Shortage of Department for Child Protection case workers seen

HUNDREDS of vulnerable children in WA, including 60 in the Peel region, are missing out on much-needed support and care because of a lack of case workers, according to the Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association.

At the end of August, there were 642 children on the Department for Child Protection and Family Support’s monitored list waiting to be allocated to a case worker.

This included 60 children from the Peel region, the highest number in the regions, who made up the 284 children on monitored lists in regional areas.

“That effectively means a team leader will only occasionally query how the child is going instead of them having a dedicated case worker looking after them,” branch assistant secretary Rikki Hendon said. Case workers develop plans to support children who have complex needs and challenging behaviour that requires individual care arrangements and not just an occasional check.

The union said the only way to address the issue was to employ more staff.

“We need additional case workers so every child receives timely support, something we have been seeking for years,’’ she said.

“Putting on additional case workers last year was a small step in the right direction, but we need many more.

“If the Barnett Government does not give Child Protection and Family Services adequate funds to employ more staff, there will always be a massive shortfall and children will miss out.”

Ms Hendon said since 2006-07 the number of children in care had doubled but in that time there had not been an appropriate increase in the number of case workers employed.

“It is all well and good for the Government to come out and say they have employed more staff but the reality is staff are telling us they are struggling with workloads and there are hundreds of children not getting the appropriate support.

“There is a demand model in place that is supposed to inform Child Protection what resources they should get – they are supposed to get more resources as the number of cases increase.

“Clearly that model is not working as the government is not putting in enough funding.”

The Department for Child Protection and Family Support did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.