Union concerned over ‘heavy load’

At the start of August there were 564 child protection cases in the Cannington area, an increase of 38 from June.

While Department for Child Protection and Family (DCPF) figures have shown an upward trend, with an increasing number of cases reported each month, the number of staff has remained the same.

The union reported 20 staff members in Cannington were dealing with more than the maximum number of 15 cases at once and 12 staff in Armadale were also exceeding the limit.

WA assistant secretary Rikki Hendon feared vulnerable children would be put at risk. ‘The latest figures (by the Department for Child Protection) show more staff are working on higher than prescribed numbers and there is not enough staff required to do the job properly,’ she said.

Budget estimates for 2013-14 showed there would be no increase in staffing, with the same number as last year ” 1085 ” employed to deal with the safety, support and wellbeing of children.

Ms Hendon said ‘stressed staff’ were staggered by Minister Helen Morton’s comments on budget day that the workforce required to manage the workload was adequate.

‘The Government has conceded there are a growing number of young people with complex needs and challenging behaviour that require individual care arrangements, yet they are not prepared to employ more staff to deal with the workload,’ she said.

Department for Child Protection and Family Support director general Terry Murphy said the number of children in care in Cannington had remained relatively constant.

‘The Department also retains a certain amount of flexibility with its staffing and has the ability to shift resources between districts when and if required,’ Mr Murphy said.

He also said the number of caseworkers handling 15 or more cases had remained steady and in some cases had been reduced. ‘Caseloads are set by a ruling of the State Industrial Commission at a limit of 15 and 18 in exceptional circumstances,’ he said.

Mr Murphy said cases per caseworker in the Cannington and Armadale districts were well within the bounds of the maximum and ranged from 15 for those managing children in care, to a much lower number for child protection investigations, appropriately reflecting the complexity of the work.

‘Caseworkers managing more than 15 cases are usually handling children in stable placements and also may involve large sibling groups,’ he said.