Monday 4 September 2023
Community and Public Sector Union - State Public Services Federation Group
Child Protection Week is a time we should be able to celebrate the work of CPSU members in Child Protection to improve the lives of our children and families at risk, but instead, we see child protection services buckling with the demand and outcomes for children at risk going backwards.
The CPSU, the Child Protection Union, noted that last year the Productivity Commission reported, we had nationally over 275,000 reports of children in danger, yet a decrease in investigations of these complaints, and with nationally over 60,000 kids including 24,000 Aboriginal kids in care and protection orders.
Ongoing child protection crises across Australia are triggering major inquiries and calls for review. For example, the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings are imminent, with a report due to be tabled in state parliament this month.
CPSU National Vice President Rikki Hendon said, “We have seen over a decade of decline in child protection services. Mandatory reporting and other compliance regimes have been placed on top of struggling child protection services, making it difficult for the staff to review the cases they receive.
“The national skills shortage that all jurisdictions are experiencing has seen crucial positions not filled or expanded, complaints not reviewed and, most importantly, families at risk not assisted to access early intervention services to prevent children coming into care.
“Unsafe, unsustainable workloads arising from short-staffing and under-resourcing are driving staff burnout and significant workforce turnover.
“A lack of residential care availability and registered foster carers has added to the many challenges child protection workers navigate and exacerbated their already excessive workloads.
“As the national Child Protection Union, the CPSU knows that properly staffing and resourcing child protection is key to ensuring workloads are safe and sustainable, skilled workers can be attracted and retained, and best practice work can be undertaken with families and children at risk.
“Evidence also tells us that investing in early intervention assists families to make the changes necessary to prevent care and protection orders and the associated trauma that also is associated with lifelong poorer health, education, employment, and criminal justice interactions.
This National Child Protection Week, the CPSU is calling on all governments, led by our Commonwealth Government, to establish a National Child Protection Workforce Plan that:
- Prioritises skilled migration for qualified social workers and psychologists to address immediate workforce shortfalls;
- Promotes educational pathways to careers in Child Protection through measures such as course fee reductions, increased Commonwealth Supported Places, better recognition of prior learning and the provision of bursaries;
- Incentivises skilled, experienced workers to remain in Child Protection, including in the regions, through a range of tax incentives and cost of living measures; and
- Establishes a data-driven national picture of the current and projected demand for Child Protection services and workforce supply to inform ongoing workforce development and planning.
For more information or to arrange further comment from Rikki Hendon as either CPSU National Vice President or as CPSU/CSA Branch Secretary, please contact CPSU/CSA Reception on 08 9323 3800 and ask for the Media and Stakeholder Engagement Officer.