Failure to have state care abuse inquiry: “sticks like a knife in my guts”

The Prime Minister and Government ministers keep refusing to have an inquiry into historical cases of abuse of children while in State care (there are claims that abuses are still occurring).

Paora Crawford Moyle (at E-Tangata) describes what state care was like for her, and how “it sticks like a knife in my guts” whenever she hears a refusal to have an inquiry.

Every time Anne Tolley and Bill English talk about the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, or oppose an inquiry into the historical abuse of children in state care, it sticks like a knife in my guts.

I am Ngāti Porou through my mother, and I’m Weira — Welsh — through my father. After spending 14 years in state care, and 25 years in social work, I consider myself an expert on what it is truly like for a child with Māori whakapapa to grow up separated from all that intrinsically belongs to them.

I was five when I was taken into state care, and 18 when I was finally able to escape it. My mother, miserable and unwell, had left us, for her own survival as well as ours, to escape my father’s violence. She was deemed to have “abandoned her children”, and so my father was awarded legal custody of us.

He then applied to Social Welfare to have us temporarily placed in its care. On my fifth birthday, he took me and my two brothers (my older sister was placed with other caregivers) to a children’s home, and left, promising to be back for us soon. I waited every day for weeks and months after that, but it would be many years before I saw him again.

Over the years, other children came and went, but my siblings and I stayed in those homes. To everyone who came to visit and view the “underprivileged” children, we looked well adjusted and cared for.

But our experience contradicted appearances and we suffered things children are not supposed to: psychological, sexual, and other physical abuse over many years. It still makes me sick to say that.

She goes on to describe how Maori children were subjected to institutionalised racism.

We are survivors, although none of us came through that experience unscathed. Even after I left state care, the trauma followed me. For many years, I tried to fill the emptiness with drugs and alcohol, and toxic relationships.

But, as my brother Tipene said to me: “Our stories have to be told. How would people know what it’s like for a child to go through state-imposed trauma unless we all tell our story?”

There are still thousands of kids in state care who don’t have a voice. And too many of them are Māori. According to the Children’s Commissioner, Māori make up 61 percent of all kids in state care and 71 percent of the total in youth justice residences.

If that isn’t institutional racism, what is?

There may be institutional racism, but there also seems to be a disproportional problem in Maori families – probably a minority of families but far too prevalent.

Problems continue:

Anne Tolley has ignored multiple recommendations to establish strategic partnerships with iwi and Māori organisations. Instead her ministry consults and engages with and privileges organisations like Barnardos and Open Home Foundation.

The refusal of Government to have an inquiry obviously hurts.

Bill English, interviewed on The Hui, denied again the need for an inquiry into the state’s epic abuse of children in care. What this says to survivors is: “It didn’t happen.” Or “You weren’t beaten or raped that badly”.

It sticks like a knife in our collective guts. And while it’s fantastic that Susan Devoy and others are calling for the inquiry, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Māori have been calling out state abuse of our mokopuna for decades. For example, in the landmark Puao-te-Ata-tu report in 1988.

Bill English and Anne Tolley keep referring to April 1 when the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki will kick in and miraculously make children safe. That’s like saying cigarettes are safe because Big Tobacco says it is.

Āe, we absolutely need an inquiry to know the scale of the state’s historical abuse on children. Without it, the cogs in the machine keep churning, trucking and trafficking.

English has changed his mind on a number of issues – like Super, like charging for water. Perhaps he will think again about how to deal with this.

 

Inquiry on state care abuse?

There has been a lot said recently about Anne Tolley’s refusal to consider an inquiry into state care abuse, despite one being recommended by  Judge Carolyn Henwood  after chairing a Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS) panel on the historic abuses.

Like many others I’m puzzled why Tolley won’t address this via an inquiry.

Deborah Hill-Come writes Memo to Anne Tolley – it’s time to stop talking and start listening

Note to Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley: Try stopping being a politician for a minute, and just listen.

. “If you listen to me …” Tolley kept saying to Kim Hill on Morning Report, but actually Minister sometimes it’s not your place to talk, it’s your place to shut up. You attest the victims don’t want an independent inquiry. However Judge Henwood, who chaired the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS) panel that heard from more than 1100 people who were abused in state care, came to a different conclusion.

She recommended an independent inquiry. The government ignored this recommendation, seemingly for reasons to do with fiscal and legal risk. “It’s very disappointing for our participants. I feel offended on their behalf,” Judge Henwood said, bravely. Survivors had nowhere to go and no further support.

