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Monday, November 24, 2008

DOCS should investigate 'significant harm' only: inquiry

DOCS should investigate 'significant harm' only: inquiry

Only children suspected of being at risk of "significant harm'' should be reported to the NSW Department of Community Services (DOCS), with a new body to be created for lesser problems, an inquiry recommends.

The special commission of inquiry, headed by retired Justice James Wood, handed down its final report on Monday after public hearings across NSW into child protection.


  1. Anonymous10:00 AM

    The Wood Inquiry that is claimed to solve the sad and tragic cases of death by neglect and other toxic events, does not even address the Coroner or his role in the 40 page Executive summary.

    Which for an Inquiry that was brought about by the public outrage when being informed of a small amount of the actual cases of child deaths seems more than a careless oversight.

    Especially given that there has been a 40% increase in deaths of children already known to DoCS this year, with negligible comment or coverage by the Minister concerned is utterly unacceptable. Yet she managed to usurp any fulsome comment from Bruce Barbour by beating him to the release as part of the Senate Estimates committee, thus being portrayed as a side issue of where she was at that time.

    The claim that the Minister would discuss this after the release of the independent Wood Report, remains an issue of her skills at dodging the major issues, while the report date seemed to fluctuate based on the best time for the govt to release it. Its approximate final date only given days before its release.

    The 13AB section of the Coroner’s Act is similarly not mentioned at all at this Inquiry. This addition to the Coroner’s Act is purely designed to examine child deaths in precisely these circumstances. Yet surprisingly few of these Inquests are ever actually done. After going to 3 of these meetings and speaking publicly at 2 I am amazed how little time was devoted to those wishing to address the particular area of child deaths.

    One can only assume that discussion of how few actual 13AB Inquests there actually are, is completely off the agenda. So is the blacklisting component, which I spoke of in relation to Melody Rose Conway at the Out of Care Hearing in Sydney, but it was removed from the official transcript.

    The concept of the 13AB Inquest with the greater powers to investigate the events over the preceding 18 months thoroughly rather than the haphazard approach of the CDRT, seems like at the least that should be at the top of the list. Yet it isn’t even mentioned in the Executive summary and is listed briefly in volume 3 pages 911 and 912 without mentioning all of the parameters applicable in the Coroner’s Act.

    2 pages regarding the Coroner in the final volume Justice Wood? Surely an Inquiry about Child Deaths deserves more in this regard, much more.

    The CDRT which has had a name change to the child Death and Critical Response Unit which has been roundly criticised since 2002 by former staff continues to be the preferred method for suppressing the role, that the lack of services, played in the child’s death. (See Anger at DoCS abc article).

    In Melody Rose Conway’s case the CDRT failed to adequately address where Melody was living at the time of her needless and avoidable death, such is the calibre of their investigation, even though the location was less than 10 minutes walk from their office.

    So why would Wood be advocating for more of the same level of investigation? To absolve DoCS of its responsibility by investigating itself, as it has been doing? The results have claimed a 40% increase and yet more thorough investigation of the events by outside agencies with better skilled and slightly more independent techniques are still refused?

    The Coroner has the full rights of a Royal Commission but it is advocated strongly against holding these Inquests as they look over the last 18 months of a child’s life to determine in depth whether the appropriate strategies were applied.

    Clearly these Inquests that may actually rightly conclude DoCS role by neglect or unconscionable conduct remain as secretive as ever. Routinely Coroners have said in other circumstances that expose the culpability of the NSW govt “I don’t have the powers of a Royal Commission” as in the death of Vanessa Anderson and RNSH but clearly this is patently untrue, they do have the rights AND responsibilities to perform these functions as required by the Act.

    For Woods not to advocate that more of these take place, seems ridiculous considering that the Inquiry was supposed to be about dead children and what happened to lead to their tragic downfall and death.

    How can an Inquiry set up to examine child deaths fail to include this vital function that is regularly sidestepped?

    Similarly Wood has said at these hearings that those over 13 have the greatest battles regarding the large gaps in services. Yet this too was not thoroughly addressed specifically.

    My testimony where I stated that Melody was blacklisted and refused help 13 hours before her death was not in the official transcript. Neither was the fact that I stated that there was online chat about this by workers, even though it is understood to be illegal.
    Why was this removed from my testimony?

