Residential Care

Can we trust private RT0s to train residential care workers?

A common recommendation for improving the quality of residential care is to require higher educational qualifications of residential care workers.[1] However, it is not clear that higher qualifications by themselves will be sufficient.

This blog post focuses on the process of acquiring qualifications rather than the qualifications themselves; i.e. pre-service training vs. in-service training and full-time vs. part time vs. ‘online training etc.

dec 10 firfighrThe training process for firefighters at Melbourne’s Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) is used as a point of comparison (see sidebar).

Why compare resi-workers to firefighters?

The rationale behind this comparison is that both roles involve performing complex routines or processes under duress. Resi-workers work with the most traumatised young people in the child protection system and, as such, providing therapeutic care involves the implementation of complex processes or routines. The old idea that it is sufficient to hire ‘good’ people who are ‘passionate’ about helping young people is no longer viable.

Differences between training fire fighters and resi-workers:

  • The resi-worker training is more reliant on accredited training delivered mainly on Dec 10 resia part-time or online basis by RTOs. In contrast, the firefighting training is delivered on a full-time basis only at the Craigieburn training facility
  • The integrity of accredited programs delivered by RTOs, especially private RTOs, is compromised because of financial arrangements. Typically, RTOs are paid on a combination of the number of enrollments and number of graduations. Therefore, they are financially motivated to ‘take anyone and pass everyone’. In fact, the capacity for private RTOs to rort the system would make Tony Soprano envious[2] [3]
  • The MFB 19-week full time program provides the opportunity to immerse new recruits in both the culture and operational procedures of firefighting. Clearly, part-time (far less online) resi-worker training does not provide such opportunities. Even full-time training offers little opportunity because it typically only involves one or two days of immersive content per week.
  • In-service training provided by CSOs (e.g. the Sanctuary Model) does not offer the opportunity to immerse new recruits in the required cultural and operational processes because they are delivered on a sporadic basis
  • MFB can ensure that their trainers are competent at delivering the training program because they hire ’in-house’ trainers. CSOs are hostage to the trainers hired by the RTOs.

Take outs for Practitioners

I am not suggesting that CSOs immediately adopt a MFB model to train new resi workers; rather, to ask this question:

Is it reasonable to believe that we can provide high quality care (far less therapeutic care) to traumatised young people when the training is outsourced to rapacious (mainly private) RTOs?

If you believe that this is not reasonable, then I suggest that Practitioners look at the MFB model more seriously. Remember, neither Victoria Police nor Qantas/Virgin/JetStar would outsource their training to RTOs.



[1] For example, see the Commission for Children and Young People report, “…as a good parent would…” inquiry into the adequacy of the provision of residential care services for Victorian children and young people who have been subject to sexual abuse or sexual exploitation whilst residing in residential care (Melbourne: Commission for Children and Young People, 2015).

[2] . If you have any doubts, read this article in the Weekend Australian or listen to this podcast: Private vocational training: an accident waiting to happen from Radio National’s Analysis program.

[3] The writer worked for a private RTO in 2011




About graemembaird

I am a psychologist with a special interest in improving the outcomes of families, children and young people in the Out of Home Care and Juvenile Justice systems.
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