Family and Community Services workers walk off the job at Hurstville

Concerns: About 30 Family and Community Services workers at St George Community Services stopped work today in protest at the government's new Child Story case management system. Picture: Chris Lane
Concerns: About 30 Family and Community Services workers at St George Community Services stopped work today in protest at the government's new Child Story case management system. Picture: Chris Lane

About 30 Family and Community Services (FACS) workers walked off the job at the St George Community Services Centre in Hurstville today.

The workers were calling on the Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward to halt the rollout of phase two of the ChildStory system which  replaces the old platform, called 'KIDS” and which  is meant to handle all child protection and out-of-home care activity with children, their families and foster carers in NSW.

The Public Service Association's general secretary Troy Wright said that in the testing phase last year it became clear to FACS workers that ChildStory was nowhere near ready to be implemented.

“It contained a range of serious problems and glitches and required far more key strokes to process information,” he said.

FACS workers, represented by the PSA, implored department officials to hold off on the release of ChildStory until it was ready.

Mr Wright said the PSA has been inundated with complaints about the system from its members.

But one of the more serious claims, that foster careers who have been de-authorised are now re-appearing in ChildStory as authorised has been strongly denied by the department.

Department of Family and Community Services secretary, Michael Coutss-Trotter did not deny there had been problems introducing the ChildStory system, but described the more serious claims as “just plain wrong”.

“Our training and support hasn’t been up to scratch and a lot of people are struggling with ChildStory as a result,” he said.

“I won’t pretend things are hunky dory when they’re not. We have to acknowledge problems to fix them.

“But the most serious claims made by the Public Service Association are either wrong or exaggerate issues that have, or are, being fixed particularly the claims that de-authorised carer have been wrongly re-authorised,” he said.

“On December 8 last year the ChildStory team was told that a carer whose KiDS status was ‘Authorised-AAE Investigation”, because they were the subject of a reportable conduct allegation, had appeared in ChildStory as “Fully Authorised”,” he said.

“That was fixed immediately and within five days another 322 carer records with the same problem were found and fixed.

“None of these carers were ever de-authorised. The errors were the result of a particular data migration rule not working as it should have. That was fixed and we can find no evidence of any ongoing problem.”

The PSA also claims that  Child Protection Helpline response times have shot up, as staff struggle to record reports of children at risk. People hoping to report to the helpline have been forced to wait more than two hours to get through.

Other PSA claims include:

- Millions of child protection records have not been transferred from KIDS to ChildStory

- Child protection caseworkers are unable to enter new records as well as find old records.

- Technical support swamped with over 1000 emails requests for assistance per day, resulting in child protection staff receiving no response and not being able to do their work

- Caseworkers are wasting most of their day sitting at their computers struggling with the new system, as opposed to responding to child protection reports, engaging with families and building relationships with children and young .

"We are seeking a commitment from the Minister to hold off on the roll-out of Stage Two of ChildStory until the problems with Stage One have been fixed,” Mr Wright said.

"Our message to the Minister is: let's fix the mess we have before we go spreading it further.

"The child protection system in the St George area is now in chaos.

"Walking off the job is never something these dedicated workers want to do, but they are so frustrated with the way the government keeps fobbing off their extremely serious concerns.

"You have politicians and tech consultants sitting in the CBD of Sydney pushing out a system that is literally putting vulnerable lives at risk in this community.”

A spokesman for the department said that the launch of ChildStory has changed the way many FACS staff work, and has involved data migration of over 20 years’ of information from a legacy system.

“FACS appreciates that the change has caused frustration as staff transition to a new system,” he said.

“To ensure staff are able to easily use ChildStory in the course of their work, FACS is working to provide more support and is continuing to make improvements to the system.

“FACS is listening to staff feedback and continually improving training and workshops, and providing additional on-site support in FACS offices.

“FACS has also increased the number of Helpline staff, invested heavily in training and brought in additional specialist resources to ensure the system operates effectively and efficiently.

“FACS takes all matters relating to carer authorisation extremely seriously. The Department has reviewed the information in ChildStory and can confirm that de-authorised carers have not been brought across to ChildStory as authorised carers.”

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