Child Abuse Victims are Failed by Breakdown Between Social Services and Police. 16/8/2017

Published by SOWETANLIVE

South Africa’s child protection system is failing its children‚ says World Vision South Africa.

“Despite comprehensive law and policy regulations‚ the lack of inter-sectoral collaboration has led to very low cross-referrals between social services and the SAPS‚” the humanitarian and child advocacy organisation said on Wednesday.

World Vision‚ which wants violence against SA children to be declared a national disaster‚ cited data from the Child Abuse Tracking Study 2017‚ recently released by the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Children’s Institute.

It said that only 19% of cases reported to social services were cross-referred to the police and 8% in return‚ noting in its statement that: “These figures were confirmed by the Children’s Institute study despite the police claiming it had referred 35% of cases“.

“Alarmingly‚ one police unit referred 10 children to social services and whilst the resultant dockets included the social worker names and/or case numbers the social workers in question could not find a single case file or identify the children on the intake register.” Furthermore‚ the study found‚ “they claimed that they had not received any child abuse cases during the reporting period‚ whilst the police had over 30 cases on record“.

Paula Barnard‚ national director of World Vision South Africa‚ said: “We’re dealing with a fragmented‚ inadequate system which is failing our children daily.”

“Perpetrators aren’t bought to justice and children don’t receive crucial therapeutic and support services that are vital to their recovery and long-term wellbeing.”

She referred to the recent case of an eight-month-old rape victim‚ where the case was thrown out due to a lack of evidence‚ saying this was unacceptable. “To this day the child and its mother have not received therapy and the perpetrator is still at large.”

South African child protection requires a multi-agency response that enables government and civil society organisations to work together to identify families that show signs of abuse and to respond to it immediately‚ said WorldVision.

Barnard commented: “The system is not protecting families in crisis which in turn means cases aren’t reported; it’s a vicious cycle of abuse and violence. Lack of social welfare support and interdepartmental cooperation mean that victims have nowhere to turn as their cases often fall through the cracks“.

She called for improved co-operation between social services‚ the police and NGOs.