Scathing OCG Review: Family is Culture (FIC) implementation and extreme under-resourcing of child protection
In late March 2022 the Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG) released a scathing review of the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) progress on implementing recommendations of the Family is Culture Independent Review into Aboriginal Out-of-Home Care in NSW review by Professor Megan Davis in 2019.
It has been found that almost no recommendations from the FIC review have been substantively progressed and that it is “two years on from the review, and over representation of Aboriginal children and young people in the child protection system remains a national crisis“ with NSW accounting for one third of Aboriginal children in care.
The PSA has again called on the NSW Government to dramatically increase resources and staff to address their continued failure to protect the vulnerable children and families of NSW. The PSA recognises that DCJ, Community Services cannot cope with current demands in Child Protection given the extent of chronic under-resourcing by this government, let alone respond effectively to the FIC recommendations. Responsibility and accountability squarely sits with the Government and DCJ should not shoulder the blame for these ongoing failings.
The most recent Caseworker Dashboard shows that DCJ is still only able to see 29 per cent of children at risk of significant harm.
PSA Media Release – NSW urgently needs 1000 extra child protection caseworkers
In 2020 the PSA made a submission to the Government calling on them to urgently increase the number of Caseworkers and other child protection staff across the state. Your union has renewed these calls for a dramatic increase in resources including an increase of 1000 Caseworkers.
OCG Review Mirrors PSA Concerns – workloads are unmanageable and causing extreme burnout
The OCG review has highlighted many of the concerns that the PSA has been raising for years with the report filled with findings such as:
- This review has found that the Aboriginal Case Management Policy (ACMP) cannot be implemented via existing resources as several DCJ Districts are struggling to handle existing caseloads.
- The seven-year timeframe to fully rollout the policy has caused a high degree of frustration within the community and key Aboriginal stakeholders within the sector. There is a need for urgent action, better staff training and support and an injection of funding and resources to support a more effective implementation approach.
- There is a real risk of staff burnout and a situation where Aboriginal children and families could receive worse services rather than strengthened ones unless the frontline workforce is supported with adequate resources.
- This feedback indicates that it is not viable for DCJ Districts to deliver the ACMP without additional targeted funding, increased staffing and resources.
- The ACMP prescribes a more intensive service delivery approach to working with Aboriginal children and families than standard casework practice. This will impact casework ratios at the front-line. The bottom line is that caseworkers simply cannot take on more clients and support them in a more intensive way without an injection of more resources and more staff.
Child Protection workers in Community Services provide invaluable expert care to the vulnerable children and families of NSW. But they are seriously overworked and under-resourced, which is diminishing the quality and quantity of care they can provided.
The toll from chronic under-resourcing and imposition of “productivity targets” by this government on child protection workers is acute:
- Staff attrition rates. In some District more some 84 per cent of new Caseworkers leave the department within their first 2 years
- Actual harm to workers: DCJ’s own WHS report (pre-COVID) stated that the rate and severity of psychological injuries sustained by child protection workers was greater than that in Police and NSW Ambulance
Too many children are falling through the cracks. The PSA continues to fight for more DCJ child protection workers. It is critical that you are adequately resourced to protect children and not suffer the consequences of chronic under-funding through excessive workloads and the constant threat of performance management.
“Child protection is core government work, it is time to make Community Services as strong and well-equipped as it can possibly be” – Stewart Little, General Secretary of the PSA