NSW children at risk. Departmental crisis
by Peter Mac The NSW Department of Community Services (DOCS) is in trouble, with a 76 per cent increase in reported cases of child abuse this year. However, the Carr government is determined to reduce the state's public sector, and DOCS staff numbers are still totally inadequate to deal with the rising workload. Last week they entered their third strike in three months over staffing levels and other problems. In an astonishing ABC radio interview, NSW Community Services Minister Fay Lo Po admitted the inadequacy of current DOCS resources. She remarked: "... we've gone as far as we can with these resources and in this direction. We need to re-shape, re-direct and resource ..." Apparently, however, this did not mean that DOCS is to receive more funding. Mrs Lo Po agreed with others that "you could put the whole of the State budget into (DOCS) and people will still kill their children" and, in order to deal adequately with the problem of child abuse, "you would have to change human nature". According to Mrs Lo Po, "child abuse is driven by drug use, alcohol use and domestic violence." She did not concede that these phenomena arise from increasing rates of homelessness, unemployment and poverty, or that these are related to the ruthless drive for profits by big business. Mrs Lo Po attributes the major blame for social breakdown to parents, not to wider social forces. She stated that on retirement her one wish "... wouldn't be world peace." (Emphasis added.) Instead, "It would be that parents take responsibility for ... their children". Mrs Lo Po added "I would gladly be out of a job". The Guardian understands that many DOCS personnel agree with the Minister.