CQ child safety investigations go up by 325 cases
AT LEAST 325 more child safety investigations commenced in Central Queensland in 2017, compared to the year before.
Recent data has revealed that in the December 2017 quarter, investigations into 92.5 per cent of high risk cases were launched within the required 24-hour response period.
"This is an increase of 2.5 per cent points compared to the same period last year," a spokesperson for the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women said.
Child Safety cases are assessed on how high of a risk there is to a child, with investigations required to begin within 24 hours for the most serious cases.
In cases where there is a smaller risk, investigations are required to start within five or ten days, depending on how they are classified.
Child Safety Minister Di Farmer said the most recent data showed the system was continuing to improve.
31.5 per cent of investigations requiring a five-day response were commenced within that time frame, an increase of 4.3 per cent," Ms Farmer said.
61.2 per cent of investigations did not start in the required time frame
But Shadow Minister for Child Safety Stephen Bennett was far from impressed with the statistics.
"It's staggering to think that anyone would be celebrating (this) data," he said.
"It showed that over 60 per cent of investigations are not commenced within the required time frame ... (which) equates to 13,058 cases of suspected abuse."
In 2017, only 39 per cent (8293) of Queensland investigations started on time.
Vulnerable children's lives are being put at risk ... there seems to be no end to the crisis," Mr Bennet said.
Queensland is the only state or territory in Australia where staff must investigate every notification made to the department, according to Child Safety.
And a department spokesperson explained that "an investigation is sometimes unable to be commenced within the required time frame because the family is actively avoiding contact".
More staff, lighter case loads
Extra staff are among the measures being taken to improve the timelines of investigations, with Central Queensland getting an extra 31 child safety positions over the next two years.
Twenty of those staff are expected to arrive this financial year and 11 more will follow in 2018/2019.
State-wide, Queensland will employ 292 more child safety officers - a move expected to lighten workers' case loads.
These extra staff will (also) help to improve investigation and assessment response time frames," a spokesperson said.
Tackling methamphetamine use
Mr Bennet told the NewsMail that one third of (Queensland) parents involved in the child safety system had an ice addiction.
In Central Queenslad, 104 children needing protection had a parent who had current or previous use of methamphetamine last year.
The data revealed 58 of them were using ice.
This means about one in four CQ children who were dealt with by the department in 2017 had a parent with current or previous methamphetamine recorded.
Ms Farmer said most of those children were under five years old.
Where drug-use is suspected, we have introduced mandatory drug testing of parents who want to work with Child Safety to keep their child safely at home," a department spokesperson said.
Carer family numbers going up
The number of regional Queensland kinship carers increased by 7.5 per cent last year, with 691 carer families now in Central Queensland.
The increase reflects a "focus by child safety staff on placing children who are in need of protection with kin when this is a viable option", a spokesperson for the department said.
"Children are known to experience more success in life if they are connected to family, community and, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children especially, culture."