Govt under attack for failing kids

APPALLING new figures show the failure of respective government ministers to protect children in NSW, State Member for Clarence Steve Cansdell has said.

His comments follow the release of figures showing a jump last year in the number of deaths among children known to the Department of Community Services (DoCS).

“We have made many representations to the Minister on behalf of children who are at risk,” Mr Cansdell said.

However, the MP said DoCS staff in Northern NSW were overstretched. “Until there is a tragedy cases are ignored,” he said.

According to figures reported by the Community Services Minister Linda Burney to a Parliamentary Estimates Committee on Wednesday, of the 600 children who died in NSW last year, 156 were from families known to DoCS.

Ms Burney said she was disturbed by the figures, which where up from 2006, when 114 children died.

But she said it was important people understood what the term 'known to DoCS' meant.

“Every child reported to the helpline is, and will always be, 'known to DoCS', even if no action needs to be taken, or the topic of the report is resolved,” she said.

In NSW 340,000 children, or 22 per cent of the child population, are known to DoCS.

Ms Burney said complex social problems and mental illness in parents continued to erode the safety of children.

Domestic violence and parental substance abuse were the most frequently-recorded child protection risk factors, she said.

Of the 156 deaths of children last year, more than half were from families that had been reported to DoCS for domestic violence within three years of the child's death.

Ms Burney said DoCS was implementing a series of strategies to provide greater protections for at-risk children.

The NSW Ombudsman has reviewed all 156 deaths and will report the results of his investigation later this year .

Of the 156 deaths:
  •   Four died as a result of a fatal physical attack.
  •   Two died from heat exhaustion.
  •   Three died from accidental choking or smothering.
  •   Eight died as a result of suicide or extreme risk-taking behaviour.
  •   Three died from a drug overdose.
  •   Five died from drowning.
  •   Three died as a result of fire.
  •   Eight died in motor vehicle accidents.
  •   19 died from causes currently unknown and were awaiting a coronial process.
  •   11 died in uncommon circumstances, which included a snake bite and being hit by a train.
  •   18 died from SIDS or co-sleeping with a parent.
  •   72 died from natural causes.

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