The Public Service Association is calling on the NSW Government to act urgently to bring the state's broken privatised child protection system back under public control.
The latest statistics show a quarter of the children who died in New South Wales last year were known to authorities. Low staffing numbers are reported to be among the reasons for some of the deaths of children known to child protection.
According to the Department's own figures, the vacancy rate for caseworkers has increased by 250 per cent in the year, and year-on-year, New South Wales is losing more caseworkers than it is employing. Aboriginal staff are leaving at a higher rate.
PSA General Secretary Stewart Little said his union was in constant discussions with Child Protection Minister Kate Washington who needs to act fast.
“It’s not Kate Washington's fault the system is broken, but it’s her responsibility to clean it up and the solution can’t be a bit more money. What we need substantive reform of a broken, privatised system,” Mr Little said.
“Minister Washington, to her credit, has acknowledged that costly and inefficient privatised child protection services in NSW might have to be placed back into public hands. We now need the government to act.
“Private providers pick and choose which kids they take on, and often refuse to accept responsibility for the most troubled children.
"Hundreds of kids are being left to live in scrappy motels for months, barely supervised by untrained staff. The privatised foster system has been left to wither and die. The terrible inefficiencies are costing NSW taxpayers more than we ever paid for the public system. In at least one case, an ‘Alternative Care Arrangement’ cost NSW around $3 million to provide support to one child in need.
“The government has a moral responsibility to care for the most vulnerable kids, and it is failing at the moment. The way to take responsibility is to stop outsourcing to NGOs, take control, and start getting qualified caseworkers back into the system.
"The privatisation of child protection service in New South Wales was a grotesque experiment and it's been a grotesque failure.
“We have seen a surge in domestic violence recently and that is only going to increase demand on a system that is already broken.
"Protecting our most vulnerable kids is the responsibility of New South Wales, and we should have never outsourced that responsibility to private providers. It won't be a simple administrative task to bring everything back into public hands, but it's far from impossible. If we move now we will improve futures, save the taxpayer money, and save lives,” Mr Little said.
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