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Queensland Government response to the death of Mason Jet Lee

We are continually working to improve and strengthen the child protection and family support system, and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Queensland children.

Since the tragic death of Mason Lee, the Queensland Government has made extensive changes to processes and invested significantly to implement improvements. 

Statewide improvements

In 2017 the Queensland Government allocated an extra $200 million over four years to further strengthen the child protection system. These funds were invested in:

  • 218 new child safety frontline and support positions ($100.1 million)
  • ongoing funding for 82 additional child safety staff ($24.8 million)
  • increased availability of Intensive Family Support services in high need locations ($5.5 million)
  • support for foster and kinship carers through childcare cost gap payments ($18.3 million)
  • extra services in Family and Child Connect catchments ($8.9 million)
  • ICT upgrades to support information sharing across agencies ($4.6 million)
  • 12 extra Child Safety Officers to work with Hospital and Health Services ($5.4 million)
  • additional mobile services for frontline staff to enable increased service delivery ($2.2 million)
  • a new Child Safety Quality Improvement Package, including improved supervision of staff
  • establishing the Southern Downs Family and Child Centre in south-west Queensland in 2020, taking the total of child safety service centres across the state to more than 50.

Caboolture improvements

The Queensland Government made improvements to better respond to the needs of the Caboolture community in Brisbane’s Moreton Bay region. These improvements included:

  • creating the new Morayfield Child Safety Service Centre, supported by 13 new Child Safety positions, significantly boosting local capacity, driving down caseloads, and allowing staff to work more intensively with families
  • creating other new positions in the area, including:
    - a specialist domestic and family violence worker based in Child Safety
    - a Child Safety Officer (Hospital Liaison) position working with the Caboolture Hospital and surrounding health services
    - a high-risk domestic and family violence team.
  • expanding community-based services to assist local families, including:
    - a new Indigenous Family Wellbeing service at Morayfield
    - a First 1000 Days trial in Moreton Bay area
    - targeted programs for young mothers
    - an Assessment Service Connect team to link families that have come to the attention of Child Safety to appropriate services.

Staff training and supervision

All Child Safety staff receive training and professional support to assist them in their role.

The department provides Child Safety Officers with a comprehensive training program from mandatory induction training to ongoing practice development. This training is delivered face to face and online. They also receive professional supervision.

Training for new Child Safety Officers

As well as a local and departmental induction, all new Child Safety Officers commence a mandatory training program specific to Child Safety upon joining the department.

Mandatory training focuses on critical topics, including domestic and family violence; assessing safety, risk, strengths and belonging; and ethical, legislative and practical considerations in child protection. We regularly review and update mandatory training.

New Child Safety Officers must complete the program within 12 months of starting with the department.

Ongoing professional development and training

The department has a program of ongoing professional development for Child Safety Officers and department managers to improve responses to child protection issues and strengthen recognition of domestic and family violence

Experienced Child Safety Officers complete additional ongoing practice development courses on topics such as complex trauma and attachment; cumulative harm, safety assessment and immediate safety planning; crystal methamphetamines; and structured decision making.

We know domestic and family violence affects approximately 40 per cent of families investigated by Child Safety. We continue to deliver the David Mandel: Safe and Together training to Child Safety staff by internal accredited trainers. Safe and Together is a child-centred model of domestic and family violence, and is based on the concept that children are best served when the department works toward keeping them safe and together with the non-offending parent (the adult domestic violence survivor). The model provides a framework for partnering with domestic and family violence survivors and intervening with perpetrators to improve the safety and wellbeing of children.

In late 2019, the department released a revised Child Safety Practice Manual. The manual embeds the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principles and integrates court processes, the Framework for Practice, and a domestic and family violence informed approach to service delivery. The manual is available online. The new online platform introduces practice kits to support staff and the provides good navigation and search functionality. The manual is Child Safety Officer’s first point for seeking practice advice.

Supervision

To enhance supervision processes, the department is progressively implementing a Workload Management Manual. The tool provides senior team leaders and Child Safety Officers with a means to analyse the complexity and context of individual cases and worker capability.

Additional focus areas for training

The department is strengthening Child Safety Officer risk assessment skills, and has engaged Encompass Child and Family Ltd to develop and deliver Cultivating Risk Assessment training to Senior Team Leaders.

In 2021, regions are establishing Communities of Practice to embed learning from the Cultivating Risk Assessment training and to improve the quality of child-centred ‘harm statements’ and assessments of risk.

Deputy State Coroner’s Report recommendations

On 2 June 2020, the Queensland’s Deputy Coroner handed down the findings of the coronial inquest into Mason Lee’s death. The Queensland Government accepted all six recommendations of the Deputy State Coroner.

Three of the six recommendations are completed and the remaining three are underway.

Three completed recommendations relate to more effective operation of the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) teams, comprising representatives from Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs, Queensland Police Service, Department of Education, and Queensland Health. These changes took effect in October 2020.

Another recommendation around improved information sharing between child safety and police has been completed. As recommended, police will continue reporting on the number of search warrants they seek during joint investigations, for the next three years.

Work has started on the remaining three recommendations that relate to:

  • ways to resolve disagreements between medical officers and child safety staff regarding hospital discharge decisions
  • ways to better share information with police
  • placing more emphasis on permanency outcomes for children, including ensuring that adoption is routinely and genuinely considered.

In addition, the department has worked beyond the recommendations by:

  • reviewing the implementation of the 2018 reforms to the Child Protection Act 1999, which focused on permanency
  • reviewing the case plans for children under 3 years old in care to ensure that the most appropriate long-term outcomes are being pursued
  • developing an internal permanency strategy to place long-term decision making and stability for children front and centre in child protection practice.

Chief Practitioner role

In October 2020, a Chief Practitioner was appointed. Among other responsibilities, the Chief Practitioner role has a focus on permanency, practice improvement and ensuring that reviews of serious injury and child death translate into improvements to practice.