The IT system for the client and case management of some of Victoria's most vulnerable will be managed by a private company, possibly overseas, under changes made by the Napthine government, raising concerns about Child protection service delivery.
The Department of Human Services Integrated Client and Case Management System which includes child protection and disability services is currently being developed by the department but is now out to tender for an external provider.
Under a plan by the department, development of the system will be transferred from an in-house IT department to an external provider, costing four public servant jobs as well as four contractors.
Concerns have been raised that out-sourcing will reduce oversight of child-protection case-management, as well as privacy in other client services.
The Community and Public Sector Union understands that some of the shortlisted providers are based overseas and Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge failed to rule out the possibility of positions being sent overseas during a grilling in question time.
She also did not deny that senior officials from her department would travel to India next week for meetings about the tender.
Ms Wooldridge said there had been a $100 million blowout in child-protection services under the previous government, as well as a series of IT failures.
"We are reforming the way we deliver services for vulnerable families; we will always focus on the needs of vulnerable families," Ms Wooldridge told Parliament on Thursday.
She said the department required an integrated IT system to provide the best level of service and that the government was conducting an appropriate tender process to get the best value for money.
"There are no companies slated to win," Ms Wooldridge said. "We run a fair process."
Ms Wooldridge’s office said no child protection data would be held overseas.
Despite the relatively small number of positions, sending jobs off-shore would be a bad look for the state government, which is grappling with a series of major job cuts in the state.
In a letter to CPSU state secretary Karen Batt, the department says that although a final decision has not been made, the department's view is that "the most viable option for cost-effectiveness and risk-management is to transfer the function to one external provider."
Sources fear that in addition to data sensitivity issues arising from overseas development, the system is highly complex and the impact of this change could seriously impact on the "smooth operation of the system".
"This in turn, will affect the ability of child protection, disability, early childhood and youth justice workers and support staff to access and record vital information," the source said.
Ms Batt said the union was very worried about jobs being sent offshore.
"The community should fear that is personal data is going to be managed by a private firm, which could be located overseas," Ms Batt said. "The minister is either blind to this or sanctioned it."
Shadow community services and children's minister Jenny Mikakos said that outsourcing the system was not a good outcome for children.
"In the middle of the state-wide job crisis, Denis Napthine and Mary Wooldridge have been caught trying to send Victorian jobs and sensitive information about vulnerable children overseas," Ms Mikakos said.