Children put at risk by shortfall of community service caseworkers

VULNERABLE children in Orange and other parts of the western region are in crisis according to the Public Service Association (PSA).

The PSA says there are only enough Community Services caseworkers to respond to one in four reports of a child at risk.

PSA assistant secretary Steve Turner said with 25 vacant positions for caseworkers in the region, the government needed  to address the shortfall in staffing.

“These positions aren’t being filled because they are not permanent positions,” he said.

“People will not commit to these roles if they have mortgages and responsibilities and the jobs need to be permanent.”

Mr Turner said he was not critical of management.

“I think they are doing their best,” he said.

Mr Turner concedes a high turnover of staff due to the nature of the work is a challenge.

“And that’s because the government isn’t putting in enough resources,” he said.

He said Minister Prue Goward’s failure to fill vacancies quickly enough in the last year had a flow-on effect to other workers who, as a result of added pressure, left Community Services.

“We want the minister to immediately address these staff shortages and ensure Community Services staff have the resources to do their job well,” Mr Turner said.

“Children and families will fall through the gaps if this doesn’t occur.”

Mr Turner said statistics sourced by the PSA this week from the government outlining a 17 per cent job vacancy rate across the state confirmed their concerns about understaffing.

A Family and Community Services spokesman told the Central Western Daily caseworker recruitment remained a high priority.

The spokesman said Family and Community Services had made inroads in filling vacant positions by appointing 10 new caseworkers from October to December last year.

“In the last quarter 10 caseworkers were appointed to the western region reducing the number of vacancies from 35 to 25," the spokesman said.

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