A review team established within Tasmania’s Child Safety Service does not have the scope to provide the maximum benefits, a court has heard.
A coronal inquest into the deaths of six infants and one child before Coroner Olivia McTaggart heard evidence from CSS director Claire Lovell on Wednesday.
The seven children, aged between two months and 16 years, died in the North or the North-West between 2014 and 2018.
A 16-year-old and her infant died as the result of a car accident, four infants died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome as the result of inappropriate sleeping arrangements, and one infant drowned in a bath after being left unattended.
All seven children were known to CSS.
Ms Lovell was questioned over the usefulness of reports produced by the Serious Events Review Team within CSS.
She said the team was established in 2017 and while it did provide some benefits, its reports were subjective and its scope was very narrow.
“The SERT reports are very limited. They are CSS involvement only but you see bits and pieces of other services,” Ms Lovell said.
“It would be really useful to look at how we interface with the education department.
“I don’t think we are getting the maximum benefits.
“There haven’t been any cases where we have found unlawful conduct or negligence [but] there have been missed opportunities.”
She said a new review process was being designed which would likely be focused on quality and performance but some elements of the SERT process would be maintained.
Ms Lovell said CSS had to be careful when implementing a policy change after a serious event.
She said one example of this was a previous policy which required staff to complete an initial assessment of a child within three days.
“If we completed this in three days we could be sending it to the next phase with an incomplete or inadequate assessment,” Ms Lovell said.
“Attempting to prescribe this was dangerous. We preferred professional judgement and removed that requirement.”
In the case of the deaths of the teen mother and her infant being examined during this inquest, an expert on Monday told the court both should have been removed by CSS to somewhere safe.
The mother had been a victim of family violence as a child and there were reports the infant’s father had shown controlling behaviour towards the girl.
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CSS had also issued notifications in relation to instances where the infant had been inappropriately clothed and when the infant had been driven by the father, who did not have a driver’s licence, in an unroadworthy vehicle.
But Ms Lovell said she disagreed with the expert’s view.
“I cannot imagine what type of legal application we would have made to remove the two of them,” Ms Lovell said.
“We can’t forcefully remove an adolescent.
“Without any specific incident to provide a catalyst, it is very difficult.”
Ms Lovell said testing the willingness of the teen to leave may have increased the risk to her or have prompted the mother to flee with her infant.
She said based on the information available at the time, CSS staff had not considered the young mother and her infant to be at high-risk when triaging cases and there would have been other matters which were of a higher priority.
“Frightening, but true,” she said.