Shellharbour Community and Family Services walk off the job in protest today

ANGRY community services workers in Shellharbour and across the state walked off the job today demanding the government better resource child protection services.

Members of the Public Service Association (PSA) held a one-hour protest and walked off the Shellharbour site of the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) in protest, after the NSW Government blamed a “staffing crisis” down to female employees on parental leave.

The industrial action also came following figures released by the NSW Government showing that only one in four children at risk of serious harm were being seen by caseworkers.

PSA general secretary Steve Turner called on the Premier Mike Baird to “address the real issues” rather than blaming women who want to spend time with their families.

“The fact is privatisation of these services is seeing a growing number of at-risk children miss being seen by a protection caseworker,” he said.

“Despite the best efforts of overwhelmed staff, inadequate resources and understaffing is preventing the undertaking of essential face-to-face work with vulnerable children and their families.”

A spokesman for the FACS minister, Gabrielle Upton, said due to the high number of women in the workforce, 12 per cent of vacancies resulted from female caseworkers taking parental leave last year but moves were underway to employ a further 73 assistants.

“There will always be a degree of staff turnover in any workforce of more than 2000 people but we are working hard to fill vacancies quickly,” she said.

PSA member Kerrie Moynihan said they hoped today would push the government to make a firm commitment to increase staff numbers and look “very seriously” at the impact of privatisation.

“If they do that (privatise) we are effectively losing nine face-to-face staff in Shellharbour who work with children,” she said.

“The non-government sector does a very important job in caring for vulnerable families but the services they provide are not statutory services historically.

“When you’re looking at statutory services, you’re looking at a higher level of skill to be able to assess families and deal with the high-end issues around domestic violence, neglect and physical and sexual abuse.''