Unborn risk alerts spike
Child services union concerned over mounting caseloads
A SPIKE in the average number of unborn babies who are the subject of red flag alerts has the union representing child services staff concerned about ever-increasing caseloads.
New figures obtained by the Sunday Tasmanian show 299 unborns were the subject of 348 notifications, including 40 multiple alerts, made by concerned social workers, health professionals and others in the 12 months to July this year.
This compared with an annual average of 252 vulnerable unborns being the subject of 321 notifications between mid-2009 when the pre-birth intervention laws began and July 2016.
Under the mandatory reporting system, workers such as health professionals, police and teachers must report concerns about potential risk to unborns in families confront- ing issues such as substance abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, intellectual disability, homelessness and housing instability.
A Department of Health and Human Services spokesman said the increase in notifications was relatively minor, especially when factoring in the state’s population increase.
However, Community and Public Sector Union state secretary Tom Lynch said the in- crease was adding to an unsustainable workload for Children and Youth Services workers that already involved ballooning unallocated lists for at-risk children.
“They [ unborn cases] are very hard cases and they are very hard to deal with,” Mr Lynch said. “I think it’s one of those extremely difficult areas for the Child Safety Service because you are dealing with an adult human being and the de- cisions they are making about their baby and the implications that has for the unborn child.”
The DHHS figures for 2016-2017 also reveal:
of the 299 unborns subject to a notification “had subsequent activity within three months of birth” involving child services staff.
of the 299 unborns were placed in Out of Home Care within three months of birth.
The DHHS spokesman said that the system was still working well to help those struggling during what could be a challenging time for some families.
“Assessments of notifications regarding unborn babies and unborn baby alerts remain critical tools to enable the Child Safety Service to effectively plan prior to the birth of a child who could be at risk,” the DHHS spokesman said.