The stark reality of child protection issues in the South West have been laid bare in State Parliament this week as a local MP revealed the Department of Communities had ignored a homeless teen living with a violent former prisoner. Vasse MP Libby Mettam aired her grievance at the lack of support for vulnerable youth in the South West by sharing the “disturbing” story of 14-year-old Tim, a pseudonym to protect his identity, who is homeless in Busselton. Ms Mettam said the department had been ignoring urgent calls to help the teenager, who had been living in a tent with a violent adult criminal who had been physically abusing him for weeks. She described how Tim had detailed his perilous living arrangement to department officers, including feelings of depression, self harm and suicidal thoughts, only to receive offers of food vouchers rather than a short-term housing solution. “That was a shockingly inadequate response from a department that is charged with caring for our most vulnerable youth,” she said. “A homeless 14-year-old known to child protection is vulnerable and in need of support and yet his cries for help, along with those trying to help and support him, are being ignored.” Ms Mettam said each month in the last financial year, at least 69 case workers had case loads in excess of the recommended 15-case limit, with one team leader managing 58 cases. “(The Department of Communities) has been a failed repeat experiment with a high price to pay for children like Tim,” she said. “It has degenerated into a system in which children are falling through the cracks, including two children in care who have been missing for at least 40 days.” Earlier this week the department confirmed it did not know where a dozen children under its watch were living, but said 10 of those had been in contact with case workers. The agency also admitted case workers had taken home children in care because they had nowhere else to go, but it could not say how many times this had occurred because finding the information would be too tedious. The Busselton Youth and Community Activities Building has begun to adapt its space to support vulnerable and homeless youth with no place to go. The YCAB team said in the last six months it had given out 10 tents to vulnerable youth who had nowhere to go or sleep. While she would not talk about the specific details of the individual, Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk confirmed the department had met with Tim after her office had been notified of Ms Mettam’s grievance. “The situation of young people in care who, at times, remove themselves from their endorsed placement is something that is not particular to Western Australian or Australian child protection systems,” she said. “This does not mean that the department does not know where the young person is, nor does it mean that the department is not in contact with them, but it is doing the best to ensure that they are in a safe situation.” Ms McGurk noted the number of children in care had reduced for the first time in nearly 20 years.