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National Child Protection Data Collection Data Quality Statement

Identifying and definitional attributes

Metadata item type:Help on this termQuality Statement
METeOR identifier:Help on this term583957
Registration status:Help on this termAIHW Data Quality Statements, Endorsed 25/07/2014

Data quality

Quality statement summary:Help on this term

Summary of key issues

  • The Child Protection National Minimum Data Set (CP NMDS) was implemented in 2012–13. This unit record level data collection replaces the aggregate collection previously used for national reporting.

  • The CP NMDS contains information on:

        – notifications, investigations and substantiations

        – care and protection orders

        – out-of-home care

        – foster carers

        – relative/kinship carers.

Data relating to intensive family support services are also reported in Child protection Australia, but are based on a separate aggregate collection.

  • The AIHW compiles the national collection each year using data extracted from the administrative systems of the state and territory departments responsible for child protection.
  • Unit record level data were not available for Queensland in 2012–13; aggregate data have been reported.

  • Although New South Wales provided unit record data to the AIHW, a decision was made to report aggregated data to maintain consistency across reporting in 2012–13.

  • Overall, the quality and coverage of data in the child protection data collection are good. However, data availability issues mean a small number of tables in the collection do not provide fully national data; and in relation to substantiated child abuse and neglect, in some jurisdictions, there is a high proportion of children whose Indigenous status is unknown.

  • Differences in jurisdictional policy, practice, legislation and data systems must be taken into consideration when interpreting all child protection data (see Appendixes D–I (online) of Child protection Australia 2012–13).

  • The ABS has improved the methodology used to obtain estimates of the resident population, which caused a downward revision of estimates based on the 2011 Census. An alternative methodology for estimating the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations was used for 2012–13 reporting. Due to these changes, comparisons of rates over time should be interpreted with caution.

Description

In Australia, statutory child protection is the responsibility of state and territory governments. Each state and territory department responsible for child protection provides assistance to vulnerable children who are suspected of being abused, neglected, or otherwise harmed, or whose parents are unable to provide adequate care or protection.

A number of government and non-government organisations share a common duty of care towards the protection of children and young people. Departments responsible for child protection investigate, process and oversee the handling of child protection cases. Assistance is provided to children and their families through the provision of, or referral to, a wide range of services.

The data for this collection are collected from each of the eight state and territory departments responsible for child protection, and collated and analysed by the AIHW. The CP NMDS was implemented in 2012–13. The data are extracted from the administrative systems of the state and territory departments according to definitions and technical specifications agreed to by those departments and the AIHW. This data collection represents the only national source of child protection data.

The collection is a part of the child welfare series. The agreement for ongoing funding of this series forms Schedule 3 of the National Community Services Information Infrastructure Agreement (NCSIIA). This agreement operates under the auspices of the Standing Council on Community and Disability Services Advisory Council (SCCDSAC), formerly the Community and Disability Services Ministerial Advisory Committee (CDSMAC).

Institutional environment:Help on this term

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government under the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Act 1987 to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia’s health and welfare. It is an independent statutory authority established in 1987, governed by a management board and accountable to the Australian Parliament through the Health and Ageing portfolio.

The AIHW aims to improve the health and wellbeing of Australians through better health and welfare information and statistics. It collects and reports information on a wide range of topics and issues, ranging from health and welfare expenditure, hospitals, disease and injury and mental health to ageing, homelessness, disability and child protection.

The Institute also plays a role in developing and maintaining national metadata standards. This work contributes to improving the quality and consistency of national health and welfare statistics. The Institute works closely with governments and non-government organisations to achieve greater adherence to those standards in administrative data collections to promote national consistency and comparability of data and reporting.

One of the main functions of the AIHW is to work with the states and territories to improve the quality of administrative data and, where possible, to compile national data sets based on data from each jurisdiction, to analyse the data sets and disseminate information and statistics.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Act, in conjunction with the compliance provisions of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cwlth), ensures that the data collections managed by the AIHW are kept securely and under the strictest conditions to preserve privacy and confidentiality.

