Family and Children’s Services Minister Rhonda Parker has accused the Opposition of using some of the most vulnerable children in our society to score cheap political points.
Opposition Family and Children’s Services spokesman Alan Carpenter claimed in Parliament today that Christmas presents to children under the care of the department had been abolished as a cost saving measure.
He also claimed that access visits for children in care had been reduced to save money.
However, the Minister has rejected both claims.
“It is ridiculous to speak of funding cuts in this area as spending on these children has increased from $4.7 million a year to $8.5 million over the last six years.
“The department has never had a policy to provide Christmas presents to wards of the State.
“A range of subsidies are paid to foster carers and the usual experience is that foster parents and many of the children’s natural parents give gifts to their children at Christmas.
“I also understand that there was an ad hoc practice in some Family and Children’s Services offices to give small gifts to wards of the State at Christmas.
“I’m advised that the department became concerned that this was inequitable as some children received no present while others received small gifts and others more substantial presents.
“The Department wanted to come up with an approach that shared the spirit of Christmas equally across the State with these children on behalf of the Government.
“A number of options are being considered including having a Christmas celebration for the children, their foster parents and the departmental staff who work with them in each district across the State.
“This clearly indicates that these considerations are not motivated by saving money.
“I will now become involved in that consideration as I believe Christmas is a very special time for children especially those unable to live at home.
“I will be consulting with the department and those working with the children so we can implement the option that best suits the often complex needs of these children.”
Mrs Parker also denied Opposition claims that access visits for children under the department’s care had been cut back to save money.
“There has been no change in the department’s policy in regard to access visits for financial or any other reasons.
“The conditions of access for an individual child may change during their period in care as their needs change but I want to re-emphasise that there has been no change of policy in the area,” Mrs Parker said.
Media contact: Owen Cole 9481 7810