NSW Community Services received almost 80 child abuse reports a day from the Hunter and Central Coast last financial year, making it the worst region in the state.
The startling statistics obtained by the Newcastle Herald reveal welfare workers removed more abused and neglected children from their homes in the combined region than anywhere else in NSW.
According to the department, there were 28,513 child abuse reports, involving 15,076 children, referred to Hunter and Central Coast caseworkers for further investigation in 2009-10.
The Hunter and Central Coast made up 17.5per cent of the state’s child abuse reports, even though the area represented 13.4per cent of the population.
The figure is virtually unchanged since the last time the Herald highlighted abuse statistics almost 12 months ago.
A child protection expert said there needed to be a fundamental change of focus from child rescue to prevention before Hunter figures would improve.
Alanna Hector, advocacy and policy manager for the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN), said most people did not realise the extent of child abuse in the community.
Community Services figures show there are 3089 children living in out-of-home care in the Hunter and Central Coast after being removed due to abuse or neglect. It is the largest number in any region in the state.
Reforms implemented in January last year after the Wood Special Commission of inquiry into Child Protection Services changed the mandatory reporting of abuse from when children were at ‘‘risk of harm’’ to ‘‘risk of significant harm’’.
The intention was that case workers would be able to intervene more readily in the most serious cases if there were fewer child abuse reports overall.