One of the most pertinent points:

It is insulting for someone who suffered at the hands of the state to be expected to go to the very same agency which allegedly traumatised them to lay a complaint.

Tolley says the historic claims unit is a separate part of MSD, but it is still an agency within ministry. This is hardly independent.

Child victims of abuse and inadequate state care often grow up unwilling to trust state agencies. Understandably.

Kim Hill: “You are not setting up an independent body and I’m interested to know why not?” Anne Tolley: “Because we are three-quarters of the way through settling those claims. Why would we stop that process?” Answer: Because the 1100 victims who spoke to the CLAS said that is what they want.

If the current process is fundamentally flawed due to not being done through an independent agency then rearranging the current process may be essential if it is serious about repairing as much damage as possible.

Tolley said “Some of the claimants have different sorts of care. In some cases they have received very good care.”

Kim Hill: “You mean when they weren’t being raped or abused, Ms Tolley?”

Tolley: “Part of their care was extremely good.”

Kim Hill: “You want them to focus on the good times?”

That exchange is troubling. If Tolley tries to downplay abuse because  some care of some of the victims was ok then I really wonder whether she is the right person to be in charge of this Ministry and this issue.

Tolley on state care abuse claims

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There has been a lot of reaction to an RNZ/Kim Hill  interview this morning of Anne Tolley on the handling of claims of abuse of children while in state care.

I haven’t had a chance to listen to it all. here is the initial interview (links to audio):

The Minister for Social Development Anne Tolley says the system has worked for claimants with most of the recommendations of Judge Henwood being implemented. She says the feedback she has had has been positive and there is no need for an independent inquiry. She says the claimants have suffered enough.

Anne Tolley defends government’s handling of abuse claims

RNZ followed up with details in Tolley rules out apology for child abuse in state care

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley will make no universal apology for the abuse of children in state care saying there is no evidence it was systemic.

There would be no independent inquiry either, she told Morning Report’s Kim Hill, arguing it would only retraumatise victims.

A judge who headed a panel hearing from more than 1000 people abused as children in state care is furious at the government’s response.

Judge Carolyn Henwood was the chair of the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS) panel that heard from more than 1100 people who were abused in state care between the 1950s and 1980s, predominantly under the Department of Social Welfare.

More than 100,000 children were taken from their families and put into state institutions during that period.

CLAS wound up in June last year. Judge Henwood said survivors had nowhere to go and no further support.

Judge Henwood made seven recommendations, including that an independent inquiry be set up to discover the extent of the abuse, to monitor the Ministry’s care of children and to investigate complaints. She said the government ignored this and other recommendations.

The ministry is handling the complaints, rather than an independent body.

“It’s very disappointing for our participants. I feel offended on their behalf,” Judge Henwood said.

Tolley was questioned about it in Parliament:

Transcript:


Confidential Listening and Assistance Service—Recommendation to Create Independent Body to Resolve Complaints about State Care

12. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Minister for Social Development: Why will she not implement a crucial recommendation of the confidential listening service that an independent body is needed to resolve historic and current complaints of abuse and neglect in State care?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): The Ministry of Social Development’s historic claims resolution team is impartial and operates independently of Child, Youth and Family. It is important to note that the Ministry of Social Development did not exist in the 1950s and 1960s, when most of this abuse occurred. The recommendations from the final report of the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service have informed the work on the overhaul of Child, Youth and Family, and this Cabinet has agreed that the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki will consider an independent complaints service that will ensure robust monitoring and accountability. But I do note that we have made good progress in resolving these historic claims. Last year I introduced a fast-track process that gives claimants an option to have their claims resolved faster while still receiving an apology and, if they want, a financial settlement. Around 900 payments have been made to date, totalling more than $17 million.

Jan Logie: Will the Minister admit it is possible that some people who were abused in State care may not trust the State to properly investigate their claims of abuse?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: That is always possible. However, the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service, which was set up under the previous Labour Government and was in place for 7 years, heard from 1,100 people who came forward with their stories and not only had the opportunity to tell their stories and have them taken seriously but received various types of assistance. It is interesting that only half of those went on to make a claim, which indicates that the member is right—some people do not want to go further with the claims process.

Jan Logie: Will the Minister admit it is possible that some people who were told they could have an apology only if they gave up any legal claim against the State might feel that the process did not have their best interests at heart?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: That is a hypothetical question. What I do know is that in the claims process, which, as I said, has paid out compensation and given an apology both from the chief executive and, in any case where it is requested, from me as Minister, we do everything we can to ensure that, and the fast-track process means it is only fact-checked. There is no investigation. We only make sure that the person was in the place that they said, at the time that they said—we make that process as simple as possible. I have heard from complainants that what they want is recognition that they were abused—which we all find appalling—and they want the State to take responsibility for that, and they want an apology. In some cases, they want some form of financial compensation. But we all know in this House that no money can ever, ever make up for the abuse and the trauma that those people have suffered.

