The NSW government's latest budget brings welcome relief to those involved in looking after the state's most vulnerable children.
In recent years,a number of high profile child abuse cases have lead to calls for improvements to the care system and making sure children who are at risk are accommodated appropriately.
The government has allotted $500 million of funding over the next four years to child protection. In 2014, there are currently more than 70,000 children in NSW described as "at risk", but according to Family and Community Services only half have received a dedicated face-to-face assessment or follow up.
In fact, Australian Institute of Family Studies suggests domestic abuse (in particular child abuse) is on the rise in NSW. Since a low in 2004-2005 of 15,493 cases, this number peaked in 2006-2007 at 37,094 before settling around the 23,000 mark in recent years.
$26 million has also been allocated to supporting 73 caseworker positions so that the state can have closer contact with families and ensure children are safe. Another $35 million has also been committed to the 19,000 NSW children in foster care, as the government moves this critical responsibility to the private sector.
The funding boost has been applauded by the Association of Children's Welfare Agencies, with CEO Andrew McCallum explaining it is pleasing to see the government assist in an area which has been neglected in recent years.
"While there is more to be done and more investment required to ensure that all children are able to grow up in safe, loving homes, this budget does however highlight the Government's ongoing commitment to moving critical child protection reforms forward in NSW," he said.
"To do nothing, or to maintain the status quo, is simply unacceptable."
Gabrielle Upton, Minister for Family and Community Services, said healthy and happy children are vital for NSW's future and the funding allocated will go a long to solving some of the constant issues effecting at risk individuals.
"It is vital our valuable frontline staff are able to work as effectively as possible with families to enable children to enjoy a safe home for life, connected with the community." she said.
Warning signs of child abuse
It is important to be aware of some of the behaviours from children which might suggest they are being abused or are at risk.
- Always withdrawn or anxious around people
- Extremes of behaviour
- Unexplained bruises or cuts
- Flinches or shies away from touch
- Makes efforts to avoid specific people
Once a child has been taken out of the dangerous situation, it is important to contact a family lawyer. As well as providing support to the child, they can give legal advice to the family and help get them through this difficult time.