Data shows positive trends but there’s more work to do to keep kids safe

Published Wednesday, 26 October, 2016 at 11:30 AM

Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, Minister for Child Safety and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
The Honourable Shannon Fentiman

Neighbours, friends and family members are playing their part to keep children safe with the latest quarterly data showing an increase in reporting concerns about children to Queensland authorities.

The Palaszczuk Government today released its quarterly data from Child Safety Services to June 2016, on schedule and in line with its commitment to open and transparent governance.

Child Safety Minister Shannon Fentiman said it was encouraging nearly 34,000 neighbours, friends and family members had proactively contacted Child Safety Services to report a concern about a child in the 12-months to June this year.

“Reports from schools and the non-government sector have also increased, which just goes to show the message that everyone has a part to play in keeping children safe is starting to have an impact,” she said.

“This is encouraging because we know that child safety is everyone’s business and what this latest data shows is that ordinary Queenslanders are taking up that challenge and acting to keep children safe.”

More investigations and assessments commencing

Compared to the previous March quarter, 247 more notifications had an investigation commenced within required timeframes and 848 more investigations were finalised.

“The latest June data shows more than 90 per cent of notifications in 2015-16 had an investigation commenced. This is a significant improvement on the March quarter data, which was at 85.2 per cent, and reflects the work done since last year to address investigation and assessment timeframes,” Ms Fentiman said.

“However, commencement timeframes are still not where they need to be. The overall proportion of investigations and assessments that started within the response timeframe was 35 per cent. This is not good enough.

“That’s why we have invested in an additional 129 frontline and frontline support child safety workers since June to bring down caseloads from an average of 19 to 17, and to keep Queensland children safe. Recruitment is already under way.

“These new staff will be further supported by the rollout of specialist investigation teams, which are commencing work to drive better response times and enable frontline child safety staff to spend more time with vulnerable families.”

Record investment in early intervention & more foster carers than ever before

Ms Fentiman said the Palaszczuk Government’s record investment in early intervention is helping families to get the support they need, while freeing up staff to focus on children and families who are most at risk.

“Our Family and Child Connect Services have helped almost 15,000 families and received more than 22,000 enquiries for help and advice. In addition, we have helped almost 30,000 mums and dads through Triple P parenting.

“Pleasingly, the number of foster carer families continues to rise, with an extra 174 carer families in Queensland compared to the same period last year. There was also a 23 per cent increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children exiting care.

“The data shows the families staff are working with have increasingly complex needs. Nearly three-quarters of families in contact with the child protection system have multiple risk factors, including mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, criminal justice history or had parents who were in the system.”

The link between domestic and family violence and child protection

Ms Fentiman said the latest data showed a 13 percentage point increase of domestic and family violence in families who come into contact with the child protection system in Queensland, compared to a decade ago.

“Almost half of all families who now come into contact with the child protection system have also experienced domestic and family violence,” she said.

“We know there is a strong link between domestic and family violence and child safety. That is why I will be taking this issue to the Council of Australian Government’s meeting on Friday to start a national conversation on the need for a broader approach to keeping our children safe.”

Harm reports

Ms Fentiman said Child Safety conducted 460 standard of care reviews – where concerns indicate a carer may have breached the standards of care but there is no evidence a child has been harmed – and investigated 403 harm reports.

“Out of more than 8600 children in the department’s care, 163 children were harmed or at risk of unacceptable harm in the year ending June, 2016,” she said.

“We work with our carers, service providers and independent officers like community visitors to make sure children can report any concerns. We act on all concerns to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children.”

Fast-tracking of legislation

Ms Fentiman said the Palaszczuk Government is building a new child protection and family support system to meet the needs of Queensland children and families.

“We are delivering on the recommendations of the Child Protection Commission of Inquiry with the release today of an options paper seeking community feedback on the Child Protection Act 1999,” she said.

“We’re keen to hear the community’s views about how the legislation underpinning Queensland’s child and family support system can keep children and young people safe, protected and empower them to reach their full potential.

“I encourage everyone to get on board and provide feedback on their preferred options to drive change in Queensland’s child protection system.”

The review will also consider the findings from inquiries already under way, including the Queensland Family and Child Commission’s review of information sharing across agencies, the foster carer assessment and approval process, and the review of the blue card system.

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