No Silver Bullet to Protect Children - Dispute Notified Regarding Process of Psychological Assessments

12 January 2017

The PSA has issued a dispute notification to the Department of Child Protection (DCP) due to the announcement, to order current residential care staff to undertake psychological assessments with no consultation or due process.

The PSA has informed DCP that as per the enterprise agreement, the status quo remains and no psychological testing is to be conducted until there is a resolution of this matter. If members receive any communication or direction to undertake psychological assessments please contact the PSA immediately.

The PSA and our members' priority is the protection of children and delivering the best possible outcomes for those children. The PSA has not been provided with any detail about the testing process, the parameters around the use of results of any testing, and whether it will be procedurally fair and just for all child protection workers.

Psychological assessment appears to have been approached by DCP as a silver bullet that will address the risks associated with child related work. In general, organisational screening tools such as psychological assessments are not a recommended risk management tool for any organisation. The advice to place so much emphasis on this to protect children is contrary to this. The key risk management strategies and improvements to residential care services are what occurs on the ground.

A major concern and observation of the PSA is that many of the processes in the past two years undertaken to assess this same group of workers have been done so in such stressful and unreasonable administrative fashion that they resulted in workers compensation of experienced staff. The risk to children is then increased when they are then replaced by workers from external agencies with limited screening, training, or any psychological assessment at all.

A copy of the PSA dispute letter to DCP is here.

Previous industrial disputes which were listed before the South Australian Industrial Relations Commission relating to psychological assessments and psychometric processes of existing staff were conciliated. These matters appear to have simply been re-dressed by the new department. The reference that staff received about the Nyland Royal Commission (NRC) recommendation 138 psychological assessments refers to the recruitment of new employees, and not existing staff.

The focus of improving child protection appears to be focused on easy concept of blanket approaches, avoiding the true hard work and changes that are required to keep our children safe.

PSA members can stand together for a safe workplace for both our children and the workers that care for our children. Please continue to keep up to date, provide feedback to the PSA of your concerns and attend any future meetings.

Please direct any questions to PSA Industrial Officers Jason Newell at jason.newell@cpsu.asn.au and Jessica Holz at jessica.holz@cpsu.asn.au or to your Worksite Representatives.