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Economic Costs of Child Abuse

Economic Costs of Child Abuse and Neglect in Australia

Child abuse and neglect are a scourge on Australian society. Not only does child abuse and neglect have extremely negative and long lasting impacts on individuals, but on collective society as well.

Child abuse and neglect has a significant cost to the Australian economy. The prevention of child abuse and neglect must be a priority for governments, non-government organisations and the wider community.

Direct and Indirect Costs

The costs of child abuse and neglect can be divided into two categories, direct and indirect costs. Direct costs, are those such as the cost of child protection, out of home care (OOHC) and family support services.

Indirect costs are broader in scope. These can include the cost of prevention measures, services provided by health and education systems, welfare and costs associated with supporting survivors of child abuse.

In terms of direct costs, Child Family Community Australia in a Resource Sheet published by the Australian Government Australian Institute of Family Studies in 2018 noted available research that nationally in 2016/17 approximately $5.2 billion was spend on child protection, OOCH services, intensive family support services and family support services. This figure was an increase of 8.5% from the previous financial year. $3.1 billion of that amount was spent on OOCH services.

Long Term Costs

Of great concern, is that one of the most severe long term costs of child abuse and neglect is a reduced quality of life for the survivor. To combat such outcomes, specialist services for adults require funding in a range of areas, including:

– Housing and homelessness
– Drug and alcohol misuse
– Mental illness
– poor physical health/illness
– juvenile offending
– criminality
– incarceration

Various researchers have attempted to quantify the long-term financial costs of child abuse and neglect in Australia.

Some of the startling findings:

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The Costs – 2000s

$4 billion – The annual cost of child abuse and neglect for all persons abused in Australia (1)
– Further $6.7 billion being the value of the burden of disease (costs of fear, mental anguish and pain) (2)
$6 billion – lifetime cost for the population of children reportedly abused for the first time in 2007 (3)
– Further $7.7 billion being the value of the burden of disease (4)

The Costs – 2010s

In the past decade research indicates:

– In 2015 conservative estimate of the cost to Australian taxpayers of unresolved childhood trauma at least $6.8 billion per year for child sexual, emotional and physical abuse alone. (5)
– In 2015 – figure increases to $9.1 billion when broader definitions of childhood trauma considered (6)
– In 2015 – rose to $9.1 billion when broader definitions of childhood trauma were taken into account (7)
– In 2016 – $9.3 billion – estimated lifetime economic cost for children abused and neglected in 2012/13 for first time. (8)

The estimation of economic costs of child abuse and neglect have increased from the first decade of the 2000s to the second.

Youth Justice Systems

In 2018 a report by the Victorian Government(9) identified that children and young people who experience child abuse and neglect are over represented in youth justice systems. 45% of children and young people sentenced or on remand in 2015/16 were previous the subject of a child protection order. 19% were the subject of a current child protection order.

In the 2016/17 financial year expenditure on youth justice services across Australia was $769.5 million.10

Commissions and Inquiries

A further area which was highlighted as costs associated with child abuse and neglect was the numerous inquiries into child protection, abuse and neglect.

It is estimated that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse cost half a billion dollars.11 The Royal Commission itself identified 84 relevant inquiries that have been conducted in the last 24 years that were directly relevant to their own work. Inquiries at both State and Federal levels, whilst necessary, come at a significant cost to Australian tax payers.


It is imperative that all necessary measures are taken to address and stamp out child abuse and neglect in Australia. Whilst individuals continue to suffer child abuse and neglect, the impacts are wide reaching not only socially, but as research is quantifying, but also to a significant economic extent.


  1. Taylor, P., Moore, P., Pezzullo, L., Tucci, J., Goddard, C., & De Bortoli, L. (2008). The cost of child abuse in Australia. Melbourne: Australian Childhood Foundation and Child Abuse Prevention Research Australia.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Kezelman, C., Hossack, N., Stavropoulos, P., & Burley, P. (2015). The cost of unresolved childhood trauma and abuse in adults in Australia. Sydney: Adults Surviving Child Abuse and Pegasus Economics.
  6. Ibid.
  7. McCarthy, M. M., Taylor, P., Norman, R. E., Pezzullo, L., Tucci, J., & Goddard, C. (2016). The lifetime economic and social costs of child maltreatment in Australia. Children and Youth Services Review, 71, 217–226.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Victorian Government. (2018). Inquiry into youth justice centres in Victoria: Final Report. Melbourne: Victorian Government Printer.
  10. Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (SCRGSP). (2018). Report on government services 2016. Canberra: Productivity Commission.

Koffels Solicitors & Barristers have made substantial headway into providing support and compensation for those individuals who have suffered through childhood sexual abuse. We are work with victims on a daily basis, and we see first-hand the incredible impact that this abuse has on the lives of an individuals. In many cases the offences were brought to the attention of superiors yet no action was taken against these predators.

The very real difficulties in life that have arisen as a direct result of abuse , form part of the compensation that we will seek on your behalf. For a private and confidential conversation with Ross Koffel to discuss your experience, and the possibility of a claim, please contact us using our secure and private online form here; or to be sure, call Ross on 02 9283 5599.

We are here to help.

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