Major changes for CYF

Today Social Development Minister Ann Tolley announced major changes to the way Child, You and Family will care for vulnerable children.


It’s a year since I announced that there would be a complete overhaul of Child, Youth and Family, led by an independent expert panel chaired by Dame Paula Rebstock. Since that time the panel has delivered a compelling case for change in its interim report, while just before Christmas it delivered its final business case, which included 81 recommendations.

Today I want to talk you through the Government’s response to that final report, and the major changes that will take place over the next few years in care and protection, as we take radical steps to provide a system that works for the long-term needs of children, and that supports staff and caregivers.

There is no doubt that we need wholesale change.

In its first six months the panel took an in-depth look at the current system and the long-term outcomes for vulnerable young people.

A study found that by the age of 21, for children with a care placement who were born in the 12 months to June 1991:

  • Almost 90 per cent are on a benefit
  • Around 25 per cent are on a benefit with a child
  • Almost 80 per cent do not have NCEA Level 2
  • More than 30 per cent have a Youth Justice referral by age 18
  • Almost 20 per cent have had a custodial sentence
  • Almost 40 per cent have had a community sentence

The panel concluded that the agency is not effective in intervening early to provide the support that these children and young people deserve, and that demand for CYF services has increased as a result of children re-entering the system on multiple occasions.  64 per cent of the 61,000 children notified to CYF in 2014 had a previous notification.

The average age of children placed with family is 7 to 8 years old and they have already had an average of 7 to 8 care placements by this stage.

We already knew from a previous workload review that around fifty per cent of staff time is spent on administration.

On top of this the panel found that:

  • less than 25 per cent of CYF staff work directly with children in need of care and protection, and
  • Less than 1 per cent of staff have a dedicated professional support role, such as psychologists and therapists.

Quite simply the current system is not delivering effectively for vulnerable children and young people. It is not allowing our social workers to do their job, which should be spending most of their time supporting vulnerable children and families.

So that’s the bad news.

Here’s the good news. We are going to do something about it.

Transformational change is going to take place.

She goes on to detail the changes that are being suggested.

NewsHub summarises: Five things you need to know about the overhaul:

  • The new system will focus on five core services – prevention, intensive intervention, care support services, transition support and a youth justice service aimed at preventing offending and reoffending
  • Legislation will go through Parliament this year to raise the age of state care to a person’s 18th birthday, with transition support considered to the age of 25. Cabinet will also look at raising the youth justice age to include 17-year-olds.
  • The new model will mean CYF staff can directly purchase vital services like health, education, trauma and counselling, instead of having to negotiate with providers
  • Reducing over representation of Maori children is a high priority. This will mean building strategic partnerships with iwi groups
  • The new model, instead of being scattered across multiple agencies, will mean one agency responsible for the long term care of vulnerable children. It will be in place by March 2017

A good analysis from Stacey Kirk:Q+A: What does the CYF overhaul mean for vulnerable Kiwi children?

Last year’s: Interim Report of the Expert Panel: Modernising Child Youth and Family (PDF)

Final Report of the Expert Panel on Modernising Child Youth and Family

The Government has announced major state care reforms and a complete overhaul of Child, Youth and Family to improve the long-term life outcomes for New Zealand’s most vulnerable population. The Minister for Social Development, Hon Anne Tolley, says that the whole system needs to be transformed if we are to give vulnerable children and young people the protection and life opportunities they deserve.

“After making a very clear case for change in its Interim Report, the Expert Panel advising me on the radical overhaul of Child Youth and Family has delivered a final report with a bold set of recommendations for a new child-centred system which the Government is taking action on,” says the Minister.

The package of reforms, which is expected to take up to five years to be fully implemented, will include:

  • A new child-centred operating model with a greater focus on harm and trauma prevention and early intervention. It will provide a single point of accountability for the long-term wellbeing of vulnerable children, with the voice of the child represented in planning and strategy.
  • A social investment approach using actuarial valuations and evidence of what works will identify the best way of targeting early interventions, to ensure that vulnerable children receive the care and support they need, when they need it.
  • Direct purchasing of vital services such as health, education and counselling support to allow funding to follow the child, so that young people can gain immediate access to assistance.
  • A stronger focus on reducing the over-representation of Maori young people in the system. Currently, 60 per cent of children in care are Maori. Strategic partnerships will be developed with iwi groups and NGOs.
  • Legislation this year raising the age of state care to a young person’s 18th birthday, with transition support being considered up to the age of 25. Cabinet has also agreed to investigate raising the youth justice age to 17.
  • Legislation establishing an independent youth advocacy service to ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard in the design of systems and services.

Intensive targeted support for caregivers, including some increased financial assistance and better access to support services. For the first time, National Care Standards will be introduced so that there is a clear expectation for the standard and quality of care in placement homes.

The system will focus on five core services – prevention, intensive intervention, care support services, transition support and a youth justice service aimed at preventing reoffending. Delivery of these services will require a suitably trained workforce, with a requirement for a greater range of specialist skills, to better prevent harm and trauma.

The Report notes that CYF staff, agencies and the Government can’t do this in isolation. Communities need to be engaged and play their part. Work is already underway on attracting and retaining a wider pool of quality caregivers, who will receive increased support to take on such an important role.

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