This is a transcript from AM. The program is broadcast around Australia at 08:00 on ABC Local Radio.
Anger at DOCS
AM Archive - Tuesday, 16 July , 2002
Reporter: Michael Vincent
LINDA MOTTRAM: There are calls for a Royal Commission into the New South Wales Department of Community Services this morning.
Last night, the ABC's Four Corners programme highlighted serious allegations of report rigging and cover ups within the child protection section of the department, including the re-writing of reports about children's deaths to erase any connection to the department.
Four Corners also revealed claims that the Department, known as DOCS, was more interested in protecting itself than children.
Both the former Minister and Departmental Director have denied the claims and the newly appointed Community Services Minister has promised an open and transparent investigation.
Michael Vincent reports.
MICHAEL VINCENT: The Department of Community Services is supposed to protect the children of New South Wales.
The mother of Jayden Luke still can't believe what happened to her young child, who died three months after being placed in foster care.
KELLY LUKE [MOTHER OF JAYDEN]: You can't, I mean, how could someone hurt someone like that?
MICHAEL VINCENT: This is just one of many cases raised by Four Corners of children known to DOCS who died.
It's claimed that as many as nine out of ten reports of child abuse are not being properly investigated and that there's not any proper collection of case numbers. On top of that there's allegations that some of the cases that are looked at, are tampered with.
DOCS worker Mary, who's voice has been spoken by an actor to protect her identity, claims managers would re-write reports after events.
MARY [ACTOR'S VOICE]: In one instance where a child had died, we had to send the file to central office because the Community Service Commission was investigating and the understanding was that we had to get the file right so that there wouldn't be any criticism of the Department.
MICHAEL VINCENT: This allegation of self-interested report-rigging has been backed up by others. A former member of the DOCS Child Death Review team, Pam Greer, claims that there was pressure from the government to tone down reports.
PAM GREER: So many of these kids who had died were known to DOCS and, um, it's simple politics and the message that came down was that it needn't be in the report. We don't say that this child was known to health or that this child was known to education and so therefore there's no need to say that this child was known to DOCS.
MICHAEL VINCENT: Last week the New South Wales Government replaced both its Community Services Minister and head of the Department but the State Opposition says in the light of the claims raised by Four Corners, only a royal commission can fully explain its failures.
Shadow Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard.
BRAD HAZZARD: The allegations of report-rigging, possible duping of watchdogs and even a suggestion that the ministerial office had interfered in the outputs of a child death review team report, really demand that we need to get to the bottom of what's gone on and there's only one way for that and that's a royal commission.
MICHAEL VINCENT: But the newly appointed Minister rejects the need for a royal commission saying there's an ongoing inquiry already and Minister Carmel Tebbutt says she wants staff to come forward with any further allegations.
CARMEL TEBBUTT: There were some allegations of reports being tampered with. The department has advised me that they're, that that's not the case but I will be asking the new Director-General to have a look at that issue and provide me with a response.
LINDA MOTTRAM: The new NSW Community Services Minister of New South Wales Carmel Tebbutt. Michael Vincent reporting.