The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is responsible for protecting Victoria’s children and young people from abuse and neglect. It does so through its child protection program, where child protection practitioners (CPP) receive, assess, and investigate reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. Where a child or young person needs protection, CPPs intervene and provide protective services.
Like police, emergency services and youth justice, child protection is ‘frontline’ work that is highly complex and requires specialist skills. CPPs are exposed to a range of mental health stressors, including:
- long and unpredictable working hours
- repeated exposure to trauma, violence, and on occasion, death
- difficult interactions with the public
- high professional expectations
DHHS has a duty of care to CPPs under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and must provide, so far as is reasonably practicable, a safe work environment that is without risks to employees’ health, including psychological health.
WorkSafe Victoria is the state’s occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator, responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance with the OHS Act, among other duties.
In this audit, we examined whether CPPs are maintaining good mental health and wellbeing. In doing so, we considered how DHHS promotes good mental health, and whether DHHS identifies and appropriately manages potential and existing mental health issues. We also considered WorkSafe Victoria’s role in monitoring and enforcing compliance with the OHS Act.