Jane* worked as a child protection worker in Victoria for nine years.
- Staff shortages and high turnover put further pressure on Victoria’s child protection system
- Children and Young People’s Commissioner Liana Buchanan says system ‘is not fit for purpose’
- She says she sees children with ‘very complex care needs’ every week who are unable to get appropriate support
Early in her career, Jane thought she could make “real change” in the lives of vulnerable families.
She left the department at the end of last year, exhausted and completely discouraged.
“While I did a great job and I know that myself and my colleagues worked…incredibly hard every day, I felt like some days you weren’t going anywhere,” a- she told ABC Radio Melbourne.
Industry sources told the ABC that high staff turnover and vacancies are putting considerable pressure on the already overstretched child protection system.
Jane decided to speak out after an article published by News Corp earlier this week revealed that a growing number of children in child protection did not have an individual social worker.
Even if a child had an individual social worker, Jane said that didn’t mean there was a lot of face-to-face time.
“The workers of [case management] had the most unreasonable workloads,” she said.
“There was a high volume of administrative work: there were minutes, there were redacted files, there were tight deadlines, there were very high volumes of cases.
The system is not “fit for purpose”
Victoria’s Chief Commissioner for Children and Young People, Liana Buchanan, said despite significant investment by the state government, the child care system “is still not fit for purpose”.
“I still see reports every week of children, for example, who are in institutions, sometimes very young children who are absent or absent from care, who have been victimized and caught up in sexual exploitation, who have very significant issues, very complex care needs and yet as a system we are not able to provide the supports they need.”
In her six years as commissioner, Ms Buchanan said she had seen considerable investment in Victoria’s child protection system. However, it came as a result of “probably decades of underfunding”.
“While the government has worked very hard and has really invested…it has a lot of ground to recover, to really rebuild or build, indeed, a system that works,” she said.
“Unfortunately, we are far from it.”
Ms Buchanan said high staff turnover and shortages could increase risk, and had been a complaint for “hundreds of children” in off-site care.
“That’s one of their big problems, that they feel like they don’t often have a consistent person,” she said.
“Even if they have a worker assigned, they turn a lot. It can make a huge difference for a child [as] You can imagine.”
More recruitment needed
Victorian Child Protection Minister Anthony Carbines said every child known to child protection is either in the care of an individual case manager or a team of protection practitioners from childhood.
“We have funded 1,100 additional child protection officers since we took office,” he said.
“This $2.8 billion investment over the past four years continues to focus on early intervention for vulnerable children and support for families.”
The CBA has asked the Department of Families, Equity and Housing about how many of those funded positions have been filled. They haven’t responded yet.
Mr Carbines said there have never been so many children receiving support from child protection, in part due to the expansion of mandatory reporting requirements following of the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
“That’s a good thing,” he said.
“But you have to match that with recruiting child protection staff and investing in the system.”
*Name changed to protect identity
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