Child Safety: Where We're At

Posted on February 12, 2019

When it comes to addressing workload issues in Child Safety, the Department has had an eleventh-hour change of approach. Instead of working on the basis of a caseload cap, or even a caseload benchmark, the Department no longer wants to talk about caseload at all. They want to talk about ‘reasonable workloads’.

This might sound like semantics, but it’s a significant difference to what we have been talking about for years (quite literally). The Department doesn’t believe counting cases accurately tells a workload picture. However, caseloads are also what the Department uses to publicly demonstrate that things are ‘improving’ in Child Safety. So which is it?

The Department has clearly stated its position that they would not look to implement a caseload cap or upper limit figure. There’s not much more detail to it other than that at this stage. While we agree that the Framework should be mandated, and that the important aspects of it should be part of your EB, we don’t have any indication from the Department as to what it considers is reasonable, or how workloads are to be measured.

Delegates have rejected the Department’s proposal (with some very constructive feedback) to not include a caseload cap or upper limit. It’s not good enough!

It’s been a hard fight to get the Department to commit that whatever formula or framework needs to be agreed upon, and its use to be mandated. These are important aspects of having a strong workload management tool and your actions have shown the Department that it cannot get away without addressing the issue. Your Steering Committee delegates have been very clear that this is a deal-breaker. There’s more to go but you have been chipping away!

When it comes to classifications, the Department has said it does not support reclassifying all AO2 positions across the Department, but were happy to consider on a case by case basis. Delegates said it was not a matter of an individual here and there acting above their level – it was systemic across the Department, in particular in Service Centres and other direct service delivery points. We have since clarified this with the Department but have not yet received their response. Your negotiating team is continuing to work through what an improved entry-level position or classification structure would look like.

In the past week and today, delegates and Steering Committee members have had teleconferences to decide about how we use February to our best advantage. Later this month or early next month, members will be asked about whether they would like to accept the current offer or not. If the offer is not accepted, it is likely that arbitration will begin soon after. In arbitration, protected industrial action is no longer available to members. That’s why these few weeks are critical in convincing the department and the government that it is time for significant change.

A number of Service Centres are continuing work bans and others are commencing new bans on non-critical casework and administrative tasks. Your Steering Committee delegates have recommended escalating your action to Minister Farmer directly – keep an eye out for a further email with more detail about these actions. 

Here is a summary of what we have reached throughout negotiations and conciliation. This list is not exhaustive, but aims to capture both the most deeply-felt claims as well as the substantive parts of the Department’s offer so far.

Not agreed:

  • An upper limit or caseload cap for Child Safety workloads
  • Any reclassification/classification claims
  • A percentage wage increase on existing wage rates (not expired EB rates)

Proposed:

  • Face-to-face personal safety training for all staff who work in Child Safety and Youth Justice Service Centres (with online training available for other employees)
  • Enshrining the 1:4 staff/young person ratio in Youth Detention
  • A commitment to review the following policies, in consultation with Together, within 6 months of the certification of the EB:
    • Recruitment & Selection
    • Temporary Employment
    • Casual Employment
    • Leave
    • Hours of Work
    • Flexible Work Arrangements
  • Developing a Remote Area Incentives approach in consultation with Together
  • Implementing a Safety, Health & Wellbeing framework
  • Reviewing the PO2/3 progression scheme in consultation with Together
  • Continuation of employment security, consultation, union encouragement and other ‘base’ provisions carried over from the Core EB

In addition to the above, the Department has proposed, as part of recruitment, that CSOs with the appropriate experience can be appointed at PO3 level upon commencement.

You have been strong and united in the face of a Department that is not showing adequate commitment to a safe and fair workplace – congratulations on what you have achieved so far, and we know that Child Safety, Youth & Women will be a better place to work because of your action. It has been a long campaign, and there is still more to go, but your solidarity and action are how we will win!

1800 177 244
members@together.org.au