The lives of children are being put at risk because Victorian child protection staff cannot cope with ever-increasing workloads, a worker has warned.
The whistleblower, who wants to remain anonymous, has a decade of experience in the sector and said caseloads for child protection staff have become unmanageable since Luke Batty, 11, was killed by his father in February.
She said six months ago, a team of protective service investigators would receive about 10 reports a week from police and courts requiring investigation.
Recently they have been getting 15 reports in a day.
“Whilst it’s a good thing that the community and other services are reporting more to us, we just don’t have the capacity to respond to the demand and we’re not coping,” she said.
The child protection professional has spoken out in the hope the Government will acknowledge the need for greater resources.
The whistleblower said complaints to the department were falling on deaf ears.
“What’s in the back of my mind is potentially we could have a child death,” she said.
She said staff have been averaging 13-hour days in the past two months but still cannot manage their ever-increasing workload.
“We are constantly responding to a crisis and cannot work on our own allocated cases and do the preventative and supportive work that the families require,” she said.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) said there were 73,000 reports of child abuse last year and that figure was expected to rise.
DHS has funded 23 new positions to handle this year’s increase.
But the union representing the workers said that was well short of the 146 child protection officers identified by the department as necessary to cope with the mounting workload.
Ice affecting more families referred to child protection
Child protection staff said the common denominator in many cases was use of the drug ice.
It is estimated a third of all reports involve the drug, which is bringing a new demographic to the attention of welfare agencies: middle class parents.
Addressing an ice forum in Geelong last week, Christine Faulkner, the director of the Barwon region of the DHS, gave the example of a father of three who had started using the drug.
“In five months, the children were no longer being fed during the day or showing up at school,” she said.
A department spokesman said there is no specific data on the number of ice-related cases being referred to Child Protection Services.
“However, it is clear that ice is affecting a greater proportion of families who have come to the attention of child protection,” the departmental spokesman said.
– with the ABC