South Australia's child protection system failing those in need
NICK HENDERSON, STATE POLITICAL REPORTER
June 25, 2008 08:30am
THE system designed to protect children is failing and the number of notifications of child abuse is set to jump again this year, social workers warn.
Only the most serious cases of suspected child abuse could be investigated because of huge increases in the number of reported cases and limited resources, social workers yesterday told The Advertiser.
"It puts a lot of pressure on us . . . at the end of the day you must decide what is investigated and what is not investigated," one said.
Reader comments about specific cases of abuse or neglect cannot be published
As revealed by The Advertiser in April this year, there were 18,434 notifications of child abuse or neglect in SA in 2006/07 which required some form of action to be taken by the department. Only 5806 were fully investigated and more than 2200 of the notifications were substantiated as abuse or neglect.
The number of reports of abuse is expected to exceed 20,000 when figures for this financial year are released.
Public Service Association general secretary Jan McMahon said tier two reports, which are deemed to require investigation, and tier three reports, the lowest category of risk, were not being responded to appropriately.
"Tier two and tier three reports, those suggesting a slightly lesser degree of risk to children, are almost invariably not responded to, or face long delays, due to a lack of social workers and child protection workers," she said.
"If they could actually get to see tier three then they could provide assistance to the family which would then help it never get to a tier two or one."
Families and Communities Minister Jay Weatherill said the remaining notifications were dealt with "by other means, such as referral to other services". "All notifications are taken seriously and are assessed," he said.
Mr Weatherill said money was allocated in this year's Budget to employ more social workers in the northern suburbs.
Department sources said four social worker vacancies remain in the northern suburbs and can not be filled.
National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect chief executive officer Maree Faulkner said the case was "just the tip of the iceberg".
"Hundreds of Australian children are dying every year . . . and thousands more are being seriously damaged because of personal, community and government inaction."