Thursday, 9 February 2023

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Foster carers


Foster carers

Matthew BACH (North-Eastern Metropolitan) (12:25): (29) My question is for the minister for child protection. Minister, you and your numerous predecessors have tried now every trick in the book to keep the contents of the KPMG report on the carer allowance secret. Personally, I enjoyed the new one you came up with yesterday: that it is cabinet in confidence. That is very odd, because I have in fact now been provided with a copy of this report. As you surely know – hopefully know – it finds current support is woefully inadequate and recommends an increase of 67 per cent. Minister, please, the government has had over a year. Carers are facing a crippling cost-of-living crisis. Is this recommendation supported by government or not?

Lizzie BLANDTHORN (Western Metropolitan – Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Minister for Child Protection and Family Services) (12:26): Thank you, Dr Bach, for your question, and thank you for your question earlier in the week. The KPMG report, as you have simply just informed the house, was prepared for ministers previous to me in their consideration for cabinet. It was indeed a cabinet-in-confidence document, and it is very interesting that you have now a copy of that.

But what is most interesting and should be of great interest to this house is actually the work that carers do and the work that our government is doing to support them. The critical contribution that carers make in supporting some of our most vulnerable children is one that we all know is invaluable in the care system, and there is a carer allowance that is allocated which contributes towards the care of children. It is also an allowance that is scalable and that can be adjusted where there are complex needs for children with complex issues. Higher levels of carer allowance are also determined on a case-by-case basis, and that is something that this government can and already does do.

But I did not get the opportunity the other day, because I think your supplementary question was perhaps a little too narrow, to say that I think it is important that this house understands that some of the other supports that this government does provide to carers is a relevant part of this conversation.

Matthew Bach: On a point of order, President, the minister has now been going on for a long time, and it is always interesting to note her stated care for our foster carers. However, this question, as my previous questions have been, is in fact a very narrow one. I think it is in our standing orders at section 8.07 that it is necessary for ministers to be relevant to the question. I know the minister is new to this house, but she should be made to come back and actually answer this very narrow question.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Dr Bach. The minister still has nearly 2 minutes of her allotted time.

Lizzie BLANDTHORN: Thank you, President, and thank you, Dr Bach. I would have thought that, given your interest in carers, government support for carers is key to your question, and that is exactly what I am attempting to inform you of. Our government has provided almost $13 million for the continuation of the care hub trial, which provides wraparound supports to those who are providing care for some of the most vulnerable children in our community. This government provides early intervention supports, which we talked about at length yesterday, I think it was, when I was talking in my ministers statement about family services. I am not sure that those on the other side are perhaps familiar with family services; it is not something for which they do have a portfolio. But family services and the supports that family services provide are crucial for carers in the delivery of the care that they provide to some of our most vulnerable children. We also have the help desk, which I think you will find carers are most supportive of in terms of the support that they can get from the help desk in relation to care and extra supports, particularly when they are in need of therapeutic supports for the children that are in their care. There is also the continuing of the CaringLife app. So there are many ways in which this government continues to support carers. We will continue to support carers, and we thank you for your interest.

Matthew BACH (North-Eastern Metropolitan) (12:29): I do thank the minister for her response. Minister, again, as I am sure you have been briefed about, Victorian foster carers are now leaving in their droves, and as they leave the system they routinely report that the government’s appalling stinginess is a chief reason for their departure. The current level of support, you would have to admit, Minister, you would have to be aware, is not even enough for carers to cover the basic bare essentials like food and school supplies or dentist bills. Vulnerable children are then the ones to suffer. I will ask this question in the hope of getting an answer finally: do foster carers deserve support to cover these bare essentials?

Lizzie BLANDTHORN (Western Metropolitan – Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Minister for Child Protection and Family Services) (12:30): Thank you, Dr Bach. I think you like to ask the questions. We are just getting to know each other, but I think you like to ask the questions but perhaps not listen to the answers, because your question is, ‘Do I think that carers deserve valuable support?’ The answer is yes, and the answer is we are providing that support.

Matthew Bach: On a point of order, President, the question that the minister said I put to her is not in fact the question that I put to her. I do listen to her responses. I said, ‘Do foster carers deserve support to cover these bare essentials?’

The PRESIDENT: Sorry, Dr Bach. It is not a point of order. In that instance the minister clearly answered your question.