Concerns for NSW child welfare as job cuts loom

By Melissa Coade

Wednesday April 14, 2021

The corruption probe is examining whether Alexandre Dubois and Craig Steyn dishonestly exercised their official functions over a 10-year period. (Image: Adobe/Adwo)

The Public Service Association has voiced concern about the shedding of 175 jobs from the NSW Department of Communities and Justice, reducing ‘welfare oversight staff’ by 20%.

Job cuts will be made in three sections of the department, the PSA says, affecting strategy, policy and commissioning. 

Gutting resourcing from these specialist departments will have negative consequences for at-risk and vulnerable families as these roles are responsible for developing targeted, preventative programs for vulnerable families, and also oversight of external contracts with private providers. 

General secretary of the PSA, Stewart Little, noted there was undue pressure on the public servants responsible for delivering savings rather than meaningful investment to welfare improve services. 

“Welfare in NSW is now a crisis-driven system, with case workers operating in survival mode unable to deliver long-term outcomes for anyone,” Mr Little said. 

“The Berejiklian government’s relentless cuts and outsourcing of core public services mean that opportunities for intervention with kids and families are consistently missed.”

According to the PSA, the other problem with cutting the ranks of public servants and outsourcing core service-delivery to private providers is that it costs taxpayers more. A 2016 report into out of home care in NSW found $960 million of a $1.86 billion total spent on child protection was flowing to privately-provided residential care. The report also concluded that the system was ‘ineffective’ and ‘unsustainable’. 

The PSA further warned that with the doubling of costs for putting at-risk children into privately run homes (rather than state-run homes), would come limited oversight over how the money being spent was delivering the outcomes the community expected. 

“People who work in child protection tell me the private providers effectively have the government over a barrel — they know the government has cut services to such an extent it has no choice but to use the private service, and they charge what they like,” Little said. 


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