Every Child at risk of child abuse deserves their own Child Protection Worker looking out for them, In Victoria today 2300 real children are on DHS's 'unallocated' list, with no caseworker assigned to oversee their case.
Every Child at risk deserves a Child Protection worker with time to develop a proper plan to protect them, encourage their development, and help their family achieve positive change – not someone with so many cases, they cant give anyone the attention they need to protect children, or achieve change, no matter how many unsafe extra hours they work every week. No wonder dedicated workers are leaving the system in frustration, and no wonder the Victorian Child Death Review Committee 2010 Report lists workloads and resourcing as key factors influencing circumstances in a number of child deaths they reviewed
Every Child Protection Worker deserves to have a fair, safe workload; to be paid fairly; and to have enough colleagues and resources so all children can be protected protected - Which means all children at risk of abuse that DHS knows about, have a fair chance at protection, and Child Protection workers have a fair chance to help give it. At the moment most Child Protection Workers have more cases than they can cope with, and more cases than is safe for their welfare, and the children they are trying to protect. These Child Protection workers are currently the lowest paid in Australia, despite the demanding, highly skilled work they are required to perform. The Victorian system does not have enough workers to meet the basic demands of protecting children, with 2300 children's cases not assigned to any caseworker, the State of Victoria is not meeting it's responsibilities to protect children, or to protect it's own workers.
CPSU has repeatedly stated that until DHS put in caseload controls and pay either a special increased allowance or deal with worker classifications to match the NGO sector they’ll never stop the staff turnover.
Unfortunately half the new money Premier Brumby spruiks about is just unspent allocations from previous budgets because they have so many unfilled positions. The government has only effectivley doubled the number of unfilled vacancies with it's spending and still doesn't address the staffing problems. The department will continue to lose staff, it will not be able to recruit and a year from today we will still be facing the same challenge.
Existing rates of pay are utterly uncompetitive with other professional rates by about 20% - a beginning social worker starts on $47,700.
The union tried to address the workforce issues in the last Agreement round but was told categorically by the department that there was no money from the government to do anything about it. Now the same Department is forced to concede they don't know how many children in care had had case plans developed for them in the period required by law.
The number of vulnerable children known to child protection authorities who do not have a case worker allocated to them has grown to 2,300.
The Department of Human Services was forced to admit before the Legislative Council's Standing Committee on Finance & Public Administration on Friday that the numbers had not improved since a damning Ombudsman report was released in November 2009.