Fears 75 DHS jobs may be cut in Ballarat putting kids at risk

By Neelima Choahan
Updated November 2 2012 - 7:53am, first published February 23 2012 - 2:58am
State Member for Ballarat West Sharon Knight, State Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews and Upper House Member for Western Victoria Region Jaala Pulford discuss public service job cuts.

A BALLARAT welfare agency is concerned public service job cuts in the human services sector could lead to high-risk children being placed in life-threatening situations. The comments follow union claims that 75 jobs could be slashed in Ballarat from the Department of Human Services.The department is responsible for child and family services, youth justice, public housing, disability services as well as women and youth.A DHS spokesperson confirmed the department would remove around 500 full-time jobs across the state but did not give any details of where the cuts would be implemented. However, she said there would be no reduction in frontline workers. UnitingCare chief executive Cliff Barclay said the cuts would affect service delivery in Ballarat.“In child protection they are always going to be under pressure because even with the best-serviced system there’s going to be tragedies in it,” Mr Barclay said. “In the end, even if frontline services are not being cut, it will impact upon service delivery.”Mr Barclay said the margin of error in delivering child welfare services, in particular, was very small.“The wrong calls in this area can have such devastating effects on people’s lives,” he said.“You only need one wrong call, and somebody might be sent home with a person who can kill them.”“I can’t see how (these cuts) will make it easier to deliver services.”Last year, a report into Victoria’s welfare system exposed serious failings in child protection, just weeks before the Brumby government fought (and lost) the state election. In 2009, a Victorian Ombudsman report found that children had continued to be abused after the Department of Human Services took a long time to intervene in cases. Community and Public Service Union state secretary Karen Batt said the government should come clean on the exact nature and number of the jobs cuts.“Approximately 75 jobs will go in Ballarat,” Ms Batt said.The DHS spokesperson said the cuts would be achieved by non-renewing short-term contracts, redeployment, voluntary departure packages and natural attrition.