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System Overload Exposed By Report

A SHOCK report into Tasmania's child protection system reveals it is failing to cope with a huge increase in claims of neglect and abuse.
The blunt assessment by staff, unions and department managers was released yesterday by acting Health Minister Lara Giddings, who acknowledged it revealed a disturbing picture of workers under enormous pressure.
The Child and Family Service review revealed:
* A backlog of 412 cases waiting for assessment.
* Each worker had 50-200 notifications not written up.
* A case worker assaulted by a child.
* A leap in police family violence referrals.
* Distressed, under-skilled workers.
* Over-crowded centres, and centres without privacy.
* Drugs, violence and prostitution among children.
* Mental illnesses going untreated.
A mound of new laws and requirements to report suspicions of abuse had led to reams of paperwork and contributed to the 50 per cent rise in notifications in a year.
The report, which made 100 recommendations, also described a huge shortage of carers for children removed from their homes.
Ms Giddings said 56 new staff had been added to the system, but the report said the measure was not managing to soak up the workload.
She said the Government would take immediate action, and 26 recommendations had already been accepted.
"The State Government, with the unions, initiated this warts-and-all report which has confirmed the problems created by rising demands across the system," Ms Giddings said.
"Now we have an extensive report which paints a disturbing picture, but delivers a pathway to improvement."
She said Health Minister David Llewellyn, who is away, said more resources would be provided if necessary.
Vicki Rundle, director of the children and families division in the Department of Health and Human Services, said the system was not in crisis, and urgent cases were dealt with immediately.
Health and Community Services Union secretary Tim Jacobson congratulated the Government for recognising the problem, but said more funding was needed.
Opposition health spokeswoman Sue Napier called for an inquiry into the Child and Family Services system.
"So many CFS concerns raised with the State Opposition have told a terrible story of children and families being unable to access reasonable quality care from a system under so much strain it is no longer able to adequately operate," Mrs Napier said.

The Mercury (14-7-2005)
Michell Paine

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