The death of Canberra boy Bradyn Dillon sparked an examination into how children in care have been treated in the ACT, and while some things have changed, there are still calls for more to be done.
The nine-year-old died in hospital in February 2016.
In an ABC documentary last year, Bradyn’s heartbroken mother Rachel Jones slammed ACT authorities for ignoring her desperate calls for help.
“I spoke with the police, with child … protection. Every card that was offered to me, I rang them on a daily basis, on a weekly basis. I was going into the police station,” Ms Jones said.
She pleaded for things to change.
“It’s in the news one day but then the next day everyone forgets about it. I pray that something happens about this,” she said.
So is the system that cares for our most vulnerable children any better off today?
More money has been given to the sector
A major review was launched soon after Bradyn’s death into the ACT Government’s response to family violence.
The Glanfield Inquiry called for decision-making and improved oversight to catch kids like Bradyn before they fall through the cracks.
It laid out 31 recommendations which were all accepted by the Government, and the 2017/18 budget earmarked more money for the sector, including $10 million to provide two extra case work teams.
Rachel Stephen-Smith, the Minister for Children and Youth, said the Government pledged $44 million for the child protection system in the ACT Budget, on top of measures previously announced.
“As part of the safer families package it included $2.5 million to do two quite specific things. To establish a case analysis team that provides independent oversight of individual cases at key decision points,” she said.
“And also a higher level child and youth protection quality assurance and improvement committee.”
‘If numbers are still going up, I don’t think we have got it right’
The Government also provided money for an extra person to handle complaints about the system — something Children and Young People Commissioner Jodie Griffiths-Cook said doubled the existing workforce.
While she welcomed the move, she said more help was needed.
“In the previous two years the difference between our figures was a 40 per cent increase in children and young people that were brought to the attention of my office and we have seen that as a steady increase over time,” she said.
“If the numbers are still going up then I don’t think we have got it right.
“If we were to do everything we are legislatively responsible for I would suggest that would take more than that one position.”
Jacqui Reed from the Create Foundation, which advocates for children in care, said some programs, including the Government’s new care model, A Step Up For Our Kids, remained under-resourced.
“I don’t think it is worse off but I don’t think we are seeing the dividends we would have liked to have seen for such a massive investment of time and energy,” she said.
“I think there is a general consensus across the whole community that the resources are not matching the expectations.”
Is a formal review body the answer?
In response to continuing concerns, the ACT Opposition is pushing for an external body to review decisions made about children.
Opposition spokeswoman Elizabeth Kikkert said for many decisions made about individual cases there was no formal review or appeal avenue.
She said an external body needed to have that access to case files to analyse child protection decisions.
“My greatest fear is that we’re going to have another case like Braydn Dillon,” she said.
The Government insists there were plenty of places for concerned families to go, but was reviewing whether more decisions about children should be examined externally.