10,000 child abuse claims

TASMANIA has recorded more than 10,000 allegations of child abuse in a year.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's latest figures show there were 10,689 notifications to Children and Youth Services in 2010-11.

They ranged from suspicion of physical and sexual abuse to chronic neglect and exposure to family violence.

All reports were examined and 2278 were subject to further investigation.

The figures were obtained through the Health and Human Services Department. They did not indicate how many of the allegations were substantiated.

Department acting deputy secretary  Susan Diamond said that the notifications included 312 made by Tasmanian school personnel.

Principals, teachers, health professionals and police officers are legally bound to report concerns and can face penalties if they do not.

The Education Department has had a policy of mandatory reporting since 2000, and concerns of child abuse must be reported to Child Protection Services.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard this month announced a royal commission to examine institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

Dr Diamond said cases reported by teachers often occurred when they became concerned by unexplained bruises, children without lunches or clean clothes, or    unusual behaviour.

Figures from Child Protection Services for 2010-11  show that Tasmania Police and social workers made the most notifications, followed by schools.

The overall rate of substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect was 9.5 per thousand children, which is 56 per cent higher than the national rate.

Emotional abuse was the most common substantiated, and accounted for 41 per cent of cases.

This was followed by neglect (32.3 per cent), physical abuse (14.4 per cent) and sexual abuse (7.5 per cent).

Australian Education Union state president Terry Polglase said teachers were obligated to report anything they saw.

He said schools relied on direct, timely access to outside services to ensure students were dealt with in the best manner but the welfare services were stretched.

Tasmanian State School Parents and Friends president Jenny Eddington said child safety was her group's main concern and it supported the implementation of a working-with-children check and ID card that would be carried by those working regularly in schools.

Human Services Minister Cassy O'Connor is expected to take a model of the working-with-children checks to cabinet by the end of the year.


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