We are changing how we provide support and services in the ACT to improve outcomes for children, young people and families.

This ambitious plan for reform is set out in Next Steps for Our Kids 2022-2030 (Next Steps), the ACT’s strategy to strengthen families and keep children and young people safe.

The vision for Next Steps is for children and young people in the ACT to be safe, strong, connected and living their best life.

Essential to achieving this vision is our continued partnering with stakeholders on the implementation of Next Steps and our commitment to co-designing reform services with them. This will include consultation and engagement at key milestones in our journey.

Current partnering opportunities

There are currently no consultations open regarding Next Steps.

Next Steps is an 8-year strategy involving an ambitious reform agenda. Future partnering opportunities will be available across the life of the strategy and promoted here when open.

Please visit again to see when opportunities open.

Our direction and priorities for reform

The overall direction of the reforms we are taking and how we will measure our success are set out in Next Steps.

Next Steps is an ambitious plan for reform over the next 8 years.

Next Steps seeks improved outcomes in 6 areas of focus:

  1. Our Booris, Our Way - addressing over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in our statutory services
  2. Trust and transparency - improving decision making, engagement and transparency
  3. Strengthening families - providing earlier support for families when they need it
  4. Trauma responsive and restorative practice - working in a restorative way for better outcomes
  5. Partnering with the community - ensuring a joined-up system of child, youth and family services
  6. Building a Continuum of Support - working together to ensure supports wrap around children and young people for smoother life transitions.

This plan was developed based on extensive consultation with people who have lived experience of child protection. This consultation included:

Next Steps does not prescribe how this next phase of reform will be implemented. The ACT Government is committed to co-designing and developing actions plans with service users and government and non-government service providers.

We will seek your feedback and engagement on these plans as we move forward.

Shaping the new service system

The Community Services Directorate is progressing its next round of sourcing and procurement for child protection, out of home care and support services planned to begin in June 2023.

To support this, a series of focus groups were held across late April to early May 2023, along with the opportunity for interested service providers to make online submissions. Submissions closed 19 May 2023.

A listening report summarising what we heard from these activities is available in the document library or at Listening report: A new service system for child protection, out of home care and support services.

You can also read background to these activities.

Implementation planning and the first 4-year Action Plan

In developing the initial draft of the first 4-year Action Plan, we have consulted with staff within the Community Services Directorate as well as targeted discussions with community sector partners. The first 4-year Action Plan will drive commitment to action and is underpinned by early support and connected action.

Workshops were held at the Child and Family Services Reform Forum on 6 December 2022 focused on reform priorities over the next 4 years and to test and refine the draft Action Plan further.

An outline of the discussion that took place is available in the Communique - Child and Family Services Reform Forum (Dec 2022).

Information gained through these activities are currently informing the way forward for the development and finalisation of the first 4-year Action Plan.

Work on the development and design of contemporary governance structures is also progressing and will continue in 2023.

How we got here

The reform of children and family services in the ACT builds on changes already achieved since 2015 in the ACT.

A Step Up for Our Kids 2015–2020 introduced reforms focused on:

  • preventing children and young people from entering care
  • reunifying children and young people with their birth parents as quickly as possible
  • moving children and young people into permanent alternative family settings as quickly as possible when they could not go home safely.

Reform was delivered through a therapeutic trauma-informed service in the areas of:

  • strengthening high risk families
  • creating a continuum of care
  • strengthening accountability to ensure a high functioning care system.

Evaluation of the data shows that we achieved notable change in the ACT out of home care system with an increase in the number of children, young people and families receiving specialist family support services, and a decrease in the number of children and young people entering out of home care.

However, we know significant challenges remain. There continues to be an over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people entering and living in out of home care. Gaps in educational and other life outcomes for children and young people living in and leaving out of home care also persist.

You can find out more about what we have achieved in the Post-Strategy Evaluation Stage 1 Report.