In my last post in this series, The case for reform in Australian public policy - rivers of grog, I used a post by Bob Gosford to introduce the concept of unforeseen side effects. This post provides the next example.
It seemed like such a good idea at the time.
NSW had a problem with child abuse. To help overcome this, the NSW Government introduced rules making it mandatory for professionals such as doctors to report suspected child abuse.
Such a sensible idea. The only problem is that no one foresaw that the consequent volume of calls would bring the NSW child welfare system to its knees.
You see, there was no effective way of triaging the volume of calls to allow for effective follow up. Just as bad, the resource demands and pressures created actually reduced the capacity of the NSW Department to do its ordinary job.
The end result was scandal and a commission of inquiry.
Those interested can find further information in the following posts.
- 11 November 2007. NSW - Problems in Child Welfare looks at problems and a history of the early evolution of the NSW child welfare system.
- 2 January 2008. Australia - failures in public policy points to some of the reasons why child welfare had become a mess.
- 12 February 2008. Musings - Inflation, Volunteering, Child Welfare and Educational Standards includes a discussion of child welfare issues.
- 4 October 2008. Child abuse in Australia - a case of misused numbers? looks at the abuse of child protection statistics.
- 26 November 2008, Wood Commission Report into the NSW Child Welfare System provides a link through the report itself.
Note to readers:
This is one of a month long series on the need for reform in Australia's approach to public policy and administration.
Consider yourself the judge or jury as I present the evidence. Most posts will be short, introductions to other writing. My argument is that we now have a systemic pattern of failure. You have to decide whether or not I am right and, if so, what you think that we should do about it.
If you want to follow the whole series through, you can click reforming public administration on the side bar. This will bring the whole series up. Alternatively, if you want to follow the whole series through from the first post, click here and then click next at the end of each post.