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Vic child protection system not coping with 10-fold rise in abuse reports -

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CHRIS UHLMANN: A whistleblower in Victoria's child protection system says it can't cope with a recent explosion in reported cases.

The staffer, who doesn’t wish to be named, has told the ABC that reports of child abuse have increased ten-fold since 11 year old Luke Batty was killed by his father at cricket practice in February.

The whistleblower says the overload means children's lives are at risk.

Rachael Brown reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: The whistleblower who does not want to be named has worked in the child protection system for a decade.

She's told the ABC the system is currently groaning under the demand for help, and her colleagues can't cope.

Since the death of Luke Batty earlier this year, reports of child abuse have increased from around 10 a week, to 15 each day.

WHISTLEBLOWER: Whilst it's a good thing that people are reporting more to us, we just don't have the capacity to respond to the demands and we're not coping.

What's in the back of my mind is potentially we could have child death.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Victorian Government recently funded 23 more child protection officers but it falls well short of the 146 the union says is needed.

And the whistleblower says it means children are falling through the cracks

WHISTLEBLOWER: We're constantly responding to crisis and can't work on our own allocated cases and do the preventative and supportive work that the families require.

RACHAEL BROWN: Victoria's Community Services Minister is Mary Wooldridge.

MARY WOOLDRIDGE: As a result of things like Luke Batty's death, the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse and other cases, we have had a significant increase in reporting. It's growing at about 15 per cent per year, but in some areas there have been higher growth rates and as a result, the Government is obviously working with those local teams where there are a significant increase in reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: This particular whistleblower says that she can't work on her own cases and also do preventative and support work

MARY WOOLDRIDGE: What we're investing in is both the response to that, but also very significant investment to try and work with families earlier so it doesn't get to that point.

So the most recent budget last month also invested in what's called "child first" - that's where we work with families before they enter the statutory system. We've also instituted new programs where we indentify young mums who are at risk of abuse and neglect of their children and work with them earlier so that that does not occur.

RACHAEL BROWN: A common theme in many reports of child abuse, is drug abuse. Child protection workers estimate about a third of cases relate to the use of methamphetamine.

A forum in Geelong this month heard a single father of three began using ice, and in five months his children weren't being fed or attending school.

Minister Wooldridge says Victoria is currently developing an education campaign.

MARY WOOLDRIDGE: We want to make sure people know it's a dirty drug, that it is not safe to use and we're targeting particular cohorts of people who may be using that to prevent them using it in the first place. But if they do, we are then significantly expanding our treatment systems, whether that be in a residential bed-based service or a counselling-based service.

RACHAEL BROWN: Last year Victoria received 73,000 reports of child abuse. That's expected to jump to 90,000 next year.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Rachael Brown.