DCP Call Centre Dispute Returns to SAET

07 February 2020

The PSA took the dispute about DCP Call Centre staff caring for and transporting young people out of hours back to the South Australian Employment Tribunal on Thursday 6 February 2020.

PSA Worksite Representatives and Industrial staff had attended a previous hearing in September 2019. Due to inaction by DCP and ongoing concerns for the health, safety and wellbeing of our members working in the call centre we have been forced to take this action.

DCP was asked for an After Hours Transporting Children and Young People policy in May 2018. DCP presented a final policy to the PSA at the SAET hearing on Thursday 6 February 2020 without appropriate consultation.

Members working in the Call Centre are regularly called on to work double shifts to provide care for young people in housing which is not fit for purpose. They are also expected to transport extremely traumatised and at times highly agitated young people. These situations are placing our hard working and devoted members at extreme risk of injury and fatigue, meaning they are occasionally not able to work the next day and perform their core role in the Call Centre. This has recently resulted in a blow-out of call waiting times and, in at least one case, a long term injury has been sustained in an incident when transporting young people.

With the knowledge that this issue has spread much wider to most DCP offices across the state, the issue of Social Workers being coerced (VOLUNTEER) to care for young people after working their normal shifts has become commonplace. The PSA understands our members care about the wellbeing of young people. We need to ensure DCP provides appropriate care with properly trained staff, and not keep filling the gaps with our overstretched Social Workers.

DCP has responded to the PSA stating that a recent spike in demand has involved a number of large sibling groups. The department has also stated they are working on short and long term strategies to address these issues by ongoing recruitment in Residential Care and addressing staff shortages in the Carer Approval and Review Unit (CARU) and other long term strategies.

Unfortunately, as you would all be aware this crisis has grown to the stage where it is becoming a regular situation where not only in the Call Centre but department wide Social Workers are being expected to (VOLUNTEER) to care for children out of hours.

The PSA reminds members that caring for young people out of hours is voluntary and you cannot be forced to perform these duties.

There was general agreement from DCP representatives and the PSA these issues need to be resolved. The SAET Commissioner released the following statement.

As a result of the conference the parties agreed to the following:

  •  There will be a meeting between the PSA and delegates, with senior decision makers of DCP, at least at Director Level, to discuss and address the issues raised by the PSA, and in particular their concerns involving work, health and safety.
  •  Such a meeting will be convened as quickly as possible, but by no later than Friday 14 February 2020. The meeting will be of sufficient duration to properly discuss and consider the issues, and if necessary a further meeting will be convened.
  •  After such meeting/s should there be any issues that remain unresolved then the PSA will advise SAET, and another conference will be convened at short notice.

Either party has liberty to apply, at short notice, to SAET for further assistance.

The PSA and members look forward to positive discussions with DCP. We are seeking a permanent solution to this crisis where young people can be cared for in safe and nurturing environments and our already overworked Social Workers in the Call Centre and offices are able to perform their role in ensuring the best outcomes for young people.