WE MUST PROTECT OUR CHILDREN
“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
In a wealthy country such as Australia, there are systems in place to look after our most vulnerable with a well-established welfare safety net, free access to emergency medical care, the NDIS and a child protection system which steps in when needed to look after children at risk from family or sexual violence and/or neglect.
While no system is ever perfect, there is a reasonable expectation from taxpayers and society at large that a good proportion of our taxes should go towards providing such services. It’s therefore concerning when we hear that the system is failing.
A report in the Sunday Tasmanian revealed details of a leaked document, which described the state’s child protection system as suffering from a critical lack of staff. The document, written last month, says this has left more than 220 at risk children unable to access a child safety officer.
The document details a plan in how best to care for those children during a time of critical staff shortages. It says there are 70 per cent of absences and vacancies in the state’s North-West, 42 per cent in the North and 37 per cent in South.
While sickness because of Covid is partly to blame, the problems of recruiting and retaining child protection staff have been longstanding. It takes a special type of person to work in an area where they see children suffering every day, and when something goes wrong, staff are often in the firing line.
The lack of child protection officers means those who are already stretched are left open to accusations of failing children as impossible workloads means some of those who need help inevitably fall through the cracks.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) says it will ask its members whether they want to take industrial action to force the state government to intervene.
“This is not a service in crisis, it’s a service that’s crumbling,” CPSU general secretary Thirza White said.
Possible industrial action demonstrates how desperate workers are. One hopes that it does not come to that and the government will provide the resources and incentives to recruit more staff.
The state is already reeling from revelations during the Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings.
It is clear that much still needs to be done to protect our children.