THERE is no doubt changes need to be made to the child protection reporting system.
In preparation for the evidence I gave to the Royal Commission into Child Protection last month, AnglicareSA produced an additional submission to Justice Margaret Nyland advocating an urgent review into the mandatory notification system and the demonstrable failures in its current way of operating.
With the concerning statistics on how many notifications are never seen, never actioned and currently outstanding, it is clear the existing system needs to be addressed.
This includes prioritising reports by those with a knowledge of the family history.
We need to focus on where the implementation of the mandatory notifications system is failing. And that’s the key – the failure lies in the implementation, not in the concept of mandatory reporting.
I do not believe we should be removing this vehicle for the trusted voices in our community – SAPOL, medical practitioners, agencies who work closely with families on a day-to-day basis, and grandparents who have a close and supportive role in the child’s life – to communicate their concerns about the welfare of children.
We should be working to find a way for the system to amplify their voices and better recognise their messages.
Mandatory notification has been an important means of capturing community support and giving those with serious concern a place to register their concerns.
Premier Jay Weatherill likened the child protection reporting system to the hospital admittance system.
Just as within the hospital system there’s a way of assigning the degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses, there needs to be a similar way of assessing (and responding) based on levels of urgency and severity to the reports.
There are three aspects critical to the future success of the mandatory reporting system:
1.Overcoming the culture of fear that leads notifiers to report minor issues to ensure they are ‘‘covering’’ themselves.
2.Better educating mandated notifiers about what to report and how to respond to different levels of severity and urgency.
3.Highest priority should be given to those trusted police, health and child welfare professionals who have the background knowledge of the child and the family, and the professional expertise, to effectively judge urgency and severity.
The recent changes announced by Tony Harrison of the Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) are heading in the right direction and Justice Nyland will almost certainly recommend more.
AnglicareSA will continue to do whatever we can to support system improvements. We shouldn’t abandon the mandatory notification ship.
CEO Peter Sandeman