A new report from the NSW Auditor-General shows that Community Services remains under-resourced to ensure the safety of children at risk and to monitor foster care placements, says Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson on Family and Community Services.
“The Auditor-General’s figures call into question whether the Government is providing adequate services and funding to meet its child protection obligations in NSW.
“The caseworker vacancy rate might be falling, but the performance figures call into question whether even a fully-staffed Community Services would be able to deal with the child protection caseload in this state,” Ms Barham said.
The Auditor-General’s performance report into Family and Community Services, released today, shows that the caseworker vacancy rate has fallen to 5% of funded full-time equivalent positions from a 13% vacancy rate in June 2013. But despite the ongoing transition of out-of-home care to the non-government sector the Community Services caseworker to child ratio for 2013-14 was 1:21, which the Auditor-General noted “is still significantly higher than the 1:12 caseworker to child ratio recommended in the NSW Ombudsman’s 2011 Keep Them Safe report.”
“The ratio of caseworkers to children remains far too high, even as Community Services approaches the Government’s definition of being fully staffed,” Ms Barham said.
“The Auditor-General found that Community Services hasn’t conducted 46 per cent of the annual reviews of foster care placements that are supposed to be completed. He noted that these reviews of children who have been in care for more than 12 months are important to ensure their needs are being met.
“We also know from Government statistics that only 26 per cent of children who are reported at risk of significant harm receive a face to face assessment.
“The findings of this audit suggest that the Government needs urgent action to meet the shortfalls in dealing with child protection cases across the state.
“But we also need to see a much stronger commitment to investing in supports and early intervention that will reduce risk and prevent harm to children in the first place. A significant investment in support services and programs that target the risk factors for neglect and abuse is essential to deliver a long-term solution to reducing the high number suffering harm and being placed in out-of-home care,” Ms Barham said.
For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891