Abandoned by Child Protection

Abandoned by Child Protection

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The opposition has savaged the Department for Child Protection and Family Support (DCPFS) response to domestic violence following the release of findings from the Ombudsman’s investigation into violence restraining orders and domestic violence (DV) last week.

The report by WA Ombudsman Chris Field reviewed 18 months of family and DV incidences across WA between July 2012 and December 2013 including 30 deaths.

Mr Field pointed out shortcomings of the DCPFS in responding to domestic violence incidents in the case of 70 children.

He found DCPFS also did not proceed with further action in 93 per cent of duty interactions where they identified family and domestic violence as an issue.

In 44 per cent of duty interactions with the children or family where the department identified DV they concluded it was not departmental business.

Mr Field also found DCPFS did not provide any ‘active referrals’ for legal advice or help to obtain a violence restraining order (VRO) for any of the children involved in the 30 deaths.

Shadow minister for child protection Stephen Dawson said it was a damning report that exposed massive failures by the DCPFS to protect victims of domestic violence.

“The department is failing to act to protect women and children in situations where domestic and family violence has been identified,” he said.

“There are policies and processes in place to protect these people but the department is ignoring them.

“The department knows these children are living in violent situations but it’s simply not doing the work required to protect them.

“Protecting kids should be part of the core business of the department and it’s outrageous to suggest it’s not part of their responsibilities.”

Child Protection Minister Helen Morton said since the time of the review period the DCPFS had been rolling out specialist training across all 34 service delivery offices in the state. “Implementation of the training is still in progress, the program of work has been endorsed by the Ombudsman,” she said.

“The training is an important element of a suite of changes and supports that have been put in place to strengthen the Department’s response to family and domestic violence.

“Hard-won gains are beginning to be made, especially in the area of victim safety and perpetrator engagement and accountability.

“There is clearly ongoing work to make sure implementation matches the rhetoric in this area.

“If there are any barriers to complete implementation we will identify and overcome them.

“We will provide the Ombudsman with a report at the end of 12 months about how we have achieved this.”

Ms Morton said since the review, legislative changes had been made and 17 DV response teams had been placed around the state.

She said DCPFS funding for family and domestic violence in WA had increased from $21 million in 2008-09 to $34 million in 2015-16.

Starick services provide help to women impacted by family and DV and chief executive Leanne Barron said the DCPFS’s policy on DV was positive but the report showed it was taking a while to trickle down to practice.

“That’s a real priority we think and it’s a really good thing about the Ombudsman report is that recognition that children are victims too,” she said.

“Even if they are not physically hurt they are traumatised as a result of growing up in homes where there’s violence.”

Ombudsman’s report (July 2012 to December 2013)

  • The Ombudsman report showed 11 per cent of police call outs – a total of 75,983 – were for family and DV incidents.
  • About 24,500 victims were reported from about 26,000 offences with 72 per cent female victims and 33 per cent indigenous.
  • The south east metro district had more DV incidents than any other district with about 3200 incidents and 4200 offences.
  • In 16 of the 30 deaths there was a prior history of family and domestic violence, those 16 accounted for 133 incidents.
  • Of the 21,237 applications for VROs, 77 per cent were from women.
  • There were 8767 alleged breaches of VROs by 3753 alleged offenders were reported to police with 83 per cent of people accused of the breach charged.

To see the report visit http://www.ombudsman.wa.gov.au/Publications/Reports.htm.