    Given the 2004 Ombudsman’s Report that claims only 16.75% of OOHC situations did NOT blacklist I feel that this area of neglect by govt needed to be addressed.

    I submitted a document that Wood refuses to release, along with 600+ others. I have written to him regarding my express wishes for the document to be public on September 3, 2008 but still have not been deemed important enough to reply to, even though my child died in DoCS toxic alleged care, still without any adequate investigation, redress or information.

    None of those who spoke at the Inquiry were sworn in which is written in the Terms of Reference. Other specific conditions in the Terms of Reference were not honoured either, most notably immunity from prosecution. It must be noted that the tactics used to convince submission writers was verging on unconscionable.

    For Wood to actively suppress and refuse to give reasons for this suppression against the express conditions put forth within that submission to the writer, makes his findings somewhat questionable to say the least.

    The final report, to me seems to absolve any one body of responsibility for vulnerable children and yet set up a complex web of other govt agencies and alleged NGO services, but Wood’s report says will have seconded officers of DoCS at its branches? So who do these workers actually work for?

    How is anyone going to bite the bullet for these children, when each can fob off their responsibility to someone else?

    Wood’s constant regurgitation of the Brighter Futures mantra reveals that he remains unaware that this program at a time where the NSW Health budget has already been slashed is unable to fund such a program adequately. Yet it will however put NSW Health into the equation and given their past performances a happy outcome is entirely unlikely.

    Given the reaction of the HCCC over many other issues and the revelation that with other serious issues they refuse to actually do any investigation anyway. They only investigate 11% of claims currently.

    Melody’s case proves the deadly folly of the Brighter futures program entirely in exceptionally sharp focus, yet each body still 5 years after her death attempts to either blame Melody or someone else.

    The relationship between the HCCC’s head person, Kieran Pehm and Jenny Mason remains questionable as a consequence, given that their public and private relationship is surely presents a conflict of interest.
    How many serious issues will be pushed under the bedroom carpet?

    Wood’s magic wand approach to the DoCS dilemma is merely to foist responsibility onto other departments and thus create a situation where all those who drop the ball spend more time sorting out who’s responsibility it is, rather than attend to the child’s needs.

    The use of the NGO’s who’s faint criticism of the hand that feeds them are the majority of the published reports. While these groups rely entirely on funding their criticism will continue to remain feint indeed.

    "In the United Kingdom, Messages from Research proved to be a watershed in the development of policy and practice in child protection and child welfare (Parton, 1996).

    "Messages" consistently notes the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of interagency child protection practice, alongside high rates of consumer dissatisfaction. This research, alongside the "poor value for money" Audit Commission report [1994], is the rationale for the current Government drive to "re-focus" work from "children at risk" to "children in need" (Dale, 1998:5)."

    Obviously Wood didn't go with known research and opts for interagency approach, as a means of shifting responsibility and blame. The NGO's are then able to get the same confidentiality and legally binding privacy agreements that were seen with both privatised prisons and detention centres.

    Those went well didn't they? Well... no, but the details will never be known where the system broke down either as these details are completely off limits. Brace for the same.

  2. Anonymous10:02 PM

    Dear Legally Kidnapped
    I will be sending you some links if you don't mind
    Here's one
    Child welfare up for sale

    I will comment on all of these articles as soon as I can

  3. Anonymous10:05 PM

    This one has some useful comments also
    Child deaths inquiry calls for reporting overhaul

    Please follow the links to the allegedly independent reports

  4. Anonymous11:51 PM

    check this out LK,25197,24695603-601,00.html

    there's more to come soon!

    NSW is an absolute backwater of corruption more proof soon

  5. Anonymous12:19 AM
    Damning Report condemns DoCS

    If the journalist concerned actually did some research then they'd realise that it will be businees as usual.

    Admittedly the Report is 1100 odd pages long but if it isn't read and understood then they aren't reporters they are colluders and unpaid spin doctors.

    I am not saying this reportage is bad, but it covers 1 grain of sand on the beach, and given the reportage is designed to inform the public of the "truth" its more than a little disappointing.

    When we were 35th in the World for press freddom than we are at allegedly 28th. One wonders how this can be so????

  6. Anonymous8:49 AM


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