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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 24 September 2019) . . Page.. 3800 ..

The ongoing wellbeing of children in our community is a shared responsibility. Child and youth protection services in the Community Services Directorate is dedicated to protecting children and young people who are at risk of abuse and neglect.

CYPS receives, records and responds to all allegations of child abuse or neglect that occur within a family. Those reports are currently running at around 16,000 a year. It is a big job. CYPS relies on members of the community for early identification of those likely to be at risk. In particular, CYPS relies on the community to make voluntary reports of suspected child abuse or neglect and on mandated reporters, certain professionals who are required by law to report physical or sexual abuse. This means that anyone in our community, a teacher, doctor, childcare worker, relative, friend or neighbour can play a significant role in preventing child abuse and neglect and can therefore make an enormous difference in a child’s life. CYPS relies on its community partners, including schools, health professionals and services, childcare providers and all those who work with families to help identify and respond to families who may be in need of support, and children who may be at risk.

In doing so, it is important that people and organisations across the community are able to provide, and are empowered do so, early support to reduce future risks to children involved if they are at risk of neglect or abuse. It is important that anyone considering making a report of suspected child abuse or neglect has a reason for their belief or suspicion. Paying attention to the warning signs of abuse and neglect and engaging and supporting families who may be struggling can prevent serious harm from occurring and ensure that the needs of the child are put first.

In the ACT we are fortunate to have access to a range of valuable services that specialise in supporting families in need. These services, together with CYPS, provide multiple avenues for children and their families to get the kind of help they need. We also have a range of safeguards in the ACT to prevent and respond to suspected child abuse. The working with vulnerable people scheme requires all employees or volunteers to undertake a background check to work with, or provide services to, children and young people.

Background checking, as part of this scheme, is one of several tools available to inform whether someone poses an unacceptable risk to children and young people using a service. In addition, organisations and individuals can provide information to assist Access Canberra to determine an individual’s suitability for registration. Information can be shared between Access Canberra and other organisations to reduce or remove a risk to children and young people.

Since 1 September, as previously mentioned, all adults are required to make a report to ACT Policing if they form a reasonable belief that a child sexual offence has been committed. This requirement seeks to ensure that all adults in the ACT have a shared obligation to keep children safe and prevent child sexual abuse. Senior staff in organisations that interact with children, including foster and kinship organisations, are now also subject to the failure-to-protect offence, which came into effect last year. This offence is aimed at ensuring that staff do not fail to act to reduce and remove identified risks of institutional child sexual abuse.

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