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AFTER more than 60 lockdowns at Bimberi Youth Detention Centre due to “unplanned leave” the health and wellbeing of youth workers is in doubt says shadow Minister for Families, Youth and Community Services Elizabeth Kikkert.In a response to a “Question without Notice”, Youth Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith confirmed that there were 61 operational lockdowns in just more than three months this year – almost half the total number of operational lockdowns in 2017, which reached 125.
On 61 occasions between January 1 and April 12 detainees were locked in their rooms, with one significant reason being staffing issues, such as “days when staff take unplanned leave”.
“Ms Stephen-Smith’s over-reliance on operational lockdowns to manage staff shortages raises serious questions about the health and wellbeing of Bimberi staff,” Mrs Kikkert says.
“Youth workers do not have an easy job, especially when allegations of violence in the detention centre go unresolved.
“In fact, since the Minister introduced her Charter of Rights in answer to very serious allegations, the number of assaults and the use of force have both had a marked increase.
“I am concerned that this toxic working environment is negatively impacting the health and wellbeing of Bimberi staff.
“Given the confronting nature of the job, it may be that youth workers are increasingly taking unplanned leave to help them cope.
“If this is the case, Ms Stephen-Smith should ensure Bimberi youth workers and other staff have easier access to effective care and support services.”