THE Member for Bega, Mr Russell Smith, says the Statewide centralised Helpline for reporting child abuse is now so bad that he is calling for local residents and mandatory reporters to let him know of any problems they have experienced in trying to report child abuse.

“When it first kicked off, local school teachers, health workers and others working with children found they could wait an hour or two to get through to Helpline if they got through at all,” he said.

“Because of the delays in late January, DoCS introduced a fax-line for Government teachers.

“But they failed to tell most other mandatory reporters.

“In any case, the fax system has now been revealed as a total disaster, with mandatory reporters often getting no feedback, faxes going missing or getting no response, and cases being dealt with inappropriately because of lack of information.

“The Milton/Ulladulla Inter-Agency reported several cases to me whereby people had been left on hold for up to an hour, only to find that the office had closed and a recorded message was in place.

“Even after leaving a message, often urgent, they were not contacted on occasions for up to three days later.

“This month DoCS introduced a new voicemail system whereby reporters leave a message on the understanding that someone will call them back shortly.

“Now it appears that some urgent calls reporting child abuse are waiting three hours before even getting into the queue to then officially start the wait to be contacted by a case worker.

“Despite Helpline obviously going into melt-down we have seen the spectacle of the Minister for Community Services, Faye Lo Po’, telling us in Parliament that Helpline is working successfully.

“In the meantime, I am calling on local residents and mandatory reporters to let me know if they have had any problems with Helpline, so that I can ask the Minister to intervene where problems have occurred.

“It is ridiculous that mandatory reporters, at risk of $22,000 fines, can’t get through on the Helpline to report such a vital matter as child abuse,” Mr Smith said.

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