couriermail_com_au QUEENSLANDERS have been hoodwinked for a decade into believing there’s an army of frontline workers in child protection, the Child Protection Inquiry has been told this morning.
Since the early 2000s state governments have told the public support staff and associated workers are in the frontline, it has been alleged.
Professor Karen Healy from the University of Queensland has raised serious allegations that the deliberate fraud has led to hundreds of kids being removed from their family home without good reason.
Professor Healy has told the inquiry the department deliberately sidelined trained social worker who actually engage with families and employed staff with backgrounds in record keeping and criminology.
“I would define a frontline staff person as someone who spent a significant part of their week engaged with clients,” she said.
She has also told the inquiry families who have had children removed may one day take legal action against the State Government.
“These people have rights,” she said.
“These people may start demanding justice.”
For much of the decade the government had provided no breakdown on figures on actual frontline workers in annual reports or public documents, she said.
Professor Healy, who heads up the Australian Association of Social Workers, said she had raised the issue with two former Community Services Minister.
She also has an email from some departmental staff who pleaded with her not to give them “a hard time” in pursuing the issue of who or who was not a frontline worker.
Professor Healy said the “de-professionalisation” of the department had led to poor decision making with children being removed from families rather than social workers being allowed to work with them on improving parenting.
The executive arm of the department and, by extension, the ministers, did not have a good grasp of the full ramifications of removing a child from a home, she said.
“I do believe they did not have a strong understanding of that,” she told Counsel Assisting Ryan Haddrick.
Commissioner Tim Carmody asked whether the department might believe that creating a public perception of a large number of front line workers was in the department’s interests.
Cutting front line workers might a create “moral panic” that would not necessarily follow the cutting of bureaucratic positions, he suggested.
Professor Healy agreed with the suggestion.
The inquiry continues.