QLD Audit Office reveals 1 call every 4 minutes about children being at risk of harm
A recent audit of the Queensland Family Support and Child Protection System, conducted by the Queensland Audit Office, has shown a system under pressure, with call centre operators receiving a call, on average, every four minutes in relation to a child suspected of being at risk of harm, with many of the claims which are upheld relating to methamphetamine use.
The findings will be of interest to those working in the early childhood education and care sector, not only from the perspective of educators and leaders who are mandated reporters, but also more broadly as they advocate for children.
The Queensland Government welcomed the audit noting that implementation of several recommendations was already under way.
“My Department has accepted or accepted in principle all of the eight recommendations,” Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women Di Farmer said.
“We’re continuing to work to improve and strengthen the child protection and family support system.”
Ms Farmer said that the audit report makes clear that staff and agencies across the child protection and family support system are working harder than ever, identifying high demand and growth in the number of families with multiple and complex needs as the principle source of pressure on the system.
Nearly 40 per cent of the children who came into the care of the Department in the 12 months to 31 March 2020 had a parent using methamphetamine or a previous record of use, and almost three in every four children coming to the attention of Child Safety are living in families with multiple risk factors such as mental health, domestic and family violence and drug and alcohol abuse.
Many of the risks to children are compounded by COVID-19-related unemployment and financial problems, meaning those who work closely with children and families, including in the ECEC sector, must practice extra vigilance at this time.
Most of the audit recommendations relate to or build on work already underway, including a streamlined system for better information sharing between agencies to keep vulnerable children safe, as well as additional training and resources for frontline staff.
A unified whole-of-government response to addressing the concerns raised in the report will be crucial to supporting children and families during and post COVID-19, the Minister said, noting that more demand and pressure on support services will occur as a result of pandemic stressors.
The response of the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women to the Audit Report identifies which recommendations are already being implemented, and is included in the Report, commencing at page 42.