Almost a quarter of people contacting the Northern Territory’s child abuse hotline are abandoning their calls before being answered, with some having to wait more than four hours on hold.
- Data shows 22 per cent of callers to the NT child abuse hotline abandon the call before it is answered
- The average wait time is six minutes
- One caller was put on hold for four hours and 15 minutes
In the Territory, it is mandatory to report concerns about a child being abused or neglected.
In the first nine months of the year, 21,293 calls were made to 24-hour hotline, but new data provided to the NT Opposition shows average wait times of almost six minutes before calls are answered.
“We know that people who decide to pick up the phone and report child abuse are doing something that’s very, very difficult,” the Opposition’s Deputy Leader Lia Finocchiaro said.
“And it needs to be made as easy as possible for people to report these incidents so that it can be dealt with swiftly in order to protect children.”
The longest wait time experienced by an individual was four hours and 15 minutes.
“An average wait time of five minutes is not acceptable, but to know that someone waited for four hours and 15 minutes is truly astonishing,” Ms Finocchiaro said.
Territory Families deputy CEO Janette Kerr acknowledged improvements needed to be made.
“The average wait time being five minutes isn’t ideal and it’s certainly not a great customer focus and frustrating for people,” she said.
But Ms Kerr suggested wait times were not the only reason 22 per cent of people were hanging up before their calls were answered.
“It might be because they decide to put in a notification in another format,” Ms Kerr said.
“Or they are ringing for administrative reasons and they ring back at a time when it’s a shorter wait.”
She said Territory Families was in the process of implementing a more streamlined service, which includes six new staff in its central intake, bringing the total number to 30.
The staff roster will be adjusted to better deal with peak times during business hours and a new web portal will be set up early next year to police, teachers and medical staff to notify their concerns online.
A new process of triaging calls will also be rolled out.
“That will ease the burden on the phone line significantly,” she said.