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Pressure grows over departmental failures -

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ELEANOR HALL: While that investigation continues the Victorian Government is under pressure to
devote more resources to child protection.

The Premier and the Minister in charge of Community Services say they're doing all they can but an
Ombudsman's report has exposed cases where social workers have put children in the care of
convicted sex offenders and have failed to carry out police checks on carers.

Workers in the sector say they're stretched to the limit and some are calling for an overhaul of
the system.

But the Association of Childrens Welfare Agencies is urging calm, saying the system should not be
turned inside out in response to isolated cases.

Emily Bourke compiled this report.

EMILY BOURKE: This morning the minister in charge of community services in Victoria Lisa Neville
struggled to reassure the public the department's mistakes of the past wouldn't be repeated.

LISA NEVILLE: Look I think no-one can ever given an iron clad guarantee. What I would say is that,
you know, I have an expectation, the community has an expectation that the mandatory requirement of
undertaking criminal record checks is undertaken by child protection workers.

EMILY BOURKE: On ABC local radio in Melbourne the minister explained that a spelling error was to
blame for her department placing a child with a convicted sex offender.

LISA NEVILLE: Look as I understand there was a, you know, the department have advised me that the
staff member spelled the name incorrectly so the police check came up clear.

Now I mean whether it's an error of that nature or a failure to do the police checks, you know it's
obviously not acceptable.

JOHN BRUMBY: There are cracks in the system and there are children falling through and so we have
got to do better and we've got to put more into it and we will.

EMILY BOURKE: The Victorian Premier John Brumby has admitted the system has failed some of the
state's most vulnerable children.

But he said his Government is close to rolling out a new program, part of which will try to attract
and retain staff.

JOHN BRUMBY: We are coming to the final stages of a package on child protection which will help us
I think, if I could put it this way, to dot the I's, to cross the T's to make sure that every child
in our state at risk gets the maximum possible care.

The big challenge that we've had in some parts of the State is attracting and keeping staff. This
is a very demanding job.

EMILY BOURKE: Jim Walton is from the union that represents child protection workers. He says the
Government must cap the number of cases each worker takes on.

JIM WALTON: There's no cap band. It is entirely to do with the Government's position that to put a
cap on how many cases that are assigned to an individual employee would mean they would have to
employ more people.

It's not rocket science but that's the issue and our view has been for some time that if they can
spend $40 million subsidising the Grand Prix or $30 million renovating the southern stand of the
MCG, they can spend the same money on our most pressing social need - the safety of children at
risk.

EMILY BOURKE: Child welfare advocates have long campaigned for resources in prevention, saying
attention should be at the top of the cliff not at the bottom.

Maree Faulkner is from the National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.

MAREE FAULKNER: We know that there are many, many underlying causes of child abuse. Some of those
relate to major adult problems like drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness and we know that if
we were actually dealing well with those issues we'd be reducing child abuse.

We know that domestic violence is a major factor in child abuse. Again, if we were dealing with
those issues we could stop a lot of kids from being abused and coming into the system.

The really simple things like post-natal home visiting services, good quality maternal and child
health, good early child care - those sorts of services we also know are going to really work to
keep kids out of the child protection system.

EMILY BOURKE: While some charities are demanding a revamp of child protection and family
intervention in light of the issues in Victoria, Andrew McCallum from the Association of Childrens
Welfare Agencies urging caution.

ANDREW McCALLUM: And actually when we get focused on these atypical situations, as horrific as they
are and as bad as they are and that what we need to do something about them, but we need to make
sure that we don't actually take our eye off the other game which is actually early intervention
and prevention because in New South Wales Premier Rees this Saturday will make an apology to the
forgotten Australians, Brumby in Victoria has already done that.

That was because of abuses in the past from out of home care situations. We don't want to be laying
down the same situations in thirty years' time, we have another generation that has actually
suffered at the hands of the state.

ELEANOR HALL: Andrew McCallum is from the Association of Childrens Welfare Agencies. Emily Bourke
with that report.