PLEA FOR HELP: 15,000 calls made to Child Safety
More children are in care in North Queensland compared with the previous year, new figures have revealed.
While the number of calls made to the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women dropped, there was an increase in the number of children entering the system.
In the year ending March 31, 2020, there were almost 15,000 calls made to Child Safety in North Queensland, which was 1 per cent fewer than the previous year. A quarter of those calls required further investigation.
Meanwhile the number of children the department dealt with rose, with data showing there were 1041 vulnerable children in the North Queensland district, which spans from the Whitsundays to the Torres Strait and west to Mount Isa, in the 12 months to March 31, 2019. This was 107 more children than the previous year.
The figures come as a new model is set to be rolled out at four Child Safety Service Centres in the Townsville region, with each centre specific to the needs of the area.
Under the new structure, revealed in a letter from Child Safety, Youth and Women Minister Di Farmer, obtained by the Townsville Bulletin, the Townsville West and Charters Towers and Townsville South and Burdekin centres have limited investigative function.
Burdekin MP Dale Last said this was in stark contrast to what the Queensland Audit Office recommended in a recent report.
"The letter from Minister Farmer announcing these changes says in black and white that two of the three teams that are assigned on a catchment area basis would have 'limited investigative functions'," Mr Last said.
"In direct contradiction to that change, the Queensland Audit Office released a report (recently) focused on the importance of investigations and an assessment of the time taken to commence investigations.
"You can't implement important recommendations aimed at protecting kids by giving certain regions limited investigative functions."
The Queensland Audit Office review into the child safety and report system found there was a high turnover or transfer rate of staff in the northern region. The report found that regions with this issue had the longest delays to sight a child.
The department spokeswoman said the investigation of 94 per cent of the most urgent cases in the northern region started within 24 hours of a report, which was an improvement from 92.3 per cent.
"More than half of all investigations were completed within prescribed response times," she said.
The spokeswoman said three out of four children who came to the department's attention had families with multiple risks, including mental health, domestic and family violence and drug and alcohol abuse.
"Almost 40 per cent of children coming into care have a parent using ice or a history of addiction to the drug, up from 36 per cent on the previous year," she said.
Townsville MP Scott Stewart said the state government was investing $1.3bn on child safety this year.
"We've already brought online an additional 500 frontline workers to meet extra demand and bring caseloads down to an average of 18 per worker, compared with 21 under the LNP," Mr Stewart said.
"We all have a responsibility to look out for vulnerable children because every child has a right to feel loved and safe."
Originally published as PLEA FOR HELP: 15,000 calls made to Child Safety