Responsibility of parents an ongoing issue

NSW FAMILY and Community Services Minister Pru Goward's announcement of moves to make parents more responsible for their children has hit a nerve at Dubbo.

Rarely a day goes by when the issue does not come across the desk of Dubbo MP Troy Grant.

"More often than not the lack of parental responsibility dominates my discussions with constituents and community groups," he said.

"It is the most fundamental theme linked to ever-increasing social decline."

This week Ms Goward reported of a range of "bold new reforms" being developed and proposed by the NSW government in child protection.

She said a discussion paper to be released in the coming week "partly focused on parents who fail to protect their children".

"Parents must understand there are consequences when they fail to adequately care for their children and when they expose them to significant harm," the minister said.

"The discussion paper proposes that for the first time the Children's Court be able to mandate parents' participation in programs to improve their parenting capacity. Parents also need to know they are supported in meeting their responsibilities."

Ms Goward said NSW needed more legal mechanisms to require parents to participate in programs that could help them, as well as more ways to help children stay at home safely.

She is suggesting new orders requiring parents to attend programs, treatment or therapy, and longer parent responsibility contracts to boost the opportunity for parents to change their behaviour and help improve the lives of their children.

Ms Goward said the requirement of family group conferencing would result in relatives helping parents abide by court orders and an enforcement regime for prohibition orders could help keep an alleged sex-offender or violent parent away from their child.

"A wider range of sentencing options would more effectively service the purposes of deterrence and rehabilitation such as community service orders, drug and alcohol treatment and imprisonment," the minister said.

Ms Goward reported of 228,000 child protection reports concerning more than 99,000 children in 2011/2012.

"The rate of children in out-of-home care (OOHC) has continued to increase since 2007, and children and young people are staying in care longer. Currently there are over 18,000 children in OOHC," she said.

Mr Grant has welcomed reform that factors in parental responsibility.

"It is a subject that has been at the forefront of deliberations of the East Dubbo Apollo Estate Ministers Action Group and key recommendations from the group's work will compliment the minister's work," he said.

"This is a very real subject for all Dubbo electorate's communities and a very relevant issue that has to be tackled."

The government will be inviting comment from parents, service providers and other interested parties after the release of the discussion paper.


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