Child protection body 'missing opportunities' on abuse

·2-min read

One of Queensland's top child protection bodies is so focused on addressing children's rights statewide, individual victims are falling through the cracks and landing in abusive homes.

The Disability Royal Commission, which is investigating the neglect, abuse and exploitation of people living with disabilities, heard the Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) is unable to address individual cases of child abuse.

Principal Commissioner at the QFCC Luke Twyford told the inquiry on Tuesday his organisation provides advice to prevent systemic issues that lead to abuse.

However, it legally cannot access confidential information unless it comes from the child death register or the child death review board.

This means it cannot investigate the abuse of a specific child or family, or advocate on their behalf until it is too late.

Counsel Assisting the royal commission Gillian Mahony called this a "very great missed opportunity".

"Both of those look at children that have passed - reflecting on what could have happened to stop a death as opposed to looking at what is currently happening to stop a future death," Ms Mahony said at the Brisbane hearing on Tuesday.

Mr Twyford said the rules could be limiting but they allowed the organisation to step above individual cases and examine a compilation of issues across the state.

However, examining specific cases could help flag those broader systemic issues, Ms Mahony said.

"Without being able to look at an individual, you may be missing opportunities to perform your role," she told the commission.

One of the few times the QFCC circumvented these rules, they helped assist two brothers with disabilities who were found malnourished and locked in a bedroom when their father died

Then aged 17 and 19, the boys, given the pseudonyms Kaleb and Jonathon, were found unclothed in a bare room with the door handles removed when emergency services arrived in May 2020, the royal commission was previously told.

Among the dozens of interactions between the family and Queensland government agencies between June 2000 and May 2020, there were 30 occasions when concerns about neglect were raised or recorded.

But because of legal barriers, the QFCC could not assist in their case until the Queensland attorney-general specifically directed them to.

"We need to understand how these children and father came to be in this situation and we need to put in place preventative mechanisms to ensure it's not occurring in other families or occurs again," Mr Twyford said.

Though work is being done to assist information sharing across various state government bodies, there will still be limitations on access to confidential information that limit QFCC's ability to proactively address abuse.

This follows a March review from the QFCC which found children "have not been protected" despite being identified as at risk of harm.

The report found Queensland child safety officers did not follow procedures and police refused to share information, which further jeopardised vulnerable children.