Reforming the state's child protection system should be at the top of Premier Peter Gutwein's priority list this year, Labor says.
The Productivity Commission's annual Report on Government Services has shown that Tasmania took more than 29 days to commence child protection investigations in a staggering 78 per cent of cases in 2019-20. Meanwhile, about 75 per cent of investigations took more than 90 days to be completed.
According to the Productivity Commission, nearly 90 per cent of investigations are eventually substantiated, amounting to the highest rate in the nation.
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While Mr Gutwein highlighted that Tasmania's child protection system was unlike those in other jurisdictions, Opposition child safety spokesman Josh Willie said the figures were "appalling" and that the state government should be "condemned".
"It's important to remember that when we're talking about these statistics that we're talking about Tasmanian children, their families, child safety workers who are stressed and under-resourced," Mr Willie said.
"I've done this same press conference three years in a row now and we've seen no change. We've seen a government that has failed to invest in Child Safety Service response times.
"[The Premier] should put this at the top of his agenda. He should turn his mind to this and make it a priority of his government."
Greens leader Cassy O'Connor said when the previous Labor-Green government left office in 2014, 44 per cent of child safety investigations were started within seven days, while under the Liberal government, the figure was 6.9 per cent.
"These are horrifying statistics that tell a story of children being left behind by the state," she said. "These delays in ensuring a protective response by the state compound the grave risk to children experiencing abuse and neglect. It is no exaggeration to say this failure to respond to abused and neglected children with the urgency they deserve risks lives."
Mr Gutwein said the government took the matter of child safety "very seriously" and would consider the report's findings, with ministers to receive advice from their departments.
These are horrifying statistics that tell a story of children being left behind by the state.Cassy O'Connor, Greens leader
But he stressed that Tasmania's child protection system was different compared to other states.
"Under our redesign [of child safety], we actually engage with families early and try to keep children in their home if it's safe to do so before we put them into the statutory system," the Premier said. "And that is a key difference between ourselves and other states."
"That triaging occurs under our system, it doesn't occur under other states' systems.
"Any child in a dangerous situation, if it's reported, we will move within 24 hours.
"The reason that such a high number [of claims] are being substantiated is that those that would normally come into the system in other states that don't need to be dealt with in the statutory system, we're dealing with them outside of the statutory system here in Tasmania first."
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