COMMUNITY Services caseworkers from across the Hunter walked off the job yesterday in an attempt to highlight staff shortages and red tape.
The action followed a month of negative reports about the lack of effective child protection in the region, and came as the opposition renewed its calls for Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward to be sacked.
More than 25 frontline workers from the Department of Family and Community Services offices at Charlestown and Edgeworth stopped work for an hour from midday.
The workers carried placards outside Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell's office to protest at high vacancy rates, lack of resources, computer problems and red tape.
Public Service Association regional organiser Paul James said these issues were hampering face-to-face time with vulnerable children and their families.
"The state government needs to address staff shortages and have vacancies filled on a permanent basis," he said. "There's a massive volume of red tape. Caseworkers are spending hours filling out forms."
Department of Family and Community Services director general Michael Coutts-Trotter agreed with the union on the need to cut red tape but said it was counter-productive they were using caseworker numbers to criticise the department when recruitment was on the rise.
He said as of August 13, there were 184 new caseworker appointments in NSW.
"We want to work with staff and the union to recruit and retain more high-quality people," Mr Coutts-Trotter said.
In Parliament, Labor called for Ms Goward to be sacked after she admitted yesterday her office had been advised more than once of an Ernst & Young report that warned of a shortage of more than 200 caseworkers in NSW.
Ms Goward said a draft of the report had been emailed to her office and was tabled at a policy meeting she attended in July, but she insisted she had never seen it.
Premier Barry O'Farrell stood by her yesterday.
"There is no worse case of misrepair, of poor management and of the consequences of poor management than what happened to the Department of Community Services under the Labor Party," he said.