A critical lack of child protection workers, a freeze on the ability to employ staff in crucial frontline child protection roles and a growing concern that children’s lives are in danger are revealed in damning Right To Information documents released today.
Shadow Human Services Minister Rebecca White said the internal documents contained startling revelations that child protection worker positions had not been filled for months, a freeze was in fact placed on positions and memos to the most senior bureaucrats warned that a lack of workers in the specialist field had led to a situation which could have a significant impact on children’s lives.
Ms White said the documents – including minutes of Leadership Group meetings and memos to the senior bureaucrats – contradicted the claims of the responsible Minister Jacquie Petrusma earlier this year that frontline child protection jobs have been “quarantined from budget cuts”.
“Mrs Petrusma has said all along that the child protection system was not subject to budget cuts but these documents released today show that crucial positions have remained vacant for months because they are subject to vacancy control,” Ms White said.
“The Minister repeatedly stated the crisis in child protection was not a resourcing issue.
“What is vacancy control if not a savings measure?
“Furthermore these jobs have not only remained vacant while the system was in crisis, they have not even been advertised.
“The Leadership Group records show an extreme concern about the lack of staff to deal with child abuse reports.
“They clearly show there is a freeze on filling these positions.
“They report a high level of stress among staff who carry out these very difficult jobs because they don’t have enough people to carry out the work.
“And critically they detail a timeline between June and October when the system urgently required more child protection workers and they could not even get to a stage where the positions could be advertised.
“This is a system in crisis and the Minister responsible for it can no longer claim that she was kept in the dark as she said in August when it emerged more than 150 child abuse claims had been ignored.
“She needs to be upfront and explain why positions which are critical to the fundamental workings of the child protection system were not filled.
“She needs to tell Tasmanians why staff were left in a position where they were basically begging for help to recruit workers in a dire situation.
“She needs to tell the Tasmanian community why the situation was allowed to get to a point where a public servant needed to write to the Departmental Secretary when asking for staff and warn: “High levels of reallocated children new to CPW’s due to vacancies frequently results in case drift, missed information and inconsistent case management all of which can have a significant impact on a child’s life.”
Rebecca White MP Shadow Human Services Minister