Child protection case workers' union takes aim at Family and Community Services resourcing in Hunter New England after accreditation failure

The union representing child protection case workers in Hunter New England says the department of Family and Community Services has not resourced the region properly.
The union representing child protection case workers in Hunter New England says the department of Family and Community Services has not resourced the region properly.

It would be an “unprecedented” situation if the state government’s Department of Family and Community Services was stripped of its power to oversee home care of at-risk children, the union representing the state’s child protection case workers says.

Fairfax Media reported on Friday that the Hunter New England branch of FACS risked losing its accreditation for overseeing home care after it failed to meet Office of Children’s Guardian standards for the second time in a year. 

It has been given a six month extension to address the issue.

Public Service Association spokesman Troy Wright said the problem stemmed from poor resourcing in the Hunter New England region – which he said had the “highest level of demand” in the state.

But FACS disputed the claim that resourcing shortfalls were at the heart of the issue.

Of the several districts that were given 12 month extensions to meet the standards last September, Mr Wright said Hunter New England was the only region to need an extra six month grace period.

“It’s almost as if it’s been set up to fail,” he said.

“It’s akin to being asked to have a clean floor but the flood waters are still flowing in.”

Mr Wright said the PSA had written to FACS to ask what the department was doing to ensure it would meet its requirements by May, next year.

“The reason this has happened is because Hunter New England is the region where child protection is at the highest levels of demand,” he said.

“It’s about the government recognising that and resourcing appropriately.”

Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward was unavailable for comment. But a FACS spokesman said resourcing was not a factor in the accreditation decision.

“Keeping children safe is our number one priority, so we will work to address the feedback provided in the coming months as part of our ongoing effort to provide the best support to children and young people in [out of home care] and their carers,” he said.