‘ChildStory’ a horror story for child protection system

Dec 20, 2017

PSA Media release

A new Community Services case management and records system, ‘ChildStory’, has placed children at risk of harm over Christmas, the union for child-protection caseworkers has warned.

The Public Service Association (PSA) has warned Community Services and Minister Pru Goward repeatedly that the new system was not ready for roll-out before its introduction in December.

Since its introduction, the PSA has been inundated with complaints from members that ChildStory is not up to handling the complex work they perform.

“This is more than your average records system,” says Troy Wright, Assistant General Secretary of the PSA. “It is a database of interactions with children and their families. Without it, child-protection caseworkers would be completely in the dark as to what is occurring for some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Concerns raised by PSA members include:

  • Help Line response times have exploded as staff struggle to record reports of children at risk;
  • Drop out rates of calls to the Help Line have increased with mandatory reporters such as police and medical practitioners unable to get through and make reports;
  • Records of interactions of caseworkers with children and families being lost or not saved;
  • Work cannot be referred to non-government organisations for follow-up;
  • Risk assessments not working properly;
  • Approvals for work being sent to managers who have left the Department or even died;
  • An inability to secure sensitive matters;
  • Referrals on old closed matters suddenly being reopened without a request;
  • Inadequate, incomplete and incorrect training materials; and,
  • Technical support swamped with up to 1000 emails requests for assistance per day, resulting in delays of more than 11 days in responding.

“Child protection caseworkers already perform a role which, in terms of stress, few of us can comprehend,” says Troy Wright. “We are now receiving regular reports the frustrations with this system are reducing already-overburdened caseworkers to tears.

“Even worse, we have grave concerns that reports regarding children at risk will be lost or unable to be recorded during the festive season, which is traditionally a demanding time upon the system.

“The responsibility for any tragedy that may eventuate as a result of the introduction of Child Story must lay squarely with the Minister’s office and not caseworkers in the field.”

Of further concern is the incapacity of ChildStory to process payments to service providers such as hotels where children are still residing, medical bills or other needs.

“Perhaps most galling has been the Department fobbing off these concerns before ChildStory was launched and blindly proceeding down this potentially disastrous path,” says Troy Wright. “Since its introduction, instead of listening to these faults and addressing them, the Department has been celebrating ChildStory as a success.”

“Some kids who already have the odds stacked against them are in for a shocking Christmas.”

Fears Regional Communities will lose Local Police jobs

Nov 23, 2017

PSA Media release

The Public Service Association (PSA) holds grave fears many regional areas will be stripped of local police staff under a restructure of NSW Police.

“We are extremely concerned about the loss of critical civilian support staff who ensure police are properly equipped to be able to undertake the full range of their duties on behalf of their local communities,” said PSA General Secretary, Stewart Little.

“These roles include staff at Police stations, Forensics officers, Intelligence analysts who track crime patterns and Community Liaison officers.

“As a former uniformed officer himself, Troy Grant is very well aware of the vital role played by civilian support staff in day to day policing in NSW.

“Job cuts in regional areas mean less money going into the local community, families being forced to move elsewhere, taking their spending money with them and removing their kids from local schools.

“Every job in the bush feeds into six others from the local supermarket to car dealers”.

“Regional NSW has already been hit for six by the NSW Coalition Government with cuts in TAFE and National Parks, the privatisation of disability services and a number of other critical public services.”

“We call on the National Party in regional NSW to give an undertaking that local police will continue to have the vital administrative support that allows them to fully serve their communities and that no police officer will be forced into an administrative role and taken off front line duties.”

Union welcomes inquiry into scandal ridden Parklea private prison

Nov 23, 2017

PSA Media release

The Public Service Association (PSA) has welcomed today’s announcement of a Parliamentary Inquiry into the scandal ridden Parklea private prison.

The union has been calling for an inquiry into Parklea for sometime and this week backed a push by Opposition Leader Luke Foley for Parliament to formally investigate the prison’s operations.

The inquiry announcement follows reports of further damning incidents including allegations of improper conduct by senior management towards junior staff.

“An inquiry into the management of Parklea Prison is long overdue,” said PSA General Secretary, Stewart Little, “and we welcome today’s announcement and thank Luke Foley for his support.”

“Parklea appears to be a law unto itself – the law of the jungle – and its operation shrouded in secrecy. Already this year there’s been scandalous incidents around weapons, drugs and a serious assault on a Prison Officer who was only saved from a life threatening wound by his name badge.”

“There is no transparency or accountability in private prisons – that’s the whole idea.

“The Government must return Parklea to the public prison system.”

“Society can’t afford to privatise prisons.”


Jail should not be the last resort for people with disability

Nov 10, 2017

PSA media release

The incarceration of a 20-year-old Victorian man with autism and an intellectual disability who fell through the cracks of the NDIS serves a reminder there needs to be a government-run safety net for some of the state’s most vulnerable people, says the Public Service Association of NSW (PSA).

“We have warned that without a properly funded, government-run safety net, some people with disability will end up in the prison system or on the streets,” says PSA General Secretary Stewart Little. “There will always be cases private and community providers won’t take on.”

