‘Added complexity’: Agency responsibilities part of Charlie investigation
The Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministry review will run alongside an investigation by South African police into the alleged criminal negligence case involving Charlie and five other siblings who lived on the same property in Munno Para.
Both inquests were launched following the death of Charlie, who was found unconscious at her home in the early hours of Friday July 15. She was taken by ambulance to Lyell McEwin Hospital but died shortly thereafter.
Close said yesterday that four government agencies – child protection, education, social services and housing – were ‘actively involved’ with Charlie’s family over a period of at least two years – prompting the government of the state to conduct a review.
She told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that the review would examine whether a decision to remove family support services from the Department of Child Protection’s control created “additional complexity” for authorities.
“There’s the added complexity right now that we inherited from the previous government – a decision to put family services that work with the family in a different department, not child protection,” she said .
“One of the questions I have about this investigation which will be undertaken by (the Department of) the Prime Minister and the Cabinet is: has this changed the way in which there have been interactions between people who decide to withdraw a child and the people who go in and work with the family?
“Did it cause additional complexity?”
The Department of Social Services is currently responsible for providing early intervention services that support families who are at risk of having their children removed by child protection authorities.
Meanwhile, the Department of Child Protection is responsible for protecting children from abuse and harm.
The transfer of early intervention programs from the Department of Child Protection to social services stemmed from recommendations made by Margaret Nyland in her 2016 Royal Commission on Child Welfare.
The decision follows consultation with people with lived experience.
Close said she was ‘frustrated and worried’ the government had ‘multiple eyes’ on Charlie’s family, but declined to say how many notifications were in the family’s file, citing the ongoing police investigation .
“You can probably imagine how I felt and how everyone felt when they heard about the death of this child and realized that there had been multiple agencies interacting with this family for some time. “, she said.
“If I start telling you the bits and pieces I’ve heard, nothing good will come of it.
“It’s just pointless for me to speculate…but I’m in no way hiding that there have been multiple interactions with this family from people across different agencies.”
Former South Australian Victims’ Rights Commissioner Michael O’Connell said InDaily he was ‘unconvinced the government was responsible’ for Charlie’s death, saying he believed there was a ‘shared responsibility’ for people to look after the children.
He said the government should do more to support people when they want to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect, following reports that neighbors close to Charlie’s family tried to report their concerns, but no action was taken.
“The neighborhood and the communities also have a certain responsibility and we have invested in trying to raise awareness of abuse in the family setting and we have encouraged people to at least bother to report,” he said. -he declares.
“But, if you keep making these reports and there is no positive response and there seems to be only inaction, you will end up losing confidence.
“If that trust is lacking, people won’t bother to intervene and so we increase the risk.”
Child protection lawyer Belinda Valentine, whose four-year-old granddaughter Chloe died in 2012 after repeatedly falling off a motorcycle she was forced to ride in the garden of her mother, said people often contact her to worry about the government’s inaction.
She told ABC Radio Adelaide that the department needed to employ people with “lived experience” who could understand people’s concerns when reporting child neglect or abuse.
“They call me or other defenders if they’re desperate because they just don’t know what else to do,” she said.
“There is a gap in the system. They have nowhere to go if they don’t agree with the decisions made.
Close said she would speak to Child Protection Minister Katrine Hildyard to “see what is in place at the moment”.
“We absolutely have to make sure there’s another way for people to go if they’re worried things won’t work out,” she said.
“No one wants to hurt families or children – we all try to do our best – but what happened here needs to be understood very, very clearly and made public.”
The terms of reference for the Prime Minister and Cabinet Office inquiry, which will be led by Chief Executive Damien Walker, are as follows:
- Chronology of services rendered and agencies engaged,
- Roles, responsibilities and interactions of the respective agencies,
- Effectiveness of government interventions and services,
- Identification of any system improvements
A spokesman for the Prime Minister and Cabinet Department said InDaily the government would seek to undertake the review “as quickly as possible, but must ensure that it does not jeopardize the ongoing criminal investigation”.
“The review must be thorough and meaningful and will be staffed with some of the best people in the entire department as a result,” they said.
InDaily asked the Department of Child Protection whether it was reviewing any other child protection records or cases following Charlie’s death, or whether a separate internal investigation would be undertaken into his involvement.
A spokesperson replied: “As announced yesterday, South African Police have set up a task force to investigate this tragic death.
“In addition, the state government has announced that a review led by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPC) will examine the interactions between government agencies and the family.
“All government agencies, including the Department of Child Protection (DCP), will cooperate fully with these investigations.”
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