By ERWIN CHLANDA
The Office of Children and Families has shut down vital communications with agencies and people representing children under protection orders.
The children are exposed to inadequate care because the system is no longer open to the independent scrutiny provided for by law.
And Minister for Children and Families, Robyn Lambley (pictured), is either unaware of the turmoil in her department, or is condoning it: either way she is failing in her portfolio.
These are the views of an insider who spoke to the Alice Springs News Online on the condition of not being named.
Ms Lambley has not given an interview on these issues first requested by the News in November last year.
“When communication is cut between case workers and people representing kids at risk, easy options are likely to be taken, shortcuts are likely to be made, necessary expenditure may not be incurred, the work becomes slack,” says the insider.
“Former Minister Kon Vatskalis has described the department as a basket case.
“Case workers in such a chaotic system are very likely to say, ‘Why bother?’,” says the insider.
“Many good staff have already left, disenchanted that ticking boxes is more important than saving kids.”
Ms Lambley last week sacked Chief Executive Clare Gardiner-Barnes while describing her work in glowing terms: “She took charge of the agency during one of the lowest points for child protection in the Territory’s history … I thank her for her contribution and for her commitment to the protection of Territory children.”
This raises the question why Ms Gardiner-Barnes is no longer in her job.
Another insider says Ms Lambley, when she was the Shadow Minister, had been “at loggerheads for years” with Ms Gardiner-Barnes, and the Minister’s interference in the public service seems in conflict with the separation of powers.
The allegations come as Ms Lambley continues to dodge questions.
The proposal of a youth curfew has been raised again, but the key questions remain unanswered.
Correctional Services Minister John Elferink has made a start in the search for a solution, announcing that the government is thinking about a tough love camp.
But the real questions are: Are there enough facilities – including long term – to cater for uncared for and wayward kids? Are the responses to their (and hence the community’s) needs fast enough? Can kids be kept under supervision against their will?
Ms Lambley – on present indications – doesn’t have the bottle to make the necessary decisions.
By ERWIN CHLANDA