ACT News

Nearly 500 ACT children suffered or were at risk of abuse, neglect or harm

Nearly 500 ACT children had been or were likely to be abused, neglected or harmed with neglect and emotional abuse, the most common primary type of substantiated abuse, a major report has revealed. 

A report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reveals 2215 ACT children - or nearly 27 in every 1000 - received child protection services in 2012-13.

There were 1577 children who were the subject of an investigation, 844 who were on care and protection orders and 765 children in out-of-home care. 

The report showed there 13,518 notifications to authorised departments about allegations of child abuse or neglect, maltreatment or harm involving 6431 ACT children in 2012-13.

There were 720 substantiated notifications involving 494 children. Notifications to a department are considered substantiated when there has been an investigation and it was concluded the child has been, is being or is likely to be abused, neglected or otherwise harmed. 

More than 25 per cent of ACT children were the subject of more than one substantiation. 

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For ACT children, neglect and emotional abuse were the most common primary types of substantiation followed by physical and sexual abuse.

ACT children under the age of one were most likely to be the subject of substantiations, with a rate of 13.3 per 1000 children, followed by children aged 5 to 9 with a rate of 6.2 for 1000 children. 

Nationally more than 135,000 Australian children, or about 26 in 1000 children, received child protection services in 2012-13, the report revealed. 

The report also showed indigenous children were eight times as likely as non-Indigenous children to receive child protection services. 

Senior executive for AIHW Pamela Kinnear said the report also revealed a 29 per cent increase in the number of children who were the subject of substantiations between 2010-11 and 2012-13, rising from 31,527 to 40,571. 

Dr Kinnear said a possible explanation for the increase in substantiations was that child protection agencies were now having a real focus on targeting children who really need the intervention "of a statutory service".

"You would actually see increases in the substantiation rate because they're actually targeting the kind of children where you're likely to expect a substantiation to occur," she said. 

ACT Minister for Children and Young People Mick Gentleman said child protection services were among the most complex and important services provided by government.

He said the ACT had invested significantly in reforming care and protection services in recent years to meet increasing demand and better support families.

Mr Gentleman said the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people placed in care with relatives was close to the national average while the number of children admitted to out-of-home care in the ACT decreased by almost one fifth in the two year period to 2012-13. 

"We also know that, locally, we have identified some our major challenges such as the over representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the out-of-home care system, numbers of children entering the system, and support needed for carers," he said. 

Mr Gentleman said the 2014-15 ACT budget had included a $4.1 million investment to support children and young people in out-of-home care and earlier this month, he launched the $3.05 million Melaleuca Place trauma recovery centre.  

Dr Kinnear said the report was an important step towards an improved and expanded national data collection for child protection in Australia. 

"This is actually the first time in our annual report series that we've actually been in the position to report and count the actual number of children in the system at any time during the year," she said. 

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