Skip directly to content

Unqualified Queensland DoCS child safety workers forced to deal with at-risk children

Like us on fb

Lukes Dad's picture
on Sun, 08/12/2012 - 09:58
Fight Child Protection Department Corruption: 

A BURN and churn of stressed-out Queensland child safety workers has left unskilled officers taking a frontline role in caring for vulnerable children.

With more Queensland children in state care than inmates in prison cells, it's been revealed many child safety workers have no formal qualifications in caring for disturbed children or communicating with dysfunctional families.

PeakCare, an umbrella group for child protection services, says hundreds of social workers have fled the sector because of the stress, and poor decisions are being made which can rip apart families.

PeakCare, representing more than 580 organisations, will use the newly created Queensland child protection inquiry to push for mandatory qualifications for key child safety personnel.

It will also use a landmark British childcare study to pressure a "process-driven" bureaucracy to allow a more flexible approach to child safety, with a view to reducing the number of children removed from families."

It is an extraordinarily stressful job and the turnover of staff has just been immense in recent years," PeakCare executive director Lindsay Wegener said.

"Many social workers have just left the area altogether."

The disappearance of social workers from the field coincides with a worrying rise in children being removed from families.

The child protection inquiry revealed on Tuesday there were 7602 children in some form of out-of-home care, a jump from 5972 in 2000. By contrast, there are 5527 inmates in Queensland prisons.

Mr Wegener said governments had been left with little choice but to fill frontline positions with unqualified workers.Social workers have historically been the preferred professional group to work in the field of child protection.

"Now many no longer want to work for the department," Mr Wegener said.

Many of the former teachers, police and nurses hired over the past decade as youth workers and residential care officers had brought a valuable skills base to the sector, Mr Wegener said.

He said the Government would argue that newly recruited child safety officers had tertiary qualifications.

"The point is that for some time, it has been unlikely that their qualification will be a social work degree or even a human services or psychology degree," he said.

"It is more likely to be a criminology degree, teaching degree or some other degree."

A landmark British study on child protection, the Munro review by Professor Eileen Munro, highlighted the need for the skilled social workers to be at the frontline of child protection.

"Experienced social workers should be kept on the frontline even when they become managers so that their experience and skills are not lost," the Munro review recommends. "The expertise and status of the social work profession should be improved with continual professional development that focuses on the skills needed in child protection."

In the Queensland inquiry, Commissioner Tim Carmody has painted a disturbing picture of the state's most vulnerable.

Katherine McMillan, Senior Counsel assisting at the inquiry, has made it clear staffing will be a crucial area for examination at the 10-month inquiry.

But Ms McMillan said the most "vexed question" the inquiry faced was whether and how a child assessed as an unacceptable risk could be kept safely in their home.