Staff strike for children

CHILD protection staff walked off the job in Fairfield yesterday morning in protest against what they say is a refusal to fill vacant jobs in their department.

About 30 Department of Family and Community Services workers left the office in Smart Street yesterday morning for two hours, angered at the state government's refusal to fill about 1000 vacant community service jobs in NSW.

They left behind a skeleton staff to ensure emergencies could be handled.

Public Service Association assistant secretary Steve Turner told the Champion the O'Farrell government had failed in its promise to ease understaffing at the community service centres, which were responsible for looking after the state's most at-risk children.

He said average vacancy rates were about 25 per cent, and in some cases were as high as 40 per cent.

"This has led to only one in 10 children identified as potentially at risk and able to get a face-to-face visit with a child protection worker," he said.

"The staff have to make some horrible decisions about who to visit and who not to visit."

In Fairfield, there is a 22 per cent vacancy rate with eight positions to fill.

But Ms Goward denied there was a reduction in case worker positions across the state and said the vacancy rate was "completely consistent" with the challenges of large-scale staff recruitment.

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