By JR on Saturday, February 04, 2012
Dr Jeremy Sammut comments on how deserved is the "community worker" pay hike
For the last three years, I have been arguing that Australia’s failing child protection system is being run in the interests of social service providers and not ‘at risk’ children.
In the name of ‘family preservation,’ state community service departments are leaving children for far too long with highly dysfunctional families and only remove them as a last resort when they have been damaged, often permanently, by parental neglect and abuse.
While the childhoods and life opportunities of children ebb away into intergenerational disadvantage, social workers employed in the public sector and non-government ‘charitable’ organisations receive taxpayer funding to provide an array of support services that try and fail to do the impossible – fix broken families with serious drug and alcohol, domestic violence, and mental health problems that can’t be fixed.
The Fair Work Australia decision on Wednesday to award ‘equal pay’ to more than 150,000 community sector workers at a cost of $2 billion to taxpayers is indecent in its illustration of the political problems in the child protection system.
Forget that the decision is based on dodgy comparisons – why should someone with a three-year social work degree have income parity with a trained economist or scientist? Sadly, the federal government was not only willing to support the claim but also provided the $2 billion additional funding to foot the higher wage bill at a time of looming economic woes.
Many commentators are justifying the pay rise by saying those who choose to work with the poor are saints. The real question is why is failure being rewarded? Public choice, dear reader. I just wish vulnerable children had a public sector union to advocate on their behalf, replete with tame factional serfs in the Labor caucus.
That feathering their own nests has been the priority at a time when the child protection system is crumbling all around us and stumbling from one crisis to another means that social workers have surrendered any pretensions to their ‘professional’ status.
This sorry episode has reinforced my belief that the answer to the perpetual crisis engulfing child protection is to restore citizen-control over the system by re-establishing decentralised, community-governed child protection agencies.