'Whole new direction' for Challenge

CHALLENGE Children’s Services is on the verge of starting a new era after it was awarded an $11.5 million contract last week to provide foster care services for children in regional NSW.

The move, part of an overhaul of the NSW foster care system, means Challenge Children’s Services, which is a part of Challenge Disability Services, will look after about 290 children over the next four years by providing residential, respite and foster care.

The state government’s move to outsource foster care to non-government organisations will free up Department of Community Services (DoCS) case workers.

Challenge chief executive officer Barry Murphy said the organisation was excited by what lay ahead and was

looking forward to the future.

“It’s a whole new direction for us, but there are similarities (with the provision of disability services). The children that we’ll be providing services for have normally had fairly ordinary lives, so they require that special care that we’ve been providing for over 50 years to people with disabilities,” Mr Murphy said.

“In some aspects they are similar, but they’re also very different.

“We receive a lot of funding for disability services, and now we’ve got a whole new stream of funding as well, and that’s only going to strengthen the organisation overall.”

Mr Murphy said the next three or so months would be a very busy time for Challenge as it tried to find offices throughout the region, in order to provide the services, to get staff and move clients and foster parents over from DoCS staff.

“The majority of our services are going to be in regional NSW, including Tamworth,” he said.

Challenge also provides respite services in Tamworth, Gunnedah, Moree, Dubbo, Cessnock and Maitland. Mr Murphy said its tender process was successful in every area of the state, except for the southern region and two Sydney areas.

Challenge has been planning to provide children’s services for the past three-and-a-half years, with accreditation gained about a year ago.

DoCS has about 2500 clients, comprising carers and children, statewide.

At the start of the second year of Challenge Children’s Services it will accept up to 15 per cent of new referrals.

Challenge Children’s Services senior manager David Carey said: “Our mission is to nurture and support children and young people to reach their full potential.

“Our core values focus on the safety and wellbeing of our children and young people. We encourage children to be involved in decision-making and ensure they are valued, heard and are part of the community,” Mr Carey said.

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