Foster Care Provider says it can’t afford to sign up to Redress Scheme, faces funding cut

29th March 2019  |  Ellen Coulter  |  ABC News

A foster care provider fears it will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars under a Tasmanian Government decision to cut funding to organisations that fail to opt in to the child sexual abuse National Redress Scheme.

Kennerley Children's Home, which has been the subject of historical abuse complaints, said the move would impact on the care of foster children in the state.

In a nationwide first, the Government will transition out of funding agreements with taxpayer-funded organisations that have not taken steps to voluntarily join the scheme, if they have a "significant liability" for child sexual abuse under the scheme.

It is understood the Government would deem organisations to have a significant liability if they were known to have had previous claims made against them for child sexual abuse, for example, complaints that had been identified through previous state-based inquiries and reviews, by Tasmania Police or through civil action.

The National Redress Scheme was a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and provides compensation for victims, but Governments cannot force institutions to join.

More than 3,000 redress applications have been lodged, but in February, in cases where the institution could be identified, almost half related to organisations that had not signed up to the scheme.

Kennerley Children's Home, earlier known as Kennerley Boys Home, receives state government funding of about $440,000 for community respite and a $6,000 subsidy per child paid to foster carers.

The organisation, which has faced historical sexual abuse complaints in the past, ran at a $446,000 loss last year.

On Thursday, Kennerley's chairman Percy Jacques said the organisation would not be signing up to the National Redress Scheme because it could not afford to.

Mr Jacques said the Government's policy to transition out of funding agreements with institutions that did not sign up to the scheme was "deeply distressing".

"To do this will directly impact the foster children in our care," Mr Jacques said.

"We will be writing to the State Government to explain the situation and hope that they understand our commitment to redress and assisting victims to register with the scheme for redress."

Tasmanian move sends 'very strong message' to others

Care Leavers Network Australia (CLAN) chief executive Leonie Sheedy welcomed the State Government's decision.

"Thank you Tasmania, you're leading Australia," Ms Sheedy said.

"It's wonderful that you've sent a very strong message to these past providers that they are accountable for the crimes that were committed on their turf.

"Care leavers abused in children's homes and orphanages and foster care have waited long enough for justice.

"How dare an organisation that received taxpayers' dollars just ignore the the recommendations of the royal commission?"

The Tasmanian Government joined the scheme in 2018.

In a statement, Tasmania's Attorney-General Elise Archer said it was incumbent on all non-government institutions to also take responsibility for child abuse that occurred within their organisation.

"This [policy] will make it clear that if a non-government organisation receives Tasmanian Government funding and is liable for claims of child sexual abuse, it must opt in to the National Redress Scheme and enable survivors to access justice," she said.

Ms Archer said the Government would also review the compliance of all funded non-government organisations with child safe policies and procedures to prevent, identify and respond appropriately to child abuse.


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