The State Government will close the 12-bed Queenstown Community Unit in response to ongoing concerns regarding the care of children and young people living in the large-scale residential care facility.
In addition to closing Queenstown, the Department for Child Protection will develop a new out of home care model to better support Aboriginal children and young people in care by April 2019.
The responsible and much-needed reform comes following advice from the Office of the Guardian for Children and Young People over many years and forms part of the Department for Child Protection’s strategy to individualise out of home care for children and young people.
The former Labor Government constructed and opened the Queenstown facility in 2010 – and continued to build and open large-scale residential care facilities – despite repeated concerns about the welfare of children living in these units in every annual report by the Guardian since 2005.
It is expected Queenstown will be closed by early 2019. It is yet to be determined whether the building will be repurposed within DCP or across government.
Actions by the Department for Child Protection include:
• A reduction in the number of young people living in all large-scale residential care units across the state. As at November 27, Queenstown’s capacity has reduced from 12 young people to 6.
• Better matching and placement of young people in residential care facilities.
• Ensuring experienced staff skilled in managing young people with complex needs are allocated to large units.
• An SA Health senior psychiatrist will support the well-being of children, commencing in the new role from February 2019.
• The Department has progressed a number of strategies, including improving the environment of facilities to make them feel more home-like for young people.
“The Liberal Government has taken responsible and decisive action in our decision to close Queenstown,” said Minister for Child Protection Rachel Sanderson.
“Closing Queenstown is a start – the children at this particular facility have complex needs and require specialised care and support and this is why I made the decision to close this particular unit.
“We have also reduced the number of young people living in government large-scale units across the state to better ensure the welfare of children in care.
“We know there is an over-representation of Aboriginal children in care, many of whom experienced significant trauma and have complex needs, which is why we are developing a new, specialised model of care to better support these young people.
“The Department for Child Protection will specifically engage with experts and Aboriginal stakeholders to ensure the best model of care is developed and implemented no later than April 2019 and the model will be reviewed after the first 12 months.
“As South Australia’s first dedicated Minister for Child Protection, building and opening large-scale units in this state will never happen again under my watch.
“I have listened to the advice of the Guardian and all actions have been implemented and will be continue to be implemented giving the utmost priority to the safety and well-being of children and young people in care.
“Since 2005, every annual report by the Guardian has expressed concern over the conditions for children housed in large-scale facilities and the former Labor Government ignored this advice and did nothing.
“Despite this, disgracefully, the former Labor Government opened two large-scale residential care facilities in 2010, including Queenstown, and another in 2015.
“On coming into government in March, I was advised of the decision Labor had planned to build and open yet another 12-bed facility at Davoren Park, which the new Liberal Government responsibly did not proceed with.
“I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere thanks to the hardworking and dedicated staff working in these units who go above and beyond the line of duty looking after young people with complex needs.
“Expanding foster and kinship care and strengthening families continues to be my focus as we know family-based care provides the best outcomes and is far more beneficial for our children.
“I will continue to advocate for South Australian young people in care – protecting the state’s most vulnerable children is an absolute priority of the Liberal Government.”
Guardian for Children and Young People Penny Wright welcomed the announcement.
“The Office of the Guardian has been calling for the closure of the Queenstown facility, and all the large-scale units, for a long time and I welcome the Minister’s announcement today,” said Ms Wright.
“My absolute priority is advocating for children in care in South Australia and I will continue to work with the Minister and the Department to strive for better outcomes for our young people.
“I am very heartened by the Minister’s new model of care announcement, which will offer a more targeted focus on the therapeutic and cultural needs of the children and young people in care.
“The closure of the Queenstown Unit is a strong first step and I welcome the decision to reduce the number of young people living in large-scale units.”