For further information, see the AIHW website <www.aihw.gov.au>.
Timeliness:Help on this term

The reference period for the 2012–13 Child Protection Collection is from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013. Data relating to child protection investigations includes investigation outcomes recorded up until 31 August 2013, to maximise the currency of these data items.

The state and territory departments responsible for child protection provide data to the AIHW annually, after the end of each financial year. For the 2012–13 collection, the first iteration of data was due to the AIHW by 31 October 2013, and data were finalised for all states and territories in April 2013. Data from the 2012–13 Child Protection Collection were published in July 2014.

The data for each collection period are released in the AIHW’s Child protection Australia annual publication.

 

Accessibility:Help on this term

Publications containing national child protection data, including the annual Child protection Australia reports, are available on the AIHW website <www.aihw.gov.au/child-protection/>. These reports are available free of charge. Concurrent with the annual publication, key findings are also presented online.

Requests for unpublished data can be made by contacting the AIHW. See <http://www.aihw.gov.au/data/>. A cost-recovery charge may apply to requests that take substantial resources to compile. Depending on the nature of the request, requests for access to unpublished data may require approval from the state and territory data custodians and/or the AIHW Ethics Committee.

General inquiries about AIHW publications can be made to the Communications, Media and Marketing Unit on (02) 6244 1032 or via email to info@aihw.gov.au.

Interpretability:Help on this term

Supporting information on relevant mandatory reporting requirements, legislation, jurisdictional policy and data systems are presented in the Appendixes D–I (online) of the Child protection Australia reports. Supporting information is also provided in the footnotes accompanying tables and the report Glossary. Chapter 1 of the report provides an overview of the child protection process and data collection. Readers are advised to consider all supporting and contextual information to ensure appropriate interpretation of analyses presented by the AIHW.

Metadata for the Child Protection Collection is currently being updated for entry on to METeOR, the AIHW’s online metadata repository.

Relevance:Help on this term

The Child Protection Collection is the authoritative source of national Australian child protection data.

The collection includes several modules on notifications, investigations, substantiations; care and protection orders; out-of-home care, foster and relative/kinship carers; and intensive family support services. Where available, these collections provide information on children within each system and the child protection cases, placements and households relating to children.

For the first time in 2012–13, the overlaps between the three primary modules (notifications, investigations and substantiations; care and protection orders; and out-of-home care) has been analysed at the national level. A range of information about children who come into contact with the child protection system, including their age, sex, Indigenous status and living arrangements, is included. Data are also collected on the main type of substantiated abuse or neglect that has occurred: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or neglect.

The collection also includes numbers of admissions to, and discharges from, care and protection orders and out-of-home care; and information on households providing foster and relative/kinship care placements.

In addition to providing information on the current collection period, the collection also allows for some trends to be examined. As part of the ‘child welfare’ schedule under the NCSIIA, the collection is a valuable source for monitoring various components of the child protection system. Overall, these data give a detailed view of statutory child protection in Australia.

Data sourced from national child protection collections are used for reporting under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020 and in the annual Report on Government Services for some jurisdictions.

Accuracy:Help on this term

Data for the child protection data collections are extracted each year from the administrative systems of the state and territory departments responsible for child protection in Australia, according to definitions and technical specifications agreed to by the departments and the AIHW. Overall, the quality and coverage of data in the child protection data collection are good.

Scope and coverage

National child protection data are only based on those cases reported to departments responsible for child protection and therefore are likely to understate the true prevalence of child abuse and neglect across Australia. Further, notifications made to other organisations, such as the police or non-government welfare agencies, are only included if they were also referred to departments responsible for child protection.

There are significant links and overlaps between the notifications, investigations and substantiations; care and protection orders; and out-of-home care data modules. For example, children who are the subjects of substantiations may be placed on care and protection orders, and many children on care and protection orders are also in out-of-home care. For the first time in 2012–13, the overall number of children receiving child protection services, along with the overlaps between the separate data modules, have been reported.

Each year a number of children are the subjects of more than one notification and/or substantiation during the year. For the first time in 2012–13, the proportion of children who were the subject of more than one substantiation in the year has been reported.

