Friday, June 2, 2023

Four staff, special facility, for one kid on the street a fortnight

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The location of the facility in Alice Springs for children at risk, which between its opening on November 27 last year and January 10 has been used by just five youngsters, is a secret.

So is its cost.

There is no record of it in the government’s Quotations and Tenders Online website. There is no answer to questions we emailed yesterday.*

* 14 February 2023

“The program will provide expanded temporary accommodation for young people who are out at night unsupervised, considered to be at risk, and who have nowhere safe to go,” announced Families Minister Kate Worden last year.

The new program “provides an additional layer of protection for children and the community,” says the Minister, which is the only hint that she is talking about the out-of-control children who have been behind some of the recent crime spike experienced in Alice Springs, which has triggered a national media feeding frenzy.

Yet the facility is not set up to keep these children off the streets: They “are not required to stay” there, says a spokesman for Territory Families, Housing and Communities, when we asked last week.

The Safe Place Accommodation and Support program is run by the NT Government and Saltbush Social Enterprise, “a not-for-profit organisation that was developed in response to the critical need for grassroots opportunities that create prosperity parity for marginalised Territorians” according to its website.

“A Child Protection Practitioner, an Aboriginal Community Worker and a male and female Saltbush staff member will operate from the accommodation,” says Ms Worden.

She obviously overestimated in her media release last year, repeated by a departmental spokesman last week, the abilities of the referring personnel involved: “Youth Outreach and Re-Engagement Officer foot patrols, Aboriginal community organisation Tangentyere’s night patrol, and NT Police patrols provide a strong network to identify at-risk children.”

The laughable average occupancy of one child every two weeks puts that in doubt.

So what is the cost to the public? We’ve received no answer.

However, the government tenders site lists another tender won by Saltbush: “Darwin and Alice Springs – Provision of Supported Bail Services for Territory Families for a period of 36 months” accepted in November 2017 for a cool $12.3m.

This article appeared on Alice Springs News on 15 February 2023.


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