The Queensland government is failing to live up to its responsibilities for children in their care through leaving child protection workers off the list of critical workers released today. Welfare services are included in the list of essential jobs agreed to by National Cabinet on January 14 but have not been included on Queensland Government’s Schedule of Critical Industries.
Queensland has the highest number children and young people in residential care of any Australian State or Territory. Yet workers looking after these 1,300 Queensland children in state care are not seen as essential despite teachers being included as critical workers.
PeakCare says not including child protection and family support services is alarming and will have a critical impact on children in residential care being run by non-government organisations throughout the state. “The same consideration given by the Queensland Government to the aged care and disability care sectors should apply to the child protection sector,” says PeakCare Executive Director Lindsay Wegener.
“Children and young people living in residential care are also vulnerable just as people who are supported by the aged care and disability care sectors. Most have already experienced profound trauma, many have disabilities and all need consistent care by adults they know and trust. These children are clearly out-numbered by people in aged care and disability care but their needs must not be over-shadowed or over-looked,” says Lindsay.
PeakCare believes the state government is not fulfilling the needs of children in their care who they are responsible for. “It is especially concerning that these are children in the care of the State,” says Lindsay Wegener. “As such, there is a very clear obligation to make sure they are being cared for safely and well.
“The non-government organisations that provide for the care and support of these children and young people are fast running out of enough residential care workers to staff their services with staff either becoming infected or being required to isolate due to them being identified as a contact.
“Residential care workers are dedicated and committed to the safety and well-being of the children and young people in their care. They want to continue working and providing care but they are not being allowed to do so.
“PeakCare and non-government organisations have been working closely and collaboratively with government authorities including the Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs and Queensland Health to ensure that all reasonable precautions are being taken to maintain the safety of both residential care staff and the children and young people in their care. We want this work to continue.
PeakCare has not yet received a response to correspondence sent to the Heath Minister and Minister for Children on January 14 urging inclusion of residential care workers in the Schedule of Critical Industries.
“We are eager to receive the Government’s response,” says Lindsay Wegener. “There are similar concerns about other parts of the child protection system such as foster care and family support services where the staffing of these services is also being impacted.
“The child protection system cannot afford to grind to a halt due to COVID. It will be children and families who will pay the price if this is allowed to occur,” says Lindsay
Lindsay Wegener, PeakCare Executive Director, 0437 726 192
Mark Jeffery, Media & Communications, 0419 732 583