Safe workloads mean safe children
Child protection workers are struggling with an excessive workload and fear they will not be able to give children the care and support they require according to the Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association.
The union believes vulnerable children will miss out on much-needed protection if the next State Government does not increase staff numbers and resources to deal with an increased workload.
CPSU/CSA Branch Assistant Secretary Rikki Hendon said the Barnett Government had capped the number of staff that could be employed, meaning the Department for Child Protection was doing the best itcould with what it had but was being stretched to the limit.
This week concerns will be validated with staff committing to the Workload Action Week and documenting their workload in an online survey.
Ms Hendon said child protection workers were supposed to take on a maximum of 15 cases because of their complexity but the last official figure said 111 staff who were doing more.
She suspects the survey will reveal a higher number.
“Our message is pretty simple - safe workloads means safe children - and we will be using the data to work with the department to produce a positive and long-lasting solution,” Ms Hendon said.
“The information we will be receiving from child protection staff from across the metropolitan area and regional centres will be confidential and give us a broad idea of workloads.
“It will also make some staff aware of how much extra work they are doing.”
Ms Hendon said the spike in child protection cases in the last two years was not reflected in the number of staff available to work with the children.
She said child protection workers were burning out.
“Our members are constantly telling us they are not able to do the job to the best of their ability because of the highnumber of cases they have.”
Latest detainee incident highlights serious concerns
Reports of juvenile detainees damaging cells in the Hakea adult prison today is another example of the issues that youth custodial officers have to put up with at the Banksia Hill Detention Centre.
About 70 juveniles were moved from Banksia Hill to nearby Hakea two weeks ago after a riot made many sections of the detention centre unsafe.
The Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association understands that some boys have urinated on their mattresses and some televisions have been damaged.
She said latest incident reinforced the union’s call to make sure the detention centre was upgraded and safer working conditions were in place before the youths returned to Banksia Hill.
“They provide ongoing challenges for our youth custodial officers who have to work with them,” Ms Walkington said.
“And being young they are still have a lot to learn which is why we maintain our call for the establishment of safe and secure facilities that are managed by adequate staffing levels.
“If there is any prospect of managing these detainees properly and hopefully developing them into law-abiding citizens then the government needs to recognise more staff and resources are required.”
Ms Walkington said the source of some of this behaviour was the government’s decision to close the former Rangeview Remand Centre, putting all children in the one centre.
“By putting all the children into one centre (sentenced and those on remand) the government has created plenty of tension.
“The government must make the full repair and improved security of Banksia Hill a top priority.”
Paying the cost of closing Rangeview
While the damage bill for the recent Banksia Hill Detention Centre riot is yet to be determined the Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association has hit out at the cost of closing down WA’s only other centre for juvenile detainees.
The Barnett Government has committed $171 million to Serco over the next 15 years so they can house and rehabilitate young adult offenders from 18 to 24 years age who are identified as wanting to make a change.
Currently there are only about 20 adults in the 80-bed facility that is now known as Wandoo.
Apart from the millions the government is handing over each year they also spent $4 million on a refit and will allocate $600,000 a year for maintenance which is way higher than the $50,000 allocated to any public-run prison,” CPSU/CSA Branch Secretary Toni Walkington said.
That is a high price to pay given we now only have one juvenile detention centre in Western Australia.
It is another reason why corrective services should remain in public hands.”
When the contract was originally floated the centre was to be for 18 to 22 years of age before being expanded to include 24 years of age but the union understands consideration has been given to include offenders up to 30 years of age.
We also understand there have been plans to extend eligibility to medium security prisoners to boost numbers which also goes against the centre’s original plan.
“If they change the classification it is another example of changing the project’s scope to suit a private contractor that will make it just another adult prison.
The Barnett Government has thrown a bucket load of money at this project and paying way beyond what they should be, particularly when it is only housing about 20 or so prisoners.
This all comes at a time when the government is facing a massive repair bill at Banksia Hill.
The money wasted at Wandoo would have been better served on preventing the riot by engaging additional staff, improving facilities and retaining a second detention centre.
Mandatory sentencing welcomed by the union
The Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association has welcomed plans for youth custodial officers to be included in Western Australia’s mandatory sentencing laws.
On Thursday afternoon Corrective Services Minister Murray Cowper said offenders who assault and bodily harm to the officers who work at the Banskia Hill Detention Centre would receive mandatory terms of jail or detention under proposed amendments.
CPSU/CSA Branch Secretary Toni Walkington said the union was looking forward to the rapid progress of the law but concerned that the priority would be lowered following the March 9 State Election.
“This is helpful but there are many other others that need to be addressed for people working in the Corrective Services field and in the public sector in general,” Ms Walkington said.
“Safety and security of the centre needs to be addressed, a second centre needs to be established and ongoing staffing levels need to be increased.”
Last year youth custodial officers addressed then Corrective Services Minister Terry Redman on the steps on Parliament asking to be treated the same as police officers or prison guards when they were assaulted.
Union secures more staff in wake of detention centre riot
The Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association has secured extra staff at the Banksia Hill Detention Centre in the wake of Sunday’s riot.
CPSU/CSA Branch Secretary Toni Walkington said the extra staff were needed because staff were not safe with about 100 cells unusable and the security of other cells compromised.
“Even though the detainees are in these cells they know how to get out now,” Ms Walkington said.
“Quite simply staff shortages meant the safety of staff was going to be compromised and we weren’t prepared to budge on that.
“The additional staff are made up of former youth custodial officers who are now working in different roles in the Department of Corrective Services along with officers from adult prisons.
“From 7pm Wednesday night the running of the centre was declared an emergency situation which means additional staff need to be onsite.”
Ms Walkington said this meant some staff would have the authority to use chemical agents and batons if there was another incident and staff were threatened.
“Our talks to improve the safety and working conditions at Banksia Hill will be ongoing and the department is going to look at options to move the entire male population to alternative facilities so the centre can be repaired and secured.”
“Provisional Improvement Notices have also been issued and Worksafe is expected to make an inspection very soon.”