TASMANIA'S child protection services are at crisis point and urgently need more staff to maintain their current caseloads.
That's the view of the union representing child protection workers and workers have confided to The Examiner that they are working alone in situations where they feel unsafe because of low staffing levels.
Some are even considering quitting.
Community and Public Sector Workers Union secretary Tom Lynch said the service was chronically understaffed and suggested the slow pace of recruitment was deliberate.
``There was a decision in 2011 not to make cuts in child protection, but I think there's a view in the department that they can still make savings by keeping these vacancies open,'' Mr Lynch said.
Health and Human Services Department acting deputy secretary Dr Susan Diamond said there had been no cuts to child protection.
She said the department filled vacancies as soon as they were identified and were encouraged to identify vacancies as soon as possible.
Dr Diamond said there were eight vacancies in child protection statewide, and appointments for five of those positions were imminent.
But Mr Lynch said the practical vacancy figure, accounting for planned leave like maternity leave which was not backfilled, was about 20.
The situation is categorised as worst in the North-West, where just one or two case workers were left on the ground earlier this month.
``I have very little doubt that during that period there were children being placed at risk,'' Mr Lynch said.
Children's Minister Michelle O'Byrne told Parliament last week that the government and union had worked out an interim solution to allow child protection workers in the South to process the intake of new cases in the North-West.
Mr Lynch said the arrangement was necessary to meet the urgent need in the North-West, but was not sustainable and had already caused resources to be taken out of home care in the south.
He said the department needed to actively recruit to maintain its budgeted staff of 135 child protection workers.
Opposition children's spokeswoman Jacquie Petrusma accused Ms O'Byrne of putting children at risk.
``Vacancies in child protection don't just happen overnight, so why has the minster allowed this situation to develop,'' Ms Petrusma said.