The ABC’s 7:30 program and website reported a 20-year-old man, Francis, ended up in the Victorian prison system as he was unable to be adequately housed or cared for anywhere else.

“We have heard there are already cases in NSW where people with disability have been sent to prison as there are no alternative options,” says Little. “Yet the Government is actually reducing options for people by cutting out government-run support.”

Under the Berejiklian Government’s plans, government-run support for people with disability will not exist by 2018. Instead, private and community providers will supposedly be responsible for all cases in the state.

However, unlike the existing government-run system, private and community providers can refuse to work with clients, meaning some high-needs people with disability will fall through the cracks and end up on the streets or in the state’s prison system.

The PSA is holding a community forum in Newcastle to demand a government-run safety for people with a disability in NSW.


Disability Services Safety Net Community Forum


Tuesday 14 November

Hunter Trades Hall, 406-408 King Street, Newcastle

NSW disability services privatisation a ticking social bomb – report

Oct 23, 2017

PSA media release

A parent’s harrowing story of how her son escaped private disability care four times during his first three days cannot be ignored by the Government says the Public Service Association (PSA).

The shocking impact of privatisation on the sector has been revealed today in a report, Taking Back Control: A Community Response to Privatisation which comes after an independent panel toured the country to speak directly to parents.

“For crucial public disability services in NSW – the clock is ticking,” PSA General Secretary Stewart Little said.

“In less than 12 months time, in June 2018, the NSW Government will have completely wiped its hands of all responsibility for disability care, leaving NSW the only state in Australia with no Government safety net.

“What does it say about a Government that, knowing the free fall scenario that awaits, presses ahead with turning its back on such a crucial community service?”

The report includes harrowing testimony from a number of parents including Sonia Facey who attended the Inquiry hearing out of ‘extreme concern’ for the future of her son Nathan who is autistic, has stopped speaking and is prone to violent outbursts.

She told the panel the private sector couldn’t guarantee her son’s safety, putting its workers above his care and well being:  “Nathan went in on a Tuesday and that night he escaped and was in Aldi and wouldn’t leave until I got there. Next morning I get another call, he is in Aldi again. (After re-assurance from the private operator Sonia went away for 2 days) I left it in their hands but stressing totally over the safety of my child. When I got back (after being away) I found Nathan was in Aldi again on the Wednesday night and on the Thursday morning he had gone to Dapto Mall. He managed to get away four times in the first three days. He was jumping the fence and all they could do was follow as they are not allowed to touch him for his own safety. Never mind his safety having to cross the train line and two busy roads to get to Aldi and also having to cross the Princes Highway to get to Dapto Mall.”

In the report Sonia says: “The safety of my son is the biggest priority and with all the issues that have arisen already, my confidence in private disability providers is extremely lacking. Looking forward, I don’t see a very positive future for my son without government services…When I can no longer look after [Nathan], I fear as to where he is going to end up.”

The PSA says under the NDIS there will not be enough money nor capacity to properly assist people with disability.

“Many will fall through the cracks and land heavily in the state’s hospitals and even the criminal justice system – areas lacking expertise in specialist disability care,” Mr Little said.

“Their families are wonderfully resilient people but they are now desperate for answers and certainty from a Government seemingly determined to provide neither.

“NSW Disability Services Minister Ray Williams is presiding over the greatest social tragedy NSW has ever seen.”

50th year celebrations for National Parks in ashes by massive restructure

Oct 19, 2017

PSA media release

The NSW Government is marking the 50th anniversary of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) with a massive restructure that will cut jobs and jeopardise public safety, the Public Service Association (PSA) says.

The PSA is holding rallies across the state today against the drastic cuts. Events will be held in Katoomba, Queanbeyan, Grafton, Griffith, and Wollongong.

The Berijiklian Government is overseeing the scrapping of 13 highly experienced Area Managers, who perform a critical role in bushfire and pest management.

In recent years, NPWS has downsized from 66 areas across NSW to just 37 under this restructure.

“These highly experienced officers are meant to preserve our flora and fauna and ultimately help protect the public but they now find themselves  on the threatened species list – an appalling 50th birthday present,” said PSA General Secretary Stewart Little.

Pest Management Officers (PMO) are also being thrown on the jobs scrapheap in the shake-up.

PMO’s perform a critical role in the control of  wild dogs, feral pigs, cats, goats, deer and invasive plant species and in so doing, ensure NSW meets its obligations under the Biosecurity Act.

“60 PMOs and Fire Management Officers (FMO’s) were introduced 20 years ago, but their numbers have been progressively slashed across the state, with the new structure containing just 8 PMO’s,” Mr Little said. “That’s 8 people to cover more than 7 million hectares.”

“The Nationals don’t care about land owners or they wouldn’t be cutting jobs that provide critical assistance to farmers such as the management of wild dogs and pigs.”

“The bushfire season has already started with devastating impact and and if these cuts go through, there simply will not be sufficient experienced staff to contain them.

“Tragically, the ramifications of these cuts will probably be tendered as evidence in the Coroner’s court in the coming years”.

“The skills of these people and several hundred years of combined experience are gained on the ground, not in a classroom, so what has been lost to date and what we are about to lose will take a lifetime to replace. Of course by then, it will be too late.”



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