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CYFS Reviews Its Part In Kelly Gush's Death

Child, Youth And Family Releases Chief Social Worker’s Review Of Its Involvement With Kelly Gush

Child, Youth and Family has today released the findings of the Chief Social Worker’s review into its involvement with Kelly Gush.

Kelly died on August 5 2002 as a result of head injuries inflicted by her mother’s partner, Darren Mackness, who was subsequently convicted of murder.

Child, Youth and Family had been involved with Kelly and her family over four time periods since 1993. Fifteen months before her death, the Department had assessed that its intervention was no longer required as there had been improvement in the family circumstances.

CYF General Manager, Social Work and Community Services, Ken Rand said the Department’s decision to close the case in May 2000 was made in consultation between the social worker, their supervisor and practice manager and the care and protection coordinator. “It was the right decision based on the information available at the time,” Mr Rand said.

He acknowledged however that the Department did not meet its own standards in some aspects of its involvement with Kelly and her family.

In particular, the review shows a letter CYF received in relation to the family – from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in October 2001 - was not followed up. “The correspondence of October 2001 was filed in error before being entered locally as a new notification,” Mr Rand said.

“This letter should have been treated as a notification and I deeply regret that it was not. Although the letter was in relation to Kelly’s sibling, not Kelly, obviously had we treated it as a notification another period of involvement with the family would have eventuated.

“The Hamilton West office now has more robust processes for handling written notifications and all correspondence is now going to practice managers and supervisors.”

The review also found that past information-gathering and investigation processes were not carried out as fully as they could have been as a result of high caseloads and pressure of work in the Hamilton West office.

“The Baseline Review provides an opportunity to employ additional frontline staff (approximately seven across the two Hamilton sites), provide resources to improve the services we can provide to children and young people, and to provide better systems to support managers in their roles,” Mr Rand said.

He said the review process following Kelly Gush’s death had provided an opportunity for individual and collective learning for CYF.

“The Hamilton West site continues to face the challenge of delivering high quality social work, including the management of complex cases in a pressured environment. Now that there are two established practice manager positions and smaller supervisor/social work ratios, professional and practice support will be enhanced, meaning the public can continue to have confidence in the work that we do.”

He said no formal disciplinary action was being taken. “This is a case where the Department is accountable for the systems that contributed to the case management issues, rather than responsibility laying with any individual social worker.”

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