New figures on job vacancies across the Child Safety Service give a harrowing insight into the scale of the crisis facing Tasmania’s child protection system. Funded Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions in the North and North West equal 69.6 and 55.7 FTE respectively.
The ongoing crisis of recruitment and retention gripping the service has seen workers burnt out and resigning in increasing numbers, with the service unable to offer pay or conditions to attract new workers to replace them. The result is a shortfall of 23.17 FTE in the North (33%), including 10.42 FTE Child Safety Officers and a further 11.25 (20.2%), including 8 Child Safety Officers, in the North West.
While shocking enough, it is difficult to get across the true impact of these vacancies looking at the figures alone – that’s why CPSU members have come forward to give an insight into the state of the service after years of chronic under resourcing.
“People are exhausted here,” said Jo, a Child Safety worker based in the south.
“It’s something that’s not going to go away. Surely the best people to ask for what’s needed are us – the workers. Just doing a quick band aid fix – long term I can’t see anything changing. Lately it’s been getting so much worse.”
“Everybody’s really down about how bad it is,” said Gill, a CPSU Delegate in the service. “But the opportunity to come out and communicate that has really spurred everybody to get out and make our voices heard. Any one voice might not get anywhere, but when we all speak together we get heard.”
“We do it for the love of the children. But this Government has relied on the good will of the workers for far, far too long. And what happens is that the workers break – they can’t just keep doing it. We’ll lose all the people with experience: we’ve had workers start without having a team leader for weeks – the person who is supposed to be supporting them and showing them what to do,” she said.
The workforce shortages also include Court Co-coordinators for both the North and North West and several practice leaders. The result has been ever-increasing pressure on exhausted and demoralised staff who have already spent years making untold personal sacrifices – unpaid overtime, skipped holidays, missed time with loved ones – to hold their service together.
Over the past two months Child Safety workers across the state have commenced historic industrial action – walking off the job twice already and committing to rolling action to continue until their concerns are addressed by Premier Rockliff.
“No Child Safety worker takes delight in walking out on the job. We do it because literally every day we’re being forced to make a decision between the children we help and those we don’t. No worker should ever be forced into that position,’” said Heath, another CPSU Delegate.
It has now been two weeks since members met with the Premier to speak with him directly about their proposed Emergency Workforce Package. Every day that the Premier continues to sit on his hands instead of using his power to intervene and fix the service brings us a day closer to a tragedy as children are left to slip through the cracks.
CPSU members are resolved to do everything they can by standing together, in union, to prevent that from happening. Will you stand with them? Spread the word.