Un­born risk alerts spike

Child ser­vices union con­cerned over mount­ing caseloads

Sunday Tasmanian - - News - CHRIS PIPPOS

A SPIKE in the av­er­age num­ber of un­born ba­bies who are the sub­ject of red flag alerts has the union rep­re­sent­ing child ser­vices staff con­cerned about ever-in­creas­ing caseloads.

New fig­ures ob­tained by the Sun­day Tas­ma­nian show 299 un­borns were the sub­ject of 348 no­ti­fi­ca­tions, in­clud­ing 40 mul­ti­ple alerts, made by con­cerned so­cial work­ers, health pro­fes­sion­als and oth­ers in the 12 months to July this year.

This com­pared with an an­nual av­er­age of 252 vul­ner­a­ble un­borns be­ing the sub­ject of 321 no­ti­fi­ca­tions be­tween mid-2009 when the pre-birth in­ter­ven­tion laws be­gan and July 2016.

Un­der the manda­tory re­port­ing sys­tem, work­ers such as health pro­fes­sion­als, po­lice and teach­ers must re­port con­cerns about po­ten­tial risk to un­borns in fam­i­lies con­front- ing is­sues such as sub­stance abuse, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, men­tal ill­ness, in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity, home­less­ness and hous­ing in­sta­bil­ity.

A De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices spokesman said the in­crease in no­ti­fi­ca­tions was rel­a­tively mi­nor, es­pe­cially when fac­tor­ing in the state’s pop­u­la­tion in­crease.

How­ever, Com­mu­nity and Pub­lic Sec­tor Union state sec­re­tary Tom Lynch said the in- crease was adding to an un­sus­tain­able work­load for Chil­dren and Youth Ser­vices work­ers that al­ready in­volved bal­loon­ing un­al­lo­cated lists for at-risk chil­dren.

“They [ un­born cases] are very hard cases and they are very hard to deal with,” Mr Lynch said. “I think it’s one of those ex­tremely dif­fi­cult ar­eas for the Child Safety Ser­vice be­cause you are deal­ing with an adult hu­man be­ing and the de- ci­sions they are mak­ing about their baby and the im­pli­ca­tions that has for the un­born child.”

The DHHS fig­ures for 2016-2017 also re­veal:

of the 299 un­borns sub­ject to a no­ti­fi­ca­tion “had sub­se­quent ac­tiv­ity within three months of birth” in­volv­ing child ser­vices staff.

of the 299 un­borns were placed in Out of Home Care within three months of birth.

The DHHS spokesman said that the sys­tem was still work­ing well to help those strug­gling dur­ing what could be a chal­leng­ing time for some fam­i­lies.

“As­sess­ments of no­ti­fi­ca­tions re­gard­ing un­born ba­bies and un­born baby alerts re­main crit­i­cal tools to en­able the Child Safety Ser­vice to ef­fec­tively plan prior to the birth of a child who could be at risk,” the DHHS spokesman said.

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