Active Research

Effect of multi-agency deliberation on perceptions of risk in responses to child abuse and neglect

    • Response to child sexual abuse
    Research Topic areas 
    • Domestic & family violence
    • Government & policy responses
    • Intersection with other violence/victimisation
    • Justice & legal responses
    • Mental health
    • Therapeutic responses
    Project Duration
    Start: October 2023
    End: February 2024
    Geographical Scope
    Adults (25-65 years)
    All genders

    Project Lead

    Dr James Herbert, Centre for Social Impact - UWA
    Project lead email:

    Project Team


    Holding multi-agency case review meetings is a common element of state responses to child abuse and neglect. While they are usually held to facilitate the exchange of information, most responses also assume that case review meetings enable more rapid decision-making, improved coordination of decision-making across agencies, and improved accountability across agencies. Responses also commonly assume that holding case review meetings between authorities results in improved decision-making, conceptualised as either improved identification and prediction of risk, more consistent responses across cases, or improved agreement between inter-agency colleagues. All of these conceptualisations assume that individuals change their perceptions as a result of these meetings.


    Develop and pilot a multi-agency risk assessment tool to rate the perceived risk of abuse and recommended actions in response to a case.
    Develop a series of realistic case vignettes for participants to assess.
    Examine the effects of multi-agency deliberation on perceived risk and recommended actions in response to a series of case vignettes.
    Complete a jurisdictional scan of the process by which multi-agency case review meetings are held in Australian and Canadian jurisdictions.


    A mixed methods approach was used, involving a pre-post quasi-experimental design to examine whether participating in a multi-agency case discussion changed perceptions of risk, and a qualitative analysis of the deliberation sessions and a series of follow-up interviews.

    Significance and Dissemination

    Most jurisdictions in Australia have a process of holding case review meetings between police, child protection, and health authorities. These meetings are the point at which critical decisions about a particular case are made, shared, and discussed between agencies. This research represents the first direct investigation of whether holding multi-agency deliberation changes perceptions of risk and recommended actions on a series of suspected child abuse case vignettes. Examining whether professionals change their minds as a result of what they hear from their colleagues at a multi-agency case review will create opportunities to better understand how these meetings work, and potentially identify how the structure of these meetings can facilitate more robust exchange and understanding between inter-agency colleagues. Having agencies work effectively together and responding to the case holistically is critical to children’s and families’ experiences of the response to suspected abuse and neglect. The study will include a review of how multi-agency case review meetings occur in a range of Australian and Canadian jurisdictions to assist jurisdictions with considering alternatives to their existing multi-agency process.

    Further Details

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    Funding body:
    Telethon 7 Trust (Western Australia)
    Australian Human Research Ethics Committee:
    University of South Australian Human Research Ethics Committee; Perth Children's Hospital Human Research Ethics Committee
    Response to child sexual abuse

    Evaluation of the Multi-Agency Investigation & Support Team

    James Herbert
    Centre for Social Impact - University of South Australia
    David O'Shaughnessy
    University of Western Australia
    Understanding child sexual abuse

    Conceptualising and Estimating the Costs of Child Sexual Exploitation (Phase One of Australian Study into Economic Costs of Child Sexual Exploitation)

    Jonah Rimer
    The University of Queensland
    Understanding child sexual abuse

    The Australian child sexual abuse attitudes, knowledge and response study

    Andrea de Silva
    The National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse

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