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Government NSW, Youth


Public Service Association 3 mins read

What: Child protection workers stop work and hold protest


When: 12 NOON


Where: 4 Zadoc Street, Lismore


Why: Child protection workers protest closure of Lismore and Ballina Community Services Centres


Media: Media welcome, local child protection workers will be available for interview on camera


Contact: 0405 285 547


More Info:


Child protection workers stop work over unfit premises in Lismore and Ballina


Child protection caseworkers will walk off the job and protest outside the defunct Community Services Centre (CSC) in Lismore this Wednesday (April 24th) at midday after two years of working without an office. 


This is despite Police, health and other front line services being back in their pre flood premises.


The CSC is where child protection caseworkers previously provided support and protection to children at risk of harm in the local area.


They will be joined by child protection caseworkers from Ballina who had their office shut in January.


Child protection caseworkers in the Northern Rivers say the failure to find them fit premises from which to work are a symptom of a broader crisis in the department.


Child protection caseworkers report chronic understaffing and staff burnout.


One in four child protection caseworker positions are unfilled in the Northern Rivers. That means the Lismore CSC is 10 child protection caseworkers short, the highest vacancy rate in the state.


Five in six children reported to authorities in the Northern Rivers as at risk of serious harm (ROSH) are not being seen by a child protection caseworker, the worst response rate in the state, well below the state average of three in four, which is already dismal. Right now if cases are allocated they are the most serious and will likely lead to removals, as there simply isn’t enough staff to intervene early so as to keep children with their families. 


The department’s own data shows for the quarter ending December 2023, 18,582 Children and Young People were reported as at ROSH with only 2707 children seen - that is 15% of all ROSH reports.


Last year Ballina CSC had just three caseworkers and only minimal cases were allocated during that time. Ballina CSC before the pandemic had a response rate of 100%. 


When the previous government took over in 2012 Lismore CSC had nine teams; they currently have three. Balina CSC had five teams; they currently have two. 


The child protection caseworkers that are left are relatively inexperienced and coping with the extra workload of colleagues who have left.


One in two child protection caseworkers leave in their first two years of employment with the department.


Earlier this month child protection caseworkers declared the child protection system is now in crisis in New South Wales, and announced the commencement of an industrial campaign to force the NSW government to act to save thousands of at-risk kids from further harm. 


The situation in the Northern Rivers is even worse than other parts of the state.


The Public Service Association (PSA), which represents the workers, says action will commence with a series of rolling campaign rallies across the state and escalate as necessary.


Child protection caseworkers are demanding Minister Kate Washington and the Minns Government immediately:  


- Recruit another 500 caseworkers

- Give caseworkers an immediate and substantial pay rise 

- De-privatise foster care


Premier Chris Minns needs to intervene, said PSA Assistant General Secretary Troy Wright.


“The most vulnerable children in New South Wales are at risk of serious harm, or even worse, because child protection caseworkers are chronically understaffed, exhausted and management just aren’t listening to their concerns,” said Mr Wright.


“But the response to this crisis by the Department of Communities and Justice management is to shut their Lismore and Ballina offices’ rather than increase resources.


“In 2022 Lismore experienced its greatest flood in its history.  But since then our local members in Community Services have been subject to a drought – a drought of resources, a drought of ideas and a drought of effort from their senior management”


PSA members are now concerned that we are at risk in NSW of exposing the very same vulnerable children we are meant to be supporting to even greater harm through a broken system.


“Chris Minns needs to immediately onboard another 500 child protection caseworkers to address the attraction and retention crisis in child protection, otherwise the system will collapse.


“To be fair the current government didn’t create this mess but it’s up to them to fix it.


These child protection caseworkers are passionate about their work, and they want those on the North Coast to know no urgent child protection responses will be impacted during their protest, and that skeleton staffing will be maintained at all times during this protest.


“But they feel they have to do something as management just aren’t listening to their concerns,” said Mr Wright.


Child Protection caseworkers will walk off the job and protest outside the Lismore CSC (4 Zadoc Street, Lismore) Wednesday the 24th of April at 12pm.


Contact: 0405 285 547

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