$70 million budget cut and job losses in Department of Family and Community Services: Labor

Labor claims vulnerable children will be put at risk by cuts.Internal documents have revealed a state government plan to cut the Family and Community Services budget by $70 million and reduce staff numbers by 30 per cent.

The document titled Changing the Way We Work on the department’s letterhead says that starting in July this year, the department must make an annual saving of $70 million.

“The majority of these savings will come from staff reductions in the central parts of FACS where we will need to be 30 per cent smaller,” the document says.

“Savings are allocated across the NSW Government and FACS is no exception.”

Tania Mihailuk, the Family and Community Services spokeswoman for Labor, which obtained the internal document, said a 30 per cent reduction in staff across the department could see a large number of jobs lost.

But the Secretary of the NSW Department of Family and Community Services, Michael Coutts-Trotter, said only 91 jobs would be cut.

“Documents published inside our department and provided to unions and to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission make plain we will reduce our central office by 91 positions, with 86 of these being executive positions,” he said.

“It hasn’t been easy, but we make no apology for making savings by halving the size of our executive team, while increasing our frontline workforce.

“In addition to the 91 net job losses, we are also reducing our use of contractors and eliminating some vacant positions in central offices.

“No savings have come from frontline child protection positions”.

Ms Mihailuk said Mr Coutts-Trotter’s response failed to fully explain a 30 per cent reduction in staff and $70 million in savings. She said the figures had not been identified in the state budget despite the internal document being dated in December last year.

“These are explosive figures,” Ms Mihailuk said.

“A massive cut of $70 million per year from the FACS budget will see an end to any meaningful, rigorous oversight of our most vulnerable children in care.”

Ms Mihailuk said the job cuts follow those outlined in the May budget including a 9 per cent cut to the Office of the Children’s Guardian, 82 jobs cut from Statutory Child Protection and 26 jobs cut from Out of Home Care.

After months of “talking tough on child protection and claiming the FACS budget will “continue to increase substantially” the state government had failed to protect the state’s most vulnerable, she said.

Family and Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard would not confirm the $70 million figure when asked about it during a budget estimates hearing in NSW Parliament on Monday.

He said there would be efficiencies across the board and that frontline staff would be exempted from any job cuts. He was committed to ensuring there were “adequate funds” to maintain services.

“The department will have adequate staff to do the job,” Mr Hazzard said. “There has been no cut back to frontline staff.”

Mr Hazzard later said “there  are currently five non-executive head office  positions that will go over the next few months” and “over the last year there has been a reduction of 86 executive positions in head office.”

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