The Hon. R. SANDERSON: As members would be aware, the Department for Child Protection has recently made public that the electronic Child Abuse Report Line (known as eCARL) account holders had a large volume of reports left in draft form and not submitted.
On the evening of Friday 8 June, I was advised by the Chief Executive of the Department for Child Protection that it appeared that a number of draft notifications had not been submitted to the electronic Child Abuse Report Line. At that time, my utmost priority was to ensure the immediate safety of affected children, as well as to determine the extent of the issue.
I would like to be clear: we moved straightaway to determine the safety of children first and foremost. When the department had understood the extent of the problem and determined the best course of remedial action it moved to notify the public of the issue. An internal investigation commenced immediately, and it was discovered that submissions remained in the user's draft inbox of their personal eCARL account.
In an unprecedented step, the department authorised the identification of all draft reports currently held in the user's inbox. It found that 8,762 online drafts existed dating back to 1 July 2013 when eCARL was first introduced.
The online reporting system is available to mandatory notifiers for concerns that are not considered serious. All serious concerns must be reported via the Child Abuse Report Line. When making an online report, users are advised that draft reports will not be sent to the CARL for assessment until they have been saved and submitted. Once submitted, the user is sent an email confirmation and a further email confirmation once the notification has been assessed.
The department has completed an assessment of the drafts saved in the past 12 months as a priority given these are more likely to identify matters that require a departmental response. Of the 1,000 drafts commenced in 2018:
78 or 7.8 per cent met the threshold for response by the department;
25 or 2.5 per cent were determined to be a SAPOL matter. All matters have been referred to SAPOL. Of the 1,201 drafts commenced in the six-month period of July to December 2017;
34 or 2.8 per cent met the threshold for a response by the department; and
27 or 2.2 per cent were determined to be SAPOL matters. All matters have been referred to SAPOL.
Work is continuing on the assessment of draft reports saved in the years prior. It is anticipated that the proportion of reports meeting the threshold for a response by the Department for Child Protection will continue to decrease.
Finally, the department has undertaken a review of the eCARL process to further mitigate against the risk of user error. As a result of the review, the department has implemented changes to the eCARL system. This includes the introduction of an automated email to remind notifiers if they have a draft report in their inbox after 48 hours. A second reminder email will be sent after another seven days. After 21 days and two email reminders to notifiers, the draft will then be deleted.
The chief executive of the department has also written to the chief executives of the Department for Education and the Department for Health and Wellbeing, as well as to the Commissioner of Police, to remind those agencies of the obligations of mandatory reporters. I am proud of the swift action taken and the leadership shown by my chief executive, Cathy Taylor, and her staff. I am satisfied that the Department for Child Protection took immediate, responsible and corrective action and continue to review the safety of children in our care.