The Community and Public Sector Union, which represents members in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), welcomes today’s Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide Interim Report and its recommendations.
CPSU members in DVA have been raising the alarm for years on the impact of understaffing and under-resourcing by the past Coalition Government on the department’s ability to deliver the comprehensive support that veterans need and deserve. Four specifics recommendations in today’s report reflect these calls:
- Recommendation 2: Eliminate the claims backlog
- Recommendation 3: Improve the administration of the claims system
- Recommendation 4: The Department of Veterans’ Affairs to provide advice on its funding needs
- Recommendation 5: Remove the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Average Staffing Level Cap
The interim report details the impact of the Average Staffing Level Cap (ASL Cap) and wasted taxpayer funds with a massive increase in labour hire contractors that can cost up to 34% more than directly employed department workers (table below). It also found that turnover among labour hire contractors may be three times that of directly employed departmental staff.
The impact of the ASL Cap, increased labour hire contracts, and chronic underfunding on veterans’ claim times and claims backlogs cannot be understated. CPSU members have detailed shocking levels of staff burnout and stress, high staff turnover and a workforce that has been de-skilled.
Evidence given to the Royal Commission by immediate past Veterans’ Affairs Ministers Chester and Gee admitted that the ASL Cap had negative impact on resourcing and veteran services: “[The Hon] Andrew Gee MP, told us that labour hire should be avoided. He said: I believe the ASL Cap has had an adverse impact on the claims processing system and therefore ADF personnel, veterans, and their families.”
Today’s interim report has laid the blame or processing delays and inefficiencies at the foot of the Coalition Government’s inefficient and ideological agenda: “In our view, the ASL cap has contributed to claim processing inefficiencies and delays. In doing so, it has contributed to the difficulties and stress some veterans experience while navigating the claims process. We believe the ASL cap policy should not apply to DVA.”
The Albanese Government’s election commitment of transferring 1,000 labour hire contractors to permanent employment at DVA and creating an additional 500 DVA jobs will go a long way to addressing problems illustrated in this report, but it will not fix everything.
Quotes attributable to CPSU Deputy President, Brooke Muscat:
“Today’s report documents the shocking backlogs, and barriers our veterans face when seeking help. For years, the Coalition Government ignored the warnings of our members in DVA about the risk to the mental health and lives of veterans caused by understaffing, delays, and veterans’ claim backlogs.”
“This report makes clear that there is no benefit from policies such as the staffing cap. It costs the taxpayer more, decreases secure employment, and increases backlogs and delays.”
“CPSU members welcome today’s recommendations and call on the government to immediately accept them. DVA workers are committed to helping veterans and their families navigate the department to access the services they deserve, but government policy has been a clear roadblock.”