AIHW report highlights failure to address needs of vulnerable children

Hon Alison Xamon MLC, Greens spokesperson for child protection and youth justice, has called on the McGowan Government to increase investment in early support and intervention for vulnerable families as a report just released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealed that 81 per cent of children in both the child protection and youth justice systems had received child protection services first.

“When families come to the attention of child protection services this is an opportunity to intervene and change the trajectory of children’s lives. We have failed these children if, despite them coming to the attention of child protection services, we are not investing in the therapeutic support and early intervention they need, and as a result they are then coming to the attention of the justice system,” said Ms Xamon.

The report also found that between 1 July 2014 and 30 June 2018:

  • Young people who had received child protection services were nine times as likely as the general population to have also been under youth justice supervision
  • Fifty per cent of young people under youth justice supervision had also received child protection services
  • Sixty-five per cent of the females under youth justice supervision had received child protection services
  • Aboriginal children and young people were 17 times as likely to have been in both the child protection system and under youth justice supervision

“We know that young people who are abused or neglected are at greater risk of engaging in offending behaviour, so it is vital that children at risk of abuse receive appropriate support,” said Ms Xamon. “Despite the good intentions and hard work of many people working in this space, there are far too many children who are simply not being adequately cared for and supported.”  

Ms Xamon said she was incredibly disappointed the McGowan Government had chosen not to increase funding for early intervention and family support services in this year’s budget.

“Long running successful programs which provided early support for families experiencing difficulties have slowly been eroded, so much so that the latest Productivity Commission Report on Government Services revealed that in 2018 WA had the second lowest total expenditure on child protection services per child across Australia and the lowest spend on intensive family support services and family support services. This is an appalling result, particularly given the greater costs associated with the provision of services across rural and remote locations,” said Ms Xamon.  

“The system is completely failing the youngest and most vulnerable members of our community,” said Ms Xamon.

“As I’ve said before, we need independent oversight of services to vulnerable children. The Government must be held accountable not only for the care provided to individual children, but also for the priority it places on funding for these vital services.”

picture of child sitting on bench