SHAMEFUL YOUTH CASEWORKER VACANCY CRISIS MUST BE FIXED NOW

Wednesday, 6 March 2024

NORTHERN Tablelands MP Adam Marshall has today called on the State Government to take urgent action to address a growing youth caseworker vacancy crisis across the region, with latest figures showing almost one in four Department of Communities & Justice (DCJ) caseworker positions in the New England and Northern NSW are not filled.

Mr Marshall said the latest data from Quarter 1 2024, publicly displayed on the DCJ website, showed a caseworker vacancy rate of 23 per cent, by far the highest in the State, with 72 positions vacant, up 6 per cent (17 positions) from last year.

“Our region has a caseworker vacancy crisis with a rate now almost double the statewide average,” Marshall said.

“With almost a quarter of our caseworker positions vacant our region’s most vulnerable youth are not being adequately supported and this has far-reaching consequences, including fuelling the incidence of youth crime.

“The system is falling apart, it is failing, and our at-risk youth are the collateral damage.

“These figures are beyond embarrassing, the situation shameful, and the Minister must be held to account and take immediate action to fix this vacancy crisis.”

Mr Marshall said the region also topped the list in the State for the lowest number of children at risk of significant harm being seen by caseworkers.

He said the latest figures showed that of the 18,628 children assessed by DCJ as being at risk of significant harm (ROSH), only 2,997 (16 per cent) had been seen by a caseworker in the last 12 months – the lowest anywhere in NSW.

“This is truly heartbreaking – 84 per cent of the children deemed at-risk in our region are not being seen by a caseworker,” Mr Marshall said.

“I cannot believe this disgraceful situation has been allowed to worsen without any intervention, let alone any public remarks from the Minister or the government.

“We are grappling with youth crime problems right across rural and regional NSW at the moment, so you’d think it would be a priority for DCJ to provide all the support possible to our at-risk youth.

“Extraordinarily the opposite is true, borne out by these figures, and I am truly shocked and ashamed that so little support is being provided and the situation is only worsening.

“The time has well and truly come for urgent intervention by the government to fill these caseworker positions to ensure our most vulnerable young people are being supported.

“Continuing to fail our youth is simply not an option and I won’t stand by idly while ever this crisis situation is left unaddressed – we deserve much better.

“The Minister for Families and Communities Kate Washington must act now.”

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