Opinion

LETTER: Government needs to act faster on child abuse cases

Sadly, in recent times we have seen child death after child death and review after review and no change, says Ros Bates.
Sadly, in recent times we have seen child death after child death and review after review and no change, says Ros Bates. BrianAJackson

THE death of any child is tragic, but it is also a sad indictment on our society if that child is meant to be protected by the State.

In recent months, Queenslanders have been horrified by reports of alleged abuse and tragedy involving vulnerable children known to Child Safety Services.

These children relied on a system to protect them, but that system let them down.

The death of a child known to Child Safety deserves scrutiny not only from internal processes, but also from the Opposition and the general public, and any lessons from the review must be acted on so change occurs to prevent a death happening again.

Sadly, in recent times we have seen child death after child death and review after review and no change.

The 2014/15 annual child death case review report specifically said:

"A key finding from a number of panels related to delays in commencing investigations and subsequent delays in risk assessment or service provision to children, young people and families."

This warning should have alerted the current Minister, Shannon Fentiman, to the emerging problem of investigation backlogs in July 2015.

In October last year, the Minister was again made aware of data showing slow response times for starting investigations into reports of child abuse.

This data represents real children being left in abusive homes waiting for the agency that is there to protect them to come.

The fact is there are thousands of back-logged child abuse investigations across our state.

What's more troubling is that when cases are finally investigated, a vast number are substantiated and the child is deemed as in need of protection.

The practice of down grading cases to take pressure off the system shouldn't be occurring.

In 2015/16, there were more than 50 deaths of children known to the Department - with 21 of them as a result of direct or suspected abuse.

Resourcing continues to be raised as a matter of urgency.

Instead of increasing funding to help these centres meet demand, Labor's budget allocations are lean - in some cases, they've even gone down.

As glaring problems continue to emerge within Child Safety under Minister Fentiman's watch, the lack of a response has been woefully inadequate.

Ms Fentiman's habit of re-announcing initiatives that have already been budgeted for, and calling for reviews rather than taking real action, has fallen well short of expectations.

Her answers to questions in Parliament demonstrate her lack of urgency in matters that need rapid action.

This isn't about politics. It's about our children.

ROS BATES

Shadow Minister for Child Safety

Topics:  child abuse letters to the editor



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