Busselton school chaplains call for help is answered

Busselton and Dunsborough based YouthCare school chaplains with Vasse MLA Libby Mettam.
Busselton and Dunsborough based YouthCare school chaplains with Vasse MLA Libby Mettam.

A new placement officer to deal with child protection issues has been dedicated to Busselton after it was confirmed the Department of Communities would fund the position for the next financial year.

An additional Care Team will also be based in Bunbury to assist in meeting the increased demand for children at risk in the South-West.

The announcement comes after Vasse MLA Libby Mettam wrote to the child protection minister Simone McGurk about the growing number of children at risk in the region.

Ms Mettam said the state government's priority must be the protection and safety of children and it was of concern that we had seen an increase in the number of children on the monitored list.

"The number of children on the Department's radar is tripling from one year to the next is nothing short of alarming," she said.

"I have raised these matters with the child protection minister during the Estimates process and, according to the minister, this dramatic rise in activity in the region is a result of the rise in drug and alcohol and domestic violence cases."

Ms Mettam said from 2016-2017 to 2017-2018 mandatory reports increased by 17 per cent and monitored cases have more than tripled.

"These figures are deeply concerning and it is essential that not only the government but also the community respond to these concerns."

The matter was raised to Ms Mettam by a school chaplain who was concerned about the increased number of children who presented to the service and the nature of some issues children had dealt with.

YouthCare area chaplain Karen Nelson said any services which were based locally was great because there were limited resources in regional areas.

Ms Nelson said it could be more difficult for families in regional areas to access support because of a complexity of issues such as no access to a vehicle or limited income.

While each school in Busselton and Dunsborough had different requirements depended on student numbers and demographics, Ms Nelson said some schools needed more funding and services because of various factors.

"Our job is to make sure those requirements are met," she said.

"Ideally, we require school chaplains at least three days each week, but funding does not cover that."

Ms Nelson said community members or businesses could make a donation towards school chaplains, which were tax deductible and went back into the community.

The child protection minister did not respond in time for publication.