Perth vigil held at Parliament House for vulnerable children left in limbo by WA child protection services
Published by The West Australian
More than 200 children whose welfare is meant to be being monitored by WA child protection services are still waiting for their “safety investigations” to be completed.
And children from at least 20 families who have been assessed as needing intensive family support don’t even have their own case worker.
The shocking news came as child protection workers and foster carers last night held a silent vigil outside Parliament House in Perth, which they said was to draw attention to “vulnerable children being let down by a struggling and underfunded system”.
An internal Department of Communities document leaked to The West Australian reveals new details about the Government’s “monitored list” — the cases deemed “low risk” and not allocated their own case worker.
These children are instead assigned to team leaders who, according to the union representing child protection workers, are not well resourced enough to properly engage with them.
According to the document, there were 796 children on the monitored cases list between July 5 and August 8. Of these, 235 had an “open” child safety investigation, meaning the Department’s assessment of their welfare was not yet complete.
And 20 had families who were meant to be receiving “intensive family support”. Yet the fact these children were on the monitored list meant they did not have their own case worker.
Community and Public Sector Union secretary Rikki Hendon, whose union represents child protection workers, said the fact more than 200 children on the list had not had their safety investigation completed begged the question of how the department knew they were at low risk.
She said the union wanted the monitored list abolished and instead each child to be given their own allocated case worker to reduce the risk of kids “falling through the cracks”.
“Child protection workers are seeking acknowledgement this is a problem and it’s unsustainable for it to continue ... (case workers) are doing amazing work, but they’re under resourced,” Ms Hendon said.
Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk said she and the Department of Communities were working with the union to address their concerns.
She said the immediate safety of children was always actioned as a priority — even if a child was on the monitored list.
“Prior to a case being placed on the monitored list, a senior child protection professional will do a review to ensure that there are no risk factors or immediate actions required,” Ms McGurk said.
“The placement of a case on the monitored list is not a one-off assessment — it is an ongoing process that involves continual monitoring and work being responded to within the guidelines in the department’s case practice manual. It is important to note that tasks are still completed on cases as required.
“Communities aims to ensure all children in care have an allocated case worker.
“While that is the ideal situation, it is not always possible due to a range of factors such as vacancies, planned/unplanned leave and recruitment.”
She said the the child protection workforce having grown in real terms by more than 18 per cent under the McGowan Government.
Earlier this year The West Australian revealed the case of Girl RM a 17-year-old who took her own life in 2017 after experiencing homeless and abuse while meant to be under department care.
The inquest into her death was told that for years the Department was “largely unaware” of her whereabouts.
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