Tuesday, 8 August 2017
Children with disabilities
The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: Children with disabilities represent a higher proportion of children in care than the broader population. There are a range of reasons for this. In some cases, children have disabilities caused by abuse and neglect. In other instances, parents make the heartbreaking decision to relinquish their child with a disability into state care because they lack support from family and friends and even government to properly support the young person, as well as themselves, in the home.
Studies show that children with disabilities are between two and four times more likely to be sexually abused than non-disabled children. South Australia has led the way with our Disability Justice Plan, and it is hoped that perpetrators of abuse against people with disabilities of all ages will be increasingly brought to justice in the future. This is in contrast to injustices of the past, where perpetrators could operate with minimal fear of being caught due to victims not having their evidence given in court. Because children with disabilities are at higher risk, we need to ensure that our reporting mechanisms reflect this increased likelihood and respond to it adequately. We must find a way to make this a matter of priority.
Currently, there is no way of a matter concerning a child with a disability specifically being flagged when trying to get through to the Child Abuse Report Line (CARL). This must change. I note that the rollout of the NDIS will make many current Disability SA employment positions obsolete. Staff who have a background in disability services should be pressed into service where their nuanced skill set will make a real difference. Both CARL and positions within the Office of the Public Advocate (OPA), for example, come to mind as places where we desperately need this kind of specialised knowledge at the front line. As the transition to the NDIS continues, it is imperative that these experienced people be offered positions within related areas, such as CARL and the Office of the Public Advocate.
The data that we currently have on the number of children in state care and children who are the subject of reports through CARL needs to be used to inform proactive, not reactive, best practice. Prioritising reports of any type of abuse and neglect against children, particularly children with added vulnerabilities such as disability, through CARL and through other staff interactions with families has to happen now.