Six years after the death of her four-year-old granddaughter, Belinda Valentine hopes a new plan will save other children from violence and neglect.
Chloe Valentine’s death resulted in new powers to remove children from parents with serious criminal backgrounds, and was one of a number of scandals that embroiled Families SA.
Ms Valentine is throwing her support behind a $192 million proposal from AnglicareSA and Uniting Communities, which aims to stop families reaching a point where children have to be removed for their own safety.
“We need to have these services put in place, we know this would have made a difference in Chloe’s case,” she said.
“We were faced with a situation where we didn’t know what to do, didn’t know where to go, and it had escalated beyond what we could cope with as a family.”
The two organisations want SA’s political parties to back the plan, involving an intensive family intervention program, and a service to support children being returned to their families where appropriate.
“It’s about listening, it’s about communication skills, it’s about supporting [parents] in a way they need to be supported, so they understand and realise it’s their behaviours causing the problem,” Ms Valentine said.
AnglicareSA and Uniting Communities say the number of children placed in out-of-home care has effectively doubled to 3,484 over the past decade, and it costs an average of $670,000 per year to keep one child in residential or commercial care.
“It must be the priority of any government to get child protection right,” Uniting Communities chief executive Simon Schrapel said.
“If we can work with at-risk families at the outset, and keep them out of the system, it will allow an overwhelmed [Child Protection] Department to focus on the most severe of child protection cases,” AnglicareSA’s Reverend Peter Sandeman said.
They want the major parties to make their position clear before the election.
SACOSS election scorecard rates Greens ahead of major parties
The South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) has released its assessment of the political parties ahead of polling day.
While it placed Labor and the Liberals ahead on digital inclusion, SA Best is viewed better on supporting children and families, spending on public health and housing, and measures to reduce gambling harm.
SACOSS executive director Ross Womersley said in spite of criticisms that Nick Xenophon was changing from “No Pokies Nick” to “Fewer Pokies Nick”, his policy outstrips the other majors.
“While it doesn’t go nearly as far as the Greens, it goes beyond our policy ask, which was to reduce the number of machines to 12,000 machines across time and undertake a number of other gambling harm measures,” he said.
Mr Womersley said all parties needed to do more to reduce the cost of living for people on moderate and low incomes.