Minister won't deny $70m cuts to Family/Community Services

FAMILY and Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard has refused to confirm whether his department's budget will be cut by $70 million next year.

Labor was leaked an internal departmental document, titled Changing the Way We Work, which argued $70 million in savings were needed through 30% reductions to the department's central workforce.

Mr Hazzard denied any frontline workers would be sacked but repeatedly dodged questions during a budget estimates hearing.

"What I'll say is I want to make sure there are more than enough people at the frontline of FACS to make sure children are kept safe," he said.

Mr Hazzard admitted there would be "budget savings and efficiencies" found through cuts but refused to elaborate on job cuts.

Labor MP Penny Sharpe's continued grilling proved pointless.

"It's not unreasonable for this committee to be asking that question. That's what estimates are actually for," she said.

Shadow Family and Community Services Minister Tania Mihailuk later issued a press release claiming the cuts would translate into the loss of almost 5000 jobs.

"These are explosive figures. These cuts will mean the end of FACS as we know it and the end of any meaningful, rigorous oversight of our most vulnerable children in care," she said.

The Coalition dismissed the figure as "stunningly" incorrect.

"Documents published inside our department and provided to unions and to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission make plain we will reduce our central office by 91 positions, with 86 of these being executive positions," department secretary Michael Coutts-Trotter said.

"It hasn't been easy, but we make no apology for making savings by halving the size of our executive team, while increasing our frontline workforce.

"In addition to the 91 net job losses, we are also reducing our use of contractors and eliminating some vacant positions in central offices.

"No savings have come from frontline child protection positions."

The committee heard there were about 20,000 children in out-of-home care, up from roughly 17,000 in 2010-11.

Of those, more than one-third were indigenous children.

Mr Hazzard said he would argue for additional funds from Treasury if budget cuts overstepped the mark.

"No child is going to not get the funding to be in out-of-home care. That's just absolutely not going to happen," he said. 

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