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Cash may attract child caseworkers

Tuesday, 20th August, 2013

By Andrew Robertson

The State Government is considering offering more pay to child protection caseworkers in the bush to help overcome staff shortages.

The plan comes amid revelations last week that NSW is short about 270 caseworkers and a claim by Labor there is an employment freeze.

Social workers are set to walk off the job for one hour today in protest at the on-going staff shortages.

Family and Community Services (FACS) yesterday refused to reveal staffing levels at its Broken Hill office but the government has promised to publish caseworker numbers later in the year.

A spokeswoman for FACS yesterday said it was having trouble recruiting caseworkers, “particularly to remote or regional areas”.

She said FACS was considering offering more money to caseworkers to help overcome the problem. 

“Payment incentives are one of a range of options currently under consideration as part of workforce strategy reforms,” she said.

“This work is in the early stages of development and has not been finalised.”

Department of Community Services boss Michael Coutts-Trotter introduced pay incentives for teachers when he was head of the Education Department.

In the meantime, FACS was implementing specific recruitment policies “to continue to combat” staff shortages, the spokesman said.

These included rolling recruitment and showcasing employment opportunities at local shows and job expositions, and linking up with universities to encourage graduate recruitment.

Case workers at the FACS will strike for one hour from midday to highlight the high vacancy rates, lack of resources and “frustrating red tape” that is hampering effective child protection, the Public Services Association (PSA) said in a statement.

PSA spokesman Steve Turner said caseworker and staff vacancy rates remained as high as 40 per cent in some offices, including in areas with some of the most vulnerable children and families in the state.

“Despite best efforts, staff are overwhelmed by inadequate resources and understaffing that stops them from essential face-to-face work with vulnerable children and their families,” Mr Turner said in a statement.

The organisation is calling on Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward to immediately address the staff shortages.

Caseworkers will only walk out at offices where it is safe to do so, with staff on hand for emergency cases, Mr Turner added. 

- BDT/AAP

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