The State Government only managed to recruit a third of the 340 extra child protection workers it promised to employ in 2018/19, an Auditor-General report shows.
The revelation has prompted fears that children’s safety is being put at risk because of severe understaffing.
The report shows the Department for Child Protection failed to employ 240 additional full time equivalent staff members during the year.
“DCP budgeted to expand its workforce with an additional 340 FTEs to be recruited in 2018‐19, but actually only recruited an additional 100 FTEs,” it read.
It comes after the The Advertiser last week reported that the guardian for wards of the state had outlined a raft of issues within state care, blaming an overwhelmed system for the problems.
Guardian for Children and Young People Penny Wright raised concerns that vulnerable young people were being removed from their families and placed in environments that were also unsafe, such as in accommodation with violent wards of the state or with inadequately-trained staff.
Opposition child protection spokeswoman Jayne Stinson said the staffing shortfall could place children at risk.
“Workers in the Department for Child Protection are already stretched to the limit,” she said.
“Failing to fully staff the Department puts additional strain on hardworking employees and increases the risk of mistakes and poor decisions.”
Ms Stinson said Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson needed to explain why so few extra staff were recruited.
“It’s also important that we find out whether the shortfall in staff has led to any failures to investigate reports of neglect or abuse,” she said.
“Have any children in state care missed out on proper care because of a lack of frontline workers?
Ms Stinson also said there were now 4040 children in state care, 257 more than when Ms Sanderson took office.
Ms Sanderson said the Government was “committed to filling vacancies left by the former Labor Government”.
She said so far this financial year, the Government had employed an extra 84.6 FTE staff, bringing the total number of workers in the Department to 2179, compared to 1803 in June 2017.
It is understood the department now has the highest number of frontline staff than ever before.
“Child protection is a challenging but rewarding space to work in and we are committed to recruiting the right people to look after our most vulnerable children and young people,” Ms Sanderson said.
“The Liberal Government’s initiative to broaden the accepted qualifications for child protection workers has allowed the Department to fill more vacancies.”