Families department workers demand staff

Issue 

BY BILL MASON

BRISBANE — On October 23, 100 angry Queensland families-department workers marched on the Crime and Misconduct Commission's hearing into abuse of foster children. The CMC has heard allegations of widespread mistreatment and neglect of children in foster care, under the guidance of the families department, over many years.

The workers rallied outside the offices of the Queensland Public Sector Union (QPSU), before marching. They called for more funding for the cash-strapped department, and demanded at least 400 more officers and a reduction in caseloads per worker.

The workers also endorsed a motion of no confidence in Labor Premier Peter Beattie's families minister, Judy Spence. Beattie's government has been damaged by the eight-day CMC inquiry, which heard repeated allegations of neglect and mismanagement within the families department.

In his final submission to the inquiry, on October 24, families department director-general Frank Peach lashed out at claims the department was in crisis. He seized on claims made by the QPSU to the inquiry that university students on work experience in the department were doing unsupervised work on case files because of a shortage of front-line staff.

Peach said he had begun an investigation into the claims, but he could find "no evidence" to substantiate them. However, Trevor Morgan, counsel assisting the inquiry, read out five statements confirming the practice had occurred.

Morgan also read out a survey of departmental area officers conducted by the QPSU that confirmed the practice was widespread. He said of the 16 area offices who responded to the survey, nine confirmed they needed to draw on students' help to manage the office's case load, while one said they had forwarded concerns about the practice to management.

From Green Left Weekly, October 29, 2003.
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