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ACT bucks national trend as child abuse report reveals big drop in cases.

May 8, 2015 ·  By (Primrose Riordan for Canberratimes.com.au)

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Depressed little girl

Depressed little girl

The ACT has bucked the national trend, recording significant drops in child protection and abuse cases, a new Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report reveals.

The Institute found reductions in the number of children receiving child protection services, the number of child abuse investigations and the number of children eventually found to have been abused or neglected in the ACT.

Across the country, the number of children in Australia receiving child protection services in Australia rose by 6 per cent.

More than 143,023 Australian children received child protection services, or or about 27.2 per 1000 children, up from about 26 in 1000 children in 2012-13.

In the ACT, however, there was a more than 25 per cent reduction in the number of children receiving child protection services, with 1635 children receiving services in 2013-14, and 2,215 in 2012-13.

Notifications to a department are considered substantiated when there has been an investigation and it was concluded the child had been or was likely to be abused, neglected or otherwise harmed.

The report showed a 20 per cent reduction in the notifications to authorised departments about allegations of child abuse or neglect, with the ACT clocking 10,600 notifications about 5,519 children, down from 13,518 about 6431 children in 2012-13.

The number of children who were the subject of a child protection notification investigation was down by more than 30 per cent in Canberra, with 974 children’s cases investigated in 2013-14 and 1577 in 2012-13.

There was a 40 per cent reduction in substantiated complaints, with 449 complaints involving 341 children in 2013-14. In 2012-13 there was 720 substantiated complaints involving 494 children.

For the rest of the country, rates were more stable.

“The substantiation rate was similar to that for the previous year at 7.8 per 1,000 children aged 0-17 in Australia,” AIHW spokeswoman Justine Boland said.

The number of children on care and protection orders remained relatively stable, with 844 in 2013-14 and 812 in 2013-14.

The report showed an increase in the number of children in out of home care in the ACT however, with numbers moving from 538 in June 2013 to 606 in June 2014.

Minister for Children and Young People Mick Gentleman said this was in line with national trends.

The ACT also had the lowest number of children discharged from care and protection orders among the states and territories with just 111 in 2013-14, 2,052 in NSW and 222 in the less populated NT.

For Canberra children, neglect and emotional abuse were the most common confirmed cases of abuse, followed by physical and sexual abuse.

Disturbingly, and even more so than in the last period, ACT children under the age of one were most likely to be the subject of confirmed cases of abuse, with a rate of 27.7 per 1000 children.

There were 13.3 per 1000 infants in the ACT receiving child protection in 2012-13.

Rates were higher nationally, with 33.4 per 1,000 infants receiving child protection services in 2013-14.

Mr Gentleman said the figures were evidence a “transformation” was under way in the care of vulnerable children in Canberra.

“These decreases bucked an upward trend nationally and signifies fewer families have required the intervention of care and protection services in their life,” he said.

“For example, the number of substantiations of child abuse increased nationally from 53,666 in 2012-13 to 54,438 in 2013-14. In the ACT, over the same period we have seen the rate of child abuse decline.”

But Mr Gentleman said there were challenges ahead, including the over-representation in out-of-home care of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, which he marked as an “urgent priority”.

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