Funding for youth justice is too heavily skewed in favour of detention rather than community youth justice.
There are 122.05 FTE staff at Ashley supervising for an average 25-30 children daily.
In comparison, there are 31.88 FTE staff in community youth justice with a daily number of active clients of around 700. While the Minister has indicated she will be developing a new model of youth justice and has established a Steering Committee, she also told Estimates "if you want something to stop, give it to a Committee".
There is no money in the youth justice budget for change in 2010-11, nor across the Forward Estimates, yet the sooner this funding anomaly is resolved and children and young people are provided with intervention at the community level, the better off young people will be.
A snapshot of Ashley was provided after questioning, including - " Out of 32 detainees, there were 21 on remand and 11 convicted; " The youngest child in 2009-10 was just 11 years old; " One young person on remand was at Ashley for a year; " At any given time, 20% of children under Care and Protection will have contact with Ashley; " On average, 7.4 children or 26.5% of the population are indigenous; " In 2009-10 there were 140 recorded incidents that occurred at Ashley, 4 complaints were substantiated and there were 8 referrals to police; " There were 22 complaints by detainees to the Ombudsman. " One staff member resigned after providing a mobile phone to a detainee, and there have been two Code of Conduct charges, one related to a pornographic DVD. Questions on the child protection system similarly revealed a system under enormous pressure.
There is an average 8% turnover of child protection workers, currently 13 FTE vacancies in child protection, it takes an average 9 weeks to fill vacancies and 46% of all workers compensation cases relate to stress leave.
As a result, caseloads for child protection workers can be as high as 25, where the acceptable levels are between 12-15, a Budget Estimates Committee was told.
A 2006 report into Tasmania's child protect system stated "there is evidence that child protection workers, faced with overwhelming case loads & are more likely to decide to take statutory action that involves removal of the child".
This appears to be happening, with a 14.2% increase over the past year of children coming into the care of the State. In the 2009-10 year, the child protection system overran its budget by $2 million to meet the needs of the increasing number of children coming into care.
And this will only get worse, with predictions of another 100 children to enter State care in the year ahead and no extra money for staffing in the 2010-11 Budget.
For children in State care, there were 70 complaints in the year to date and 29 substantiations and four of those cases were referred to police. Four carers were de-registered during the year. There were "lots" of complaints about the child protection system made to the Ombudsman.
In 2009-10 there were 39 complaints of sexual abuse of children in care by other children in care, which is extremely concerning, given our sexual assault support services are not funded to provide treatment services for children over the age of 12 exhibiting problem sexualized behaviour.
The Minister says our child protection system is getting better due to the Gateway family support services, however because the portfolio is split between two Ministers, it's difficult to get accurate data on whether this is the case.