Ongoing work is being undertaken on the CP NMDS to broaden the scope of the national data collection and to improve comparability of data across jurisdictions.

Data quality

Overall, the quality and coverage of data in the child protection data collection are good. However, data availability affects the interpretability of some data presented.

  • For data on Children in substantiations of notifications received during 2012–13, by type of family in which the child was residing, Victoria and South Australia report a large proportion of family types in the ‘not stated’ category (91% and 40%, respectively) and these have not been included in the total. These data are also not available for New South Wales.
  • Children aged 0–17 who were the subjects of substantiations of notifications received during 2012–13, by Indigenous status should be interpreted with caution due to the high proportion of children whose Indigenous status was unknown in Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania (26%, 24% and 20%, respectively).
  • Children substantiated in 2011–12, and who were subsequently placed on care and protection orders within 12 months, are not available for New South Wales.
  • Households exiting foster care and the number of foster children placed per household are not available for New South Wales.
  • Relative/kinship carer households with a placement during the year are not available for Queensland.
  • Households exiting relative/kinship care and the number of children in relative/kinship care placements that were placed per household are not available for New South Wales.
  • The age of children commencing intensive family support services are not available for South Australia.
  • The living arrangements of children commencing intensive family support services are not available for South Australia and Tasmania.
Coherence:Help on this term

National child protection data has been provided to the AIHW since 1993 under the agreement between the Australian Government, the states and territories and the AIHW concerning the provision of data on welfare services. In 1993, separate reports were published on child abuse and neglect (Child abuse and neglect Australia 1990–91) and care and protection orders (Children under care and protection orders Australia 1990–91).

Child protection Australia 1996–97 contained consolidated information on several child protection modules (notifications, investigations, substantiations; care and protection orders; and out-of-home care) for the first time. Child protection Australia has subsequently been released as an annual report in that format. Limited data on intensive family support services were included for the first time in Child protection Australia 2003–04. Data on foster carer households were included for the first time in Child protection Australia 2009–10 and relative/kinship carer data were included for the first time in Child protection Australia 2010–11. New analyses included for the first time in Child protection Australia 2012–13 relate to:

  • unique children receiving child protection services in each jurisdiction
  • the number of substantiations per child
  • co-occurring types of abuse and neglect
  • socioeconomic status
  • average day measures of children on orders; children in out-of-home care; and carer households approved/authorised to provide funded out-of-home care placements.

The ability to replicate and expand on existing national reporting was the primary focus of the new unit record level collection following the implementation of the CP NMDS in 2012–13. Existing national technical specifications were retained and clarified as part of this process.

It is standard practice to present 5-year trends in data, as changes in state and territory legislation, policy/practice and information management systems reduce the ability to accurately compare data over longer periods. Changes that have an impact on the data are provided as caveats to the data and in relevant appendixes to Child Protection Australia reports.

Notifications, investigations and substantiations data for non-Indigenous children before 2009–10 included children of unknown Indigenous status. Following improvements to the data collection methodology in 2009–10, these children are able to separately identified and excluded from the non-Indigenous count. Therefore, there is a break in the time series for children in substantiations by Indigenous status between 2008–09 and 2009–10.

The ABS has improved the methodology used to obtain estimates of the resident population, which caused a downward revision of estimates based on the 2011 Census. As revised population projections for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were not available at the time of reporting, an alternative methodology for estimating the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations was used for 2012–13.

  • All Australian populations (‘All children’) are based on the final populations rebased to the 2011 Census (released 20 June 2013)
  • Indigenous analyses are based on the 2006 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experimental projections of Indigenous populations to 2021 (Series B).

In order to ensure comparability, non-Indigenous populations are derived by subtracting the Indigenous population from the equivalent 2006 Census-based population projections for all time periods from 2006 onwards until new projections become available.

Due to these changes, comparisons of rates over time should be interpreted with caution.

Data products

Implementation start date:Help on this term17/07/2014

Source and reference attributes

Submitting organisation:Help on this termAustralian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)
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