High case loads turn staff away

By Rosa Ellen
Updated November 6 2012 - 7:33pm, first published December 7 2011 - 12:01am

MORE than two weeks after child protection workers dropped industrial action that put a cap on their case loads, workers say they are once again overwhelmed with cases.A rally held by Bendigo DHS workers yesterday heard that six staff in the office’s intake unit were dealing with 350 unallocated cases.Last month the Victorian Ombudsman released a damning report into child protection in the Loddon Mallee region, saying the system was failing children by, among other things, putting numerical targets above children at risk. One child protection team leader, who did not want to be named, said the workload was “unrelenting”.“For example, some team leaders are sitting on 115 cases... So how does a child get an active case management service and be made safe, with that kind of pressure?” she said.The child protection team leader said the unit was “run on the goodwill of staff” who were always on call, sometimes staying with children overnight in hotels when placements couldn’t be found.She said systemic problems prevented staff from working with families and following cases through.Community and Public Sector Union organiser Mandy Coulson said case loads were turning people away from the sector.“They’re happy to give their life to an area that most people aren’t even willing to talk about, let alone work in,” she said.“It’s not even the nature of the work – the dramatic child abuse – that makes people leave child protection. It’s never being able to get to the end of their workload.”Last month an interim hearing was held after the government accused workers of putting children’s safety at risk through their industrial action. Negotiations continue today.The government refused to comment.