate of staff from around 27 per cent in 2019 to 47 per cent in 2021.
Workforce shortages are a significant problem across the Child Safety system – and much more needs to be done than the ten additional positions across both the ARL and Child Safety Services funded in the recent State Budget.
While the report found that the ARL is “broadly effective”, this appears to be at odds with the Commission of Inquiry and what we are hearing from workers, families and media reports.
Mr. Whitehead found the understanding of the Advice and Referral Line and its role amongst stakeholders was not strong, attributing this to inconsistent feedback to referrers and clients and not enough education on the role of the Advice and Referral Line.
If we are to have confidence in the system designed to increase child safety we need to look at the whole system as a matter of priority.
Sarah Lovell MLC
Shadow Minister for Child Safety