Queensland's child safety failings revealed by inquiry

AN inquiry has identified major failing in the Queensland system designed to protect children from abuse and self-harm.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie and Child Safety Minister Tracy Davis said the Queensland Government will consider the recommendations from the Child Protection Commission of Inquiry.

"Sadly, our fears have been confirmed with Commissioner Tim Carmody uncovering failures in the very system that is supposed to protect our children.

"He has found that the current system is more reactive than preventative, more coercive than supportive and too quick to shift responsibility.

"The tragedy is these issues were avoidable. The former Labor Government conducted two of its own inquiries into these issues and failed to act on their recommendations.

"Our Inquiry's 121 recommendations provide a roadmap for change and we will carefully consider each and every one of them.

"Change won't occur overnight but we are committed to getting this right."

Mr Carmody, QC, said the the budget for child protection services in Queensland has more than tripled, going from $182.3 million in 2003-04 to $773 million in 2012-13.

Reports and notifications of child abuse in Queensland tripled over the past decade, from 33,697 in 2001-02 to 114,503 in 2011-12.

"The real driver of the department's budget is the growth in demand for out-of-home care services,'' Mr Carmody wrote in his executive summary.

"If the department can reduce the costs of out-of-home care, the entire cost of the child protection system would become more sustainable.

"Many stakeholders have pointed to specific areas in the secondary sector where investment needs to be increased to reduce the escalation of funding for tertiary and out-of-home care services.'' 

Some of the key recommendations include:

• Renewed focus on supporting families to keep children at home

• Review the cases of all children on long-term guardianship orders and children who have been in out-of-home care for less than six months to see if the arrangements are still in their best interests

• Overhauling the reporting system to divert cases to support services and reduce the number of investigations

• Develop a secure care model as a last resort for children who present a significant risk of serious harm to themselves or others

• An expanded role for the non-government sector and boarding schools

• Establishing a specialist team to investigate cases of children in care dying or sustaining serious injuries

• The development of a new Family and Child Council

• The Queensland Police Service taking over processing of Blue Cards.

Mr Bleijie said the inquiry also examined the circumstances surrounding the shredding of the 'Heiner documents' in 1990.

"While the inquiry found there was no factual basis that the then Goss Government destroyed the documents in relation to allegations of child sexual abuse in youth detention centres, questions still remain," he said.

"The very act of shredding the documents may have been unlawful and I will consider the report's recommendation to refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions."

Both reports can be accessed at: http://www.childprotectioninquiry.qld.gov.au/

Child Safety Minister Tracy Davis said the recommendations included significant and necessary changes to improve the system that protects Queensland's most vulnerable children. 

"For far too long the child protection system has been overburdened and unsustainable but this Government has made improving the lives of vulnerable children a priority," Ms Davis said.

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