Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Health Spokeperson
Tasmania is in a State of Emergency and the priority is to protect vulnerable people. Our child protection services were already struggling, but COVID-19 is exacerbating the situation. The Greens strongly support all measures the Government has taken so far to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the State. The next step, however, must be to proactively plan to limit its impact on vulnerable children and women.
We understand the situation within Child Safety Services has deteriorated sharply in the last fortnight, and is now described internally as ‘chaotic’. There is growing concern among staff about the lack of a proper plan for the unfolding pandemic.
Staff across the regions, and in different teams, have received inconsistent and contradictory advice about whether they are allowed to conduct home visits, and the way they should undertake their work. Despite internal staffing movements, we understand there is still a serious shortage of child safety officers and necessary equipment.
There are already about 40 children at risk who have not been allocated a Child Safety caseworker, and that number is sadly all too likely to rise.
COVID-19 is expected to increase the risk of domestic violence as pressures mount on families from anxiety and the economic consequences of necessary quarantine and social distancing measures. This has been the experience of overseas jurisdictions that have gone into social lockdown.
As this pandemic and the social changes associated with it unfold, the Greens urge the Premier and Minister for Human Services to prepare a plan for Child Safety Services, with the increased resourcing to support it, that will protect vulnerable children and women and the department’s staff who support them.