More kids needing protection because parents' Ice use
IN THE first three months of this year, 94 children in central Queensland needed protection because one or more of their parents was using ice.
This is one case less than last year's December quarter, the latest information from the Department of Child Safety shows.
However, the number of children in need of protection because of Ice used by parents has risen overall.
Child Safety Minister Shannon Fentiman revealed the new figures as part of the new March 2017 quarterly data report.
The data shows the trend identified in 2016 is continuing, and an increased number of children have come in to care across the state as a result of parental drug use.
In the central Queensland region from January to March, 94 children needed protection as a result of one or both of their parents using methamphetamine.
Ms Fentiman said the data showed the majority of incidences where parental ice use was recorded, had parents who only recently started abusing the drug.
"This shows just how devastating this drug is and that is why we are doing so much to target the use of this particular drug so we can tackle the harm it is causing head-on,” she said.
Ms Fentiman said the introduction of mandatory drug testing for parents suspected of drug use and entering parenting agreements had given Child Safety officers another tool to keep vulnerable children.
"Ice use continues to be a problem and more parents are being tested so we can identify those families where Ice is causing harm,” Ms Fentiman said.
"We make no apology for being tough on parents who do the wrong thing, and the latest data shows just how quickly ice use can cause terrible damage to children and families,” she said.
According to the State Government, in the central Queensland region, the number of investigations related to Ice rose from 1906 to 1916.
Ms Fentiman said the March quarter data showed the investment in extra staff was having an effect.
"We are seeing more notifications and more investigations completed, showing that our initial investment of 129 additional Child Safety staff is making a difference,” Ms Fentiman said.
"We have invested $200 million to employ almost 300 more Child Safety staff to further improve our results and cut case loads for our amazing staff,” she said.
"The number of investigations we have commenced is up and the number commenced on time is also higher, despite staff working through more notifications.”
Despite the government's positive spin, the Opposition criticised the government over the latest information.
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Shadow Minister for Child Safety Ros Bates said child safety investigators were still struggling with 13,035 investigations not starting on time - up 11% compared to the same time last year.
"More than 6000 children were found to have been abused in the past 12 months, which is up 3% on the previous year,” she said.
"There is still room for improvement, but these results show that our investment in more frontline Child Safety staff is paying dividends.
"We expect the next quarter's data to show more improvement, reflecting our ongoing investments in more Child Safety staff.”
The new data underlined the importance of a broad community effort to Child Safety, with referrals coming from a range of sources.
Where parental Ice use was recorded, one in five referrals came from concerned family members, friends or neighbours, and similar proportions from Police or from Health providers. A smaller number of referrals came from schools.
Ms Fentiman said this highlighted how important initial reporting is in keeping children safe.
"The safety of our children is everyone's responsibility and people who report concerns about a child could well be saving a life,” Ms Fentiman said.
Anyone concerned about a family's situation can contact Family and Child Connect for advice by phoning 13 Family or 13 32 64.