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Govt neglect in falling social worker numbers

Turner: Govt neglect in falling social worker numbers

New Zealand is short of more than 500 social workers, with a third of vacancies not being filled, and the Government has no solutions and apparently even less interest in fixing it, United Future deputy leader Judy Turner revealed today in slamming the Clark administration's lack of planning.

“From answers to my questions this week, the Government clearly has no plan to do anything about it and Social Development Minister Steve Maharey admits it has no analysis on what the situation will be in five years.

“That’s not governing; that’s a bad joke,” Mrs Turner said.

“And this is the same Government that plans on passing CYFS’ less urgent work to community-run services. Where are the social workers going to come from to take this workload from over-burdened CYFS staff?” she asked, in revealing the shortfall.

“This shortage is going to impact directly on families and children who most need help and support in out society, and frankly it makes a mockery of the planned revamp of CYFS.

“Mr Maharey and the Government need to get their act together and start planning as to how this shortfall is going to be addressed,” she said.

“This is not a new problem. The Government has known about it for some time but it clearly has its head firmly in the sand.

“The Government was briefed on this problem after the last election and is well aware of the fact that the numbers of social work graduates are plummeting. Why are they standing by and watching it happen?

‘Frankly I was shocked and disappointed to have the Minister admit there are simply no projections on how bad this shortage is going to get in the next five years, and no targets for the numbers we need to fix it.”

Mrs Turner said urgent action was needed to avoid a crisis and to rebuild social work as an attractive profession.

“This means addressing the huge disincentive that student debt creates to entering these vital but traditionally lower-paid positions,” she said.

United Future would remove the parental income testing for student allowances for all students over 20. Couple this with loan write-off schemes for those who are qualified in fields facing shortages such as social work in return for a continuous period of work in New Zealand and you actually have a plan to increase numbers of social workers, she said.

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