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Stemming rate of child abuse needs action as well as outrage

Published: 21 April 2016

The release of the 19th annual report on child protection, Child Protection Australia 2014-2015, is a cause for concern as well as for hope, says the national president of the Australian Association of Social Workers, Professor Karen Healy AM.

“Concern because so many children continue to be abused and neglected; hope because some, with their families, are receiving help and support from our child protection services. Without these services, the rates of abuse and neglect would be far worse,” said Professor Healy.

She said to reduce rates of child abuse and neglect further, some substantive changes need to be made to support child protection services.

“Firstly the public health model of child wellbeing and protection has to be more firmly embedded in Australia's response to child abuse and neglect,” Professor Healy said. “In such a model, primary interventions would be the largest part of the service system.

“By investing in primary prevention programs, we are more likely to prevent a child’s progression along the child protection service continuum and to spare him or her from the very harmful consequences of abuse and neglect.”

More needs to be done to ensure that children are heard, Professor Healy says.

“The voice of the child is almost entirely absent in this year’s Child Protection Australia report. We may hear it at the local level but it is not reflected in the reporting. The rights of children are paramount and will not be respected if their voices are not heard,” she said.

”Child protection work is difficult, complex and emotionally demanding. These systems throughout the country need to become serious about employing properly qualified and credentialed staff, and supporting them adequately.

“This includes having manageable caseloads and ongoing supportive supervision and professional development,” Professor Healy said.

To organise an interview with Professor Karen Healy AM, please contact Emma Pegrum, Media and Marketing Manager, on 02 6199 5011 or 0408 200 191.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers