Why authorities are preparing for a 'tsunami of child abuse' cases

Act for Kids fears cases of child abuse, especially against Queensland infants, will skyrocket as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

Queensland children under 12 months of age are about twice as likely to be abused or neglected than any other age group, according to the 2018-2019 Child Protection Australia report released in March by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The most common sources that report child abuse and neglect are police and schools.

Dr Neil Carrington, chief executive of leading child protection organisation Act for Kids, said infants accounted for almost 10 per cent of child abuse cases in the state.

"It’s the youngest kids, those that cannot even tell others what is happening to them, that are most likely to experience abuse and neglect," he said.

"What worries me is authorities right across the country are preparing for the number of child abuse and neglect cases to skyrocket as vulnerable families struggle to cope with the extreme pressures of COVID-19.

"In other countries where COVID-19 is more advanced, the number of reports involving vulnerable children are up by as much as 300 per cent."

Dr Carrington said he was expecting a "tsunami of child abuse cases" to arise.

"Unfortunately, the demand for our services is growing as more children are trapped in homes that are not safe," he said.

"This leaves young children extremely vulnerable, as they are developmentally unable to verbalise their thoughts and emotions."

Act for Kids has seen more families seeking support compared with this time last year, including parents unable to cope with children at home and financial stresses due to job losses.

An increase in children exposed to domestic and family violence, specifically emotional and psychological abuse, has been reported across Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Mackay offices.

There has been an increase in drug and alcohol abuse and it has become more difficult to safely contact victims of domestic violence as they are trapped at home with a perpetrator.

Queensland Family and Child Commission principal commissioner Cheryl Vardon said it was important to check in on families and offer support when possible.

"There are fewer lines of sight on children and young people in this current environment so now more than ever it is important the whole community take responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of Queensland kids," she said.

"Support services are still operating and if anyone in the community suspects that children are at risk they should raise their concerns immediately."

If a child is in immediate danger or a life-threatening situation call triple zero or contact a local Child Safety Regional Intake Service.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced earlier this month a further $2 million would go towards domestic and family violence service providers to cope with increased demand and costs – in addition to a funding boost of $5.5 million.

Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Di Farmer said this was a step forward to help "push back against the perfect storm environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic".


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