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The failure to ensure all children in out of home care have an annual review of their placement is leaving the most vulnerable in our community at risk and needs to be addressed immediately according to the NSW Council of Social Service.

NCOSS Deputy CEO John Mikelsons said results out from the Auditor General on the Department of Family and Community Services yesterday show nearly one quarter of children did not get the review they were required to have to ensure their ongoing safety and wellbeing in out of home care.

“These are the most vulnerable members of our community and the Department is responsible for their placement, and with assessing the health, wellbeing, education and social life of the child.

“While it’s good to see the number of reviews rise from the previous year, we must do better. We can’t afford to have even one child left out of this review process, particularly noting that there were 340 allegations of abuse by foster carers in 2013-14, with 173 of those carers already having previous allegations of abuse against them.

Mr Mikelsons said all children in NSW deserved access to healthy, safe home environments and where it was necessary for the Department to intervene to ensure this, it was crucial that the care being given was resourced adequately.

“But it is clear that the delivery and monitoring of out of home care is not being given the staff it needs to ensure the care being given to children is the care they deserve.

“Despite recruitment efforts, state-wide caseworker vacancy rates remain at five per cent and these results make it clear caseworkers are clearly unable to meet their work load.

“We need to see recruitment stepped up at the Department to fill the number of caseworker jobs that remain vacant and ensure our children remain safe.”

Mr Mikelsons said the NSW Government needed to look at the support it had available for all vulnerable children in the state.

“1 in 7 children in NSW live in poverty. We know when are more likely to have health and behavioural problems, experience housing and food insecurity, and fall behind at school.

“We can be doing more across the board to ensure no child life chances are determined by these circumstances.

“In addition to ensuring out of home care is given attention, programs that ensure children are connected to their families and communities, have a safe and secure home and have access to food, health care and education from the early years are crucial for children.”