Children and Young People Minister Mick Gentleman. Photo: Rohan Thomson
A consortium of not-for-profit organisations led by Barnardos Australia has won the ACT government's latest contract for out of home care services for children.
The continuity of care tender as part of the Step Up for Our Kids foster and kinship care strategy was announced by Children and Young People's Minister Mick Gentleman on Tuesday, bringing together Barnardos, the Australian Childhood Foundation, OzChild, Premier Youth Works and Relationships Australia.
Mr Gentleman told the ACT Carers awards ceremony that the consortium would bring together all the service elements designed to support children and young people in care under the title of "ACT Together".
As part of the plans, foster carer transition arrangements are being developed for changes to come into force from July 2016. The ACT Together services will start from January, as part of $16 million in additional funding for the strategy which will see non-profit agencies take over some government co-ordination of children living in care.
The strategy aims to return children to their parents as soon as possible or seek to finalise secure and permanent foster care or adoption options where a return cannot be achieved. More autonomy for non-government agencies will be measured through performance-based government contracts.
"Barnardos have a long and proud record of providing services to children and young people which, in Australia, can be traced back to 1921 when they commenced working with child migrants," Mr Gentleman said.
"Barnardos have a good understanding of what it takes to prevent children entering the care system as well as providing innovative and collaborative services to support children if they cannot live in the family home."
The government has requested new providers consider hiring staff from existing service providers, including charity Marymead.
ACT Together spokeswoman Annette Kelly-Egerton said vulnerable children and young people will benefit from the awarding of the new contract.
"We know that with support, children, young people and families can recover from the impact of trauma through a supportive care giving system, access to effective treatments, and service systems that are trauma informed," she said.
"We are committed to working together so that children, young people and their families can get the help they need when they need it."
A Step Up for Our Kids was first announced in January, and the new funding provided in this year's ACT budget comes on top of annual spending of about $31 million.
Last month, Canberra's Winnunga Aboriginal Health Service asked the ACT government to explain why interstate providers were awarded contracts over local organisations as part of the plan.
The calls came after Uniting Care ACT and NSW was awarded contracts to provide services designed to strengthen vulnerable families, after Winnunga and 12 other groups tendered for the work that would involve Aboriginal families.
(This article was first published in The Canberra Times and was written by Tom McIlroy.)