Published: 29 June 2017

The Advocate, Friday June 5, 2017 - By Leah McBey

The government is considering changing the law so foster parents could claim for workplace injuries.

Guy Barnett, Minister for Building and Construction said he had asked the WorkCover Tasmania Board to consider the issue, after a request from MLC Ruth Forrest.

Caring couple: Foster parents Sharon and Steven Applebee of Stony Rise, Devonport, would welcome a law change. Picture: File photo 

At the moment, foster parents are not covered under the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988. That was a surprise to Sharon Applebee, who, with husband Steven, has been a foster parent for about ten years.

“I didn’t know we weren’t covered,” she said, adding she had never been injured while foster parenting, and did not know of anyone who had been.

“But I think it’s good idea because you never know when you might need it,” she said. Mr and Mrs Applebee have fostered at least 20 children over their decade of caring.

Ms Forrest said the law was aimed at injuries in the workplace, but extended to volunteer firefighters and ambulance drivers.

“If a foster parent is injured during the course of their work they are not covered by workers’ compensation like other volunteers,” she said.

“We are in desperate need of more foster parents and we need to be doing everything we can to support them, … providing foster parents with the same protection as other volunteer workers.

“Foster parents work with families and kids in trouble. Sometimes they can be injured as a result of this work and should be eligible for assistance if that happens to them.”

Ms Forrest said the law would only need a simple change to say that volunteer foster parents were to be treated as workers, as the legal framework was already there.

She said the state found it hard to find new couples willing to take on children.

“We are asking for new parents to put their hands up for fostering,” she said. 

The search for foster parents was so challenging that some time ago, the Department of Health and Human Services had advertised on Facebook’s buy and sell pages for foster parents. The ad was later removed.

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