Editorial: Failing our young people – The Mercury, July 2017

Meg Webb News and Media, Opinion Pieces and Public Commentary, Young People

Read original article on Mercury website | download the full report | contact report author: catheriner@anglicare-tas.org.au

Editorial, Mercury, 12 July, 2017

IT is hard to imagine a starker failure to look after some of our most vulnerable than that outlined in Anglicare’s latest report.

The organisation’s Social Action Research Centre answers the question it poses in the report’s title: Highly Vulnerable Teens in Tasmania — Too hard?

So it would seem.

The report details a systemic failure to provide services for young people experiencing homelessness and harm in the form of sexual and physical abuse.

It is an appalling indictment.

There are not enough services to care for these highly vulnerable children and young people who have experienced severe trauma.

Is this not the sort of baseline service governments are expected to provide? Is this not the sort of thing bureaucrats and politicians should be on top of?

Acting Human Services Minister Rene Hidding yesterday pointed the finger at Labor Leader Rebecca White, saying she was part of a government that did nothing. He said the report was “about a long period of Labor government”.

The Liberals have now been in power for more than three years. A one-dimensional response falls short of what the community demands.

The Government cannot claim to be unaware of the many problems in the provision of critical services for young people. It cannot abrogate its responsibility.

That is not to absolve Labor and the Greens of their failings in this sector during their time in power.

They also knew about the problems. They share the blame for having failed to come up with solutions.

The Government said issues raised in the report were because of drugs, crime and complex intergenerational social problems rather than any recent failings in child protection. Mr Hidding said the Liberals had put an extra $50 million into child protection, employed additional staff, started a redesign of the system and launched a new Youth at Risk Strategy.

It is now almost two years since Coroner Olivia McTaggart handed down her findings into the suicide deaths of six young people in southern Tasmania. That inquest identified serious shortcomings in the services provided to young people. It heard evidence of overstretched services and big gaps in care.

We live in an era where it is popular to trumpet the need for smaller government.

We have seen in the areas of social need, job cuts, staff shortages and flat spending and the privatisation and outsourcing of what once were core tasks to hard-pressed charities. While the quest for greater efficiency in the spending of taxpayer money should never be abandoned, nor should governments walk away from what must be core business. How can a society harden its hearts to people so in need?

We are a wealthy, first-world nation. We should not still be reading stories of young people who have simply fallen through the gaps.

It is not good enough to shift blame around. It is not good enough to plead ignorance or paucity of funds. It is not good enough to meet complex problems with simplistic responses.

It is time for governments to act, and act decisively, so the problems identified in this Anglicare report are solved, and solved for good.