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Is The Tail Wagging Queensland’s Child Protection System?

Let’s think about key features of the United Kingdom’s child protection system that were criticized in the recently completed review conducted by Professor Eileen Munro and how closely they resemble the image of “a tail wagging its dog”.  Then let’s think about Queensland’s child protection system and ask ourselves, “Is the dog still wagging its tail or has the tail taken over?”

Key features of the UK’s child protection system noted by Professor Munro included excessive “bureaucratic demands” and a “standardisation” of services that has resulted in these services being unable to flexibly respond to the variety of needs held by children, young people and families, excessive “statutory guidance, targets and local rules”, many of which are “unnecessary”, “unhelpful” and “distort practice”, and an over-reliance on “compliance” in place of valuing and promoting “professional expertise” in ensuring good child protection practice.

Importantly, the Munro Review did not recommended a complete abandonment of all systems and processes that are in place to guide, monitor and evaluate the quality of the UK’s child protection services.  Rather, Professor Munro recommended a radical reduction in the number of centrally prescribed “rules” and their replacement with “essential rules” only –rules that are essential in allowing organisations to work effectively together.  Her recommendation was that, instead of “procedures” driving practice, there be a shift in focus towards a more active observance of the “principles that underpin good practice”.

Within Queensland, both Government and non-Government organisations providing child protection services operate in a regulated environment.  For example, non-Government organisations providing out-of-home care services must be licensed and demonstrate their compliance with certain service standards.  Non-Government organisations that are Government funded are generally required to regularly report on their performance in delivering defined outputs and achieving certain targets.

There are some key questions we can use to guide our thinking about these issues. Join me across the next week to consider my questions, add your own, and leave your comments!

Lindsay Wegener – Executive Director, PeakCare

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