Emergency Care of Children and Young People

28 November 2019

The Public Service Association (PSA) has received a letter from Department for Child Protection (DCP) Acting Deputy Chief Executive in response to the PSA’s Dispute about Staff caring for Children out of hours.

Unfortunately while full of rhetoric and proposed long term fixes there appears to be no relief in sight for our dedicated members who are currently being asked to look after the most vulnerable children in our community after hours and outside of their job descriptions, training and in inappropriate locations.

The letter has not addressed the urgency of the situation. Instead DCP stated that they are:

  •  filling vacancies in CARU so carer approvals can be expedited
  •  recruiting more residential care staff
  •  increasing the number of family-based carers
  •  addressing the needs of carers
  •  increasing number of children placed with kin
  •  improving liaison between regions, residential care and NGOs.

None of these things address the immediate crisis and are things that are not specific to the issue. Members need action now to remove the risk to them as workers and the risk to children.

The PSA suggest one possible solution available to DCP would be to replace the 24 Residential Care beds closed in the last twelve months. These beds could be staffed with Youth Workers employed and trained by DCP to care and provide appropriate and safe placements for these vulnerable children.

PSA Organiser has visited many workplaces in recent weeks to see if this practice was happening in other offices apart form the call centre. The practice is widespread. Staff have been caring for children in the offices including one office utilising two bean bags placed together in the staff kitchen for a young person to sleep on until very late in the evening after being advised there were no placements available.

Another group of members who had not volunteered to be on the on call roster to care for children finished up working over an entire weekend to ensure a young person was not abandoned. Some members have also told the PSA that they have many hours flexitime accumulated due to excessive workloads which they have not been able to take because they have been needed to care for children after hours.

All of this comes back to the original dispute lodged by the PSA on behalf of members working in the call centre caring for children after hours. Our concern remains that the increased workload will result in fatigue and burn out of our extremely dedicated members working in Child Protection. The demands placed on members is simply unsustainable.

The PSA is continuing to actively pursue the Department to resolve this issue. In order to do this we need to know when and where the practice is happening. If you are asked to care for children outside of your working hours we ask that you contact PSA immediately.