Social Work Review – DE Response to PSA Member Feedback

09 August 2018

The Public Service Association (PSA) has received responses from the Department for Education (DE) to PSA member feedback on the Social Work Review. The comments and responses are provided below.

If you have ongoing concerns, we can continue the discussions with the Department. Please send concerns or comments to PSA by email.

1. Data

PSA Comments
Members are concerned with the reliance on old data to inform discipline demands and outcome of current service provision. For example the 2015 data - pre ROC and RAS used to compare against 2017 requests for service via ROC and RAS (new process not well understood – schools reluctant to implement another process).

The Mount Gambier data was correct in 2015 but is not accurate for 2016 or 2017 as the data did not cover the Tatiara-Wrattonbully partnership in 2016 and 2017.

Members are concerned that the site data listed is not reflective of actual attendance statistics. Members have evidence of conflict on a daily basis between actual attendance numbers and the need to project a positive individual site engagement.

Non-Government school requests data were not included in the process as valid deployment of Social Work Attendance and Engagement Officers and Family Focus Workers

Departmental response
The data used highlighted the significant demand for Social Work Attendance and low demand for Family Focussed social work services. More recent data is comparable.

The Social Work review did not consider allocation of FTE across the state. Data on schools with less than 80% attendance rates and high rates of chronic non-attenders was used to allocate the 11 new positions.

2. Consultation

PSA Comments
Members have raised issue about the lack of consultation with Senior Social Work Group, Social Work Attendance and Engagement Officers or Family Focus Workers prior to review recommendations being presented to Senior Executive Group (SEG).

Members are concerned that parent, carer and student voices were not included in the consultation process. Members believe this is contradictory to DE’s ethos of community engagement.

Departmental Response
The review report went to the Senior Executive Group (SEG) for approval to proceed to consultation. The outcomes of the consultation will go to SEG for endorsement.

A representative group of Principals, Preschool Directors and Education Directors were consulted as part of the Review process. Further consultation with schools, preschools and Education Directors occurred at the same time as consultation with staff.

Planned communication and consultation with sites, Partnerships and EDs will address consultation with school communities including parent, carer and student voice.

3. Loss of FTE staff and Allocation of FTE

PSA Comments
PSA members have raised concerns with factors such as travel not taken into consideration e.g. distance between country sites versus city based sites, factors such as ‘loading’ for country personnel missing, impacts on capacity, time and personnel sustainability.

Members are concerned with the loss of 1.5 FTE Social Work Positions across Channel 3. There is concern there is no information available to suggest that Education Directors/Principals in Channel 3 were consulted as part of the review, or what data informed FTE reduction.

It was stated in the 2 page Social Work Review Outcomes sheet that ‘there will be no overall loss of positions’. Members have raised concerns around a 1.5 FTE loss across Channel 3 and 0.5 FTE in the Mt Gambier Office which serves a regional/rural area. Members are concerned that the overall reduction of Social Work Services in Mt Gambier is out of step with the AEDC data that demonstrates a strong trend of increasing vulnerability in the Mount Gambier community.

Departmental Response
The allocation of additional resources to each office is not in the scope of the review; the new positions were assigned based on data of schools with less than 80% annual attendance with high numbers of chronic non-attenders.

There is no overall loss of Social Work positions.

All Education Directors and site leaders were given an opportunity to provide feedback on the review recommendations during the consultation process.

4. New Positions

PSA Comments
How many of the 11 new positions announced will be SWT and how many will be going to SWAE?
What is the definition, reach, and responsibility of the new SWT position?
Will all SWAE become SWT?
Why is FTE going to SWISS (2FTE), GOM Advocacy (4.6 FTE), and Youth Justice (1 FTE)?
Why isn’t this 7.6FTE going to be allocated to address the need with Attendance/ Truancy?
In particular why are there 2 positions being created with such low FTE (GOM Advocacy and Youth Justice), when they will become as highly inundated as FF was due to the low levels of staffing?

Departmental Response
All 11 new positions will be SW – Truancy.

The new SW-Truancy positions have the same role description as the SW-AE and will have a focus on whole site work with schools with 80% or less annual attendance rate and high rates of chronic non-attendance.

It is proposed that the existing SW-AE roles will remain SW-AE however there was very strong feedback on the need for a consistent name across the positions. The SW-FF positions will become SW-Truancy.

Data collected indicates that the SWISS workload requires 2 more service providers. All data on the educational outcomes for children under guardianship and in the youth justice system indicates they need to be a priority for resourcing and response.

The need for extra resourcing for attendance and truancy is being addressed by the 11 additional positions. The pressure points indicated within the system are young people in the juvenile justice system and children under the guardianship of the Minister.

The Youth Justice position is currently being scoped and trialled to determine the priorities and most effective use of this role. The GOM advocacy positions are still to be scoped and effective deployment of this resource yet to be determined. These roles will provide a strategic service response and will be designed to ensure appropriate scope.

5. Service Provision
The review states that FF are no longer required due to the introduction of CWP, but CWP have redefined their service model and no longer have the same cross over.

Members are concerned with the gaps in services particularly for sites who do not have a Student Well-being Leader or a Child Well-being Practitioner. Some of these sites are small, rural sites. Only eight have access to the services of a CWP.

Members are also concerned about preschools no longer having access to Support Services Social Work now that the Social Work (Family Focus) role will not exist. Not all preschools are located near a Children’s Centre and therefore could access a Family Services Coordinator.

Members have concerns that there will not be capacity for proactive work such as capacity building work with educators.

Departmental Response
The review report recommends that due to the small number of SW-FF, the inconsistent service delivered and an increasing overlap with CWP practitioners, SW-FF positions are redeployed to address the system pressure points. Data collected indicates that although the CWP focus has been clarified there is still considerable overlap in case referrals between SW-FF and CWP practitioners.

All schools have Student Wellbeing Leadership time allocated.

The Principal Social Worker will undertake an analysis of the cases SW-FF are currently working with in rural and regional areas to understand the service they are providing, whether the service is appropriate and alternate services options.

There are very few referrals from preschools and a significant number are either a children’s centre or provided a service by Child Wellbeing program.

The SW-AE role currently has proactive work as part of its scope and will continue to do so, as will the SW-T role.