Child abuse report line call centre failure

child abuse hotline with 42 per cent abandoned calls

South Australian Child abuse report line has call centre melt down

42% of callers hang up before their call is answered.

No, that’s not a typo.

The Courier Mail has reported that one South Australian government agency had over 14,000 calls abandoned to their Child Abuse Report Line in the past six months.

Now in any business, a 42% abandonment rate would be horrendous, but when those calls are to a Child Abuse Report Line (CARL) then quite frankly it’s disgusting.

Data published by the Child Protection Department online shows 14,139 calls to the Child Abuse Report Line were abandoned between June and November, or 42 per cent of a total 33,047 calls made.

The current average wait time to report Child Abuse in South Australian is about an hour and five minutes — up from 11 minutes in 2011.

The Advertiser has previously reported that one South Australian caller has waited on hold for almost seven hours to make a report.

Don’t worry though, Child Protection Department chief executive Cathy Taylor said she would increase staff numbers “to ensure CARL is adequately staffed at all times”.

Problem is it was only back in July 2016 we reported South Australia’s Minister Susan Close’s comments about trying to defend the then 27,000 abandoned called as “pretty much garbage as most callers would call back anyway”.


So call me a bit sceptical but the reassurance that Ms Taylor will increase staff numbers sounds a little vague as to an actual solution to me.

How about how many? By when?

And what about interim measures to help now – extending the hours (e.g. offering overtime) for existing staff as an example?

Callback trial to ease the burden

Ms Taylor has also committed to a 12-month trial of a call-back feature for the CARL hotline in 2017.

Now I’m all for using a call-back feature in a host of different scenarios however this is not one of them.

When someone has made the decision to report suspected abuse one can only assume that would not be an easy call to make.

They may have either had to find the strength and courage to pick up the phone and/or require somewhere private to make that call to not be in the presence of either the abuser or around people who its none of their business.

Opposition child protection spokeswoman Rachel Sanderson said the rate of calls going unanswered was “completely unacceptable” in what could only be described as a blindingly obvious statement.

Whichever way you look at it though, having an average hold time of one hour, or offering a call back is just simply not good enough.

The recent Nyland Royal Commission into Child Abuse in South Australia labelled the current Child Protection system as “outdated and in disarray” making over 260 recommendations.

The South Australian Premier Jay Weatherhill has accepted the recommendations and the government has committed over $200M to overhaul the system including “making reporting easier”.

Let’s hope the contact centre (and their current staff) get the resources they need ASAP.

2018 Update

It’s good to be able to report that there have been some improvements in the results with wait times down from 42 minutes in 2016/17 to 15 minutes 46 seconds in 2017/18.

Of course, these are average times meaning many callers will experience much worse than that so there is still some way to go, but at least it’s heading in the right direction.

Contact Details

Always call 000 in an emergency.

If you are concerned about a child and have a reasonable suspicion that a child is being abused or neglected, phone the Child Abuse Report Line (CARL) 131 478.

The report line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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