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The economic costs of child abuse and neglect

22 July 2010

This resource examines expenditure related to child abuse and neglect that is made by departments responsible for child protection services in Australia.

According to the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision [SCRGSP], 2010), in the year 2008-09 the following amounts were spent directly on providing services to children who had experienced, or who were at risk of experiencing, child abuse and neglect in Australia.

Nationally, approximately $2.2 billion was spent on child protection and out-of-home care services in 2008-09, which was an increase of $123 million (6.0%) from 2007-08. Of this expenditure, out-of-home care services accounted for the majority (66.0% or $1.4 billion).

For every child aged 0-17 years in the Australian population, real recurrent expenditure (expenditure that does not result in fixed assets) on child protection and out of home care services was approximately $432 per child in 2008-09. This varied across jurisdictions, from just over $300 in Victoria to over $800 in the Northern Territory.

Over the period 2004-05 to 2008-09, real recurrent expenditure on child protection and out-of-home care services per child aged 0-17 years increased in all jurisdictions except for the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania. Decreases in expenditure in these jurisdictions were attributed to service costs included in previous years that were not included in 2008-09.

Nationally, $254.5 million was spent on intensive family support services for families at risk of child removal and for families already in the child protection system across all state and territory jurisdictions. Over the past 5 years expenditure on intensive family support services has increased in real terms each year from $71.7 million in 2004-05. This represents an average annual increase in expenditure of 37.2% over the period.