Thursday, 9 March 2017

Mandatory Reporting in New South Wales

I am currently in Australia. Reading the Sydney Morning Herald this week I noticed an interesting article about mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect.

It was reported that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had heard evidence that the New South Wales child abuse hotline is “clogged” with almost half of reports made in 2016 not meeting the criteria for statutory action. One hundred child protection caseworkers were said to be necessary to handle reports of cases which did not meet the criteria for statutory action. Mandatory reporting was said to be part of the problem. The Royal Commission was told that mandatory reporters and staff of Child Wellbeing Units were reporting matters that didn’t meet the criteria for statutory action nearly 50 per cent of the time.

Like most Australian states and territories, New South Wales has an established system of mandatory reporting in which professionals such as teachers, doctors and police officers have a legal obligation to report child abuse.

The experience here is highly relevant to the discussions which have gone on in Britain, since the death of Daniel Pelka, with many arguing that Britain should copy Australia in introducing a similar mandatory reporting approach.

The experience in New South Wales must give pause for thought. Britain’s child protection system is already under very great stress. To introduce a system that resulted in a significant increase in what appear to be unnecessary referrals would be a reckless step.