Child protection on the Mid North Coast understaffed

Minister for Families and Communities Kate Washington.

THE NSW Opposition has called on the Minns Labor Government to take urgent action to address ‘crippling shortages’ in the state’s child protection system.

“When you compare the figures from the December 2023 quarter to the same period last year, vacancies have surged from six to eleven percent state-wide, with up to 77 percent of children deemed at-risk of significant harm not being seen by a caseworker,” said Shadow Minister for Families and Communities Natasha Maclaren-Jones.

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“I am calling on Minister Washington and Premier Chris Minns to step up and provide the resources and support our child protection services desperately need.”

The Opposition says the worst impacted area is the Mid North Coast, where caseworker vacancy is reportedly now at an alarming 22 percent, double the state average.

Shadow Minister for the North Coast Gurmesh Singh said the region’s most vulnerable children and families are falling through the cracks.

“The North Coast is currently facing the highest case worker vacancy rate in NSW, with no solution from the Minns Labor Government in sight,” Mr Singh said.

“Caseworker vacancy rates were lower under the policies of the former Coalition government.”

Minister for Families and Communities Kate Washington responded, saying, “The NSW Labor Government is embarking on significant structural reform to fix the broken child protection system that we inherited.

“A critical element of our reform will involve the attraction and retention of caseworkers.

“This can’t be fixed overnight, but we took the immediate step last year of abolishing the pay cap and provided child protection caseworkers with their largest pay increase in over a decade.

“But, there’s still much more work to do.

“We must ensure they feel supported and valued while they do one of the most important jobs in the world – keeping children safe.”

A Department of Communities and Justice spokesperson told News Of The Area, “The safety and wellbeing of children and young people is a key priority of the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ).

“The caseworker vacancy rate in the Northern NSW region is due to multiple factors, including ongoing housing shortages.

“Efforts are continuing to recruit caseworkers to this area, including a targeted social media campaign.

“However, this is occurring in the context of a housing shortage, meaning workers from other regions may not be able to move there quickly.

“Northern NSW has an attraction and retention plan tailored to address local needs.”

By Andrew VIVIAN

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