The past fortnight has put the politically charged issue of child safety and welfare at the front of the political agenda in Queensland. With both the Premier and Deputy Premier out of the state, the acting Premier, Treasurer Curtis Pitt and the Child Safety Minister Shannon Fentiman, were left to respond to community and media questions regarding the handing of departmental matters in the wake of the disappearance and subsequent murder of Tiahleigh Palmer.
By last weekend with the Premier back on deck, the government went on the attack announcing an external expert panel has been appointed to help develop improvements in the foster carer and Blue Card systems. This panel will work with the Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC), which is itself conducting a broader review into information sharing between agencies to protect children.
The Premier also announced an assessment of the Child Safety Services within the Child Safety Department including, among other outcomes, what the government believes to be cuts to the department from 2012-13 including the loss of any positions from Child Safety Services.
With the political implications for the opposition obvious, the LNP hit back quickly by accusing the Labor government of peddling lies, responding that the LNP never cut a single frontline child safety position, and subsequently called for the sacking of the Child Safety Minister Shannon Fentiman, who has since refused to resign.
In the meantime, the government has also announced 47 additional frontline support staff will be in place by the end of the year. It says this is 166 more staff on the front line than were there two years ago, and notes that it is spending $1 billion for family and child services this financial year.