NAPCAN calls for stronger focus on prevention in child protection system

Governments have been urged to invest in long-term prevention strategies to help keep young people out of the child protection system. 

Data from the state Department of Health and Human Services found 31 per cent of Tasmanian child safety officers were taking on more cases than their allocated threshold. 

Human Services Minister Jacquie Petrusma said the government was already working on redesigning the state’s child protection system, with a goal of securing the safety of children.

But National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Tasmanian representative Trista Cocker said funding should also be focused on preventing any issues before they arose. 

“In Tasmania, NAPCAN has a strong focus on using education as a prevention tool, including respectful relationships programs in schools, and professional workshops on child abuse prevention and creating child-safe organisations,” Ms Cocker said. 

“It’s encouraging to see growing support for prevention initiatives. 

“What we need now is an increased funding commitment from governments to embed important initiatives and position Tasmania as a leader in child abuse prevention.”

The association called for additional funding to be spent on initiatives such as home visits, playgroups, social support groups, parenting education, child-safe organisations, and community awareness campaigns.

Ms Petrusma said the government was already working to assist families before child protection intervention was statutorily required.  

“Child protection intervention is more likely in disadvantaged homes, particularly where there is intergenerational poverty, so by turning that around, by getting more people into work, we are helping to prevent the issues that can lead to abuse and neglect,” she said. 

“Strong Families – Safe Kids has a strong emphasis on acting earlier and providing families with relevant, appropriate intensive support before they come into crisis.

“This is also about a whole of community approach to helping families in need. It is certainly not just a role for child protection.” 

The departmental data showed that in the North of the state, 40 per cent of officers had caseloads above their “trigger point”. 

This number decreased to 20 per cent of officers in the North-West, and 19 per cent in the South.