Annual Report 2015-2016 Office of the Children's Commissioner Northern Territory
Tabled Paper 143
Tabled Papers for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020; Tabled Papers; ParliamentNT
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Unallocated and Overdue Investigations As set out by Territory Families policy an unallocated investigation is one that has been screened in but has yet to commence. It is acceptable for a small number of these unallocated investigations to exist in the system as a 24-hour time period is allowed to allocate the investigation. However large numbers, pose a risk to children, as child protection concerns are not being evaluated in a timely manner. The pool of unallocated and overdue (unresolved) child protection investigations had increased in previous reporting years, however 2015-16 has seen a significant decrease in the number of unallocated investigations. As of 30 June 2016, Territory Families reports 74 unallocated investigations compared to 244 in 2014-15. This represents a 70 per cent decrease. The Outcomes Of Notifications As shown in Figure 8 the past five years has seen an exponential increase (157%) in the number of child abuse/neglect notifications. There are notable increases in the number of investigations commenced in 2013-14 (29%) and 2014-15 (45%). However, in 2015-16 investigations commenced have only seen a 10 per cent increase. Over the five year period the number of substantiated notifications have had slight variable changes annually, though only a 3 per cent increase from 2011-12 to 2015-16. At the end of each financial year there are a number of investigations not yet completed, which, based on previous years, tends to add around 3 to 10 per cent to the reported number of substantiations in the following year. Due to these overdue investigations, the latest substantiation numbers are even further underrepresented. Another impact on the substantiation numbers is Territory Families new process of streamlining multiple investigations into one investigation. For the investigations that are rolled up into one it only allows for one possible outcome when in the past those multiple investigations could have led to multiple substantiations. As Territory Families has experienced an increasing number of notifications over the past five years, invariably an increasing number of notifications are screened out, i.e. the notification is not investigated because it does not meet the threshold of risk where significant detriment to the wellbeing of child is likely to be established. In 2015-16, 12,603 notifications were screened out, an increase of 2,662 from 2014-15. The increase in notifications being screened out relates to the sheer number of notifications Territory Families is receiving, as well as how effective the screening process is in identifying the higher risk cases for investigation. It stands to reason that if the screening process were effective, the percentage of investigations being substantiated would be higher. However, this is difficult to conclude particularly given the complications around multiple investigations being rolled into one investigation, as this reduces the number of substantiated outcomes. OFFICE OF THE CHILDRENS COMMISSIONER NORTHERN TERRITORY ANNUAL REPORT 2015-1646
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