Residential care a breeding ground for crime, overhaul needed

Queensland’s residential care system for children needs an overhaul to prevent it from being a breeding ground for crime and long-term welfare dependency.

One Nation candidate for Keppel James Ashby said changes were also needed to ensure qualified carers were supported to remain in the system.

“There are about 11,000 children in residential care in Queensland, partly due to the foster care system being on the verge of collapse,” Mr Ashby said.

“For many of these kids, it costs Queensland taxpayers between $500,000 and $1 million to care for them. Some of them are forced to stay in hotels due to a shortage of residential care homes.

“The system is under a lot of strain. Carers are almost powerless to work closely with children to foster an environment of trust with appropriate behavioural boundaries, and in many cases are unable to prevent kids from leaving a home and roaming the streets. Qualified carers are leaving the system and are being replaced with others, some of whom are unqualified and inexperienced or who are in it for the good pay ($120,000 starting salary) rather than good outcomes.

“Well-intentioned child safety requirements also prevent the development of a normal home environment where these kids can learn basic life skills. They have virtually nothing to do but sit around watching TV or playing games.

“Children who’ve been in the system for a while have learned how to game it and weaponise it, threatening carers with accusations of assault or worse in order to get their way or excuse poor behaviour. Discipline goes out the window. And unless they’re eligible for an ‘independent living’ arrangement, once these kids reach 18 they’re effectively on their own, often without prospects.”

Mr Ashby called for suitably qualified residential care house managers to be given greater autonomy in managing the care of kids in their charge.

“These highly qualified and experienced carers are the ones on the ground working daily with these children yet they have virtually no say in the management of kids’ programs and activities,” he said. “It should be these people – who know individual kids best – who should be planning their care.

“Carers entering the system should also be required to successfully complete appropriate training before coming into contact with kids. At the moment, because of a shortage, carers are being placed in charge of kids before their training is complete.

“Sadly, there will always be some parents unsuited to the role of parenting. We must have a sustainable and effective system of state care, but high demand coupled with well-intentioned but impersonal bureaucracy is threatening the system’s viability and delivering less-than-optimal outcomes.

“We all want what’s best for our kids. One Nation will work to introduce reforms to Queensland’s youth justice and residential care systems to better protect community safety and produce positive outcomes for our state’s vulnerable young people.”