Jan Logie: Why does she think Judge Henwood said there is not a shred of empathy or remorse in the Minister’s response to this report? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: There is a constitutional process whereby the judiciary respects this Parliament and Parliament respects the judiciary. I am not going to step over that.

Jan Logie: Considering the Minister’s apparent lack of empathy or remorse, how can we trust her to truly keep the best interests of children at the heart of the Child, Youth and Family reforms?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have always been of the opinion that you judge a person by their actions, not their words. I think the legislation that I have brought to this House, and will bring to this House, will show that I am determined that the new system will keep children at the heart of it and that their voices will be heard. It is disappointing that the Green Party and the Labour Party do not support children having the right to have a say about their futures in the legislation that is before the House at the moment.

The Government’s most important policy – family violence

The National led Government is often criticised for doing or changing little of significance, for being a dabbler that at best makes incremental changes. That may in general be fair comment.

But yesterday they announced what I think is the most significant policy of their three terms and of critical importance for New Zealand.

John Key has been at the forefront of the announcement.

keyonviolence

Family violence is widespread and insidious. It has many and often severe repercussions. It not only adversely affects relationships, families and children, it also impacts on health, education, crime and imprisonment and mental well being.

If family violence can be significantly reduced and the effects of violence better handled this could have a huge effect on individuals, families, communities and New Zealand society as a whole.

National’s media release on this (from Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley):


Early and effective intervention at heart of family violence changes

Sweeping reforms to our laws will build a better system for combatting abuse and will reduce harm, says Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley.

The Government is proposing a broad overhaul of changes to family violence legislation, stemming from the comprehensive review of the 20-year old Domestic Violence Act.

“New Zealand’s rate of family violence is horrendous. It has a devastating impact on individuals and communities, and a profound impact that can span generations and lifetimes,” Ms Adams says.

“Our suite of changes are directed to earlier and more effective interventions. We are focused on better ways to keep victims safe and changing perpetrator behaviour to stop abuse and re-abuse.

“This is about redesigning the way the entire system prevents and responds to family violence. The reforms are an important part of building a new way of dealing with family violence.

“For many, family violence is an ingrained, intergenerational pattern of behaviour. There are no easy fixes. Our reforms make extensive changes across the Domestic Violence Act, Care of Children Act, Sentencing Act, Bail Act, Crimes Act, Criminal Procedure Act and the Evidence Act.”

Changes include:

  • getting help to those in need without them having to go to court
  • ensuring all family violence is clearly identified and risk information is properly shared
  • putting the safety of victims at the heart of bail decisions
  • creating three new offences of strangulation, coercion to marry and assault on a family member
  • making it easier to apply for a Protection Orders, allowing others to apply on a victim’s behalf, and better providing for the rights of children under Protection Orders
  • providing for supervised handovers and aligning Care of Children orders to the family violence regime
  • making evidence gathering in family violence cases easier for Police and less traumatic for victims
  • wider range of programmes able to be ordered when Protection Order imposed
  • making offending while on a Protection Order a specific aggravating factor in sentencing
  • enabling the setting of codes of practice across the sector.

“These changes are the beginning of a new integrated system but on their own have the potential to significantly reduce family violence. Changes to protection orders and the new offences alone are expected to prevent about 2300 violent incidents each year,” Ms Adams says.

The package makes changes to both civil and criminal laws, and provides system level changes to support new ways of working. It will cost $132 million over four years.

“Legislation is part of but not the whole change required. These legislative reforms are designed to support and drive the change underpinning the wider work programme overseen by the Ministerial Group on Family and Sexual Violence. The work is about comprehensive and coordinated system change with a focus on early intervention and prevention,” says Mrs Tolley.

“Social agencies and NGOs I’ve been speaking with are desperate for a system-wide change so we can make a real shift in the rate of family violence.”

“Laws alone cannot solve New Zealand’s horrific rate of family violence. But they are a cornerstone element in how we respond to confronting family violence. It sets up the system, holds perpetrators to account, and puts a stake in the ground,” Ms Adams says.

The full pack of reforms are set out in the Cabinet papers and are available at www.justice.govt.nz/justice-sector-policy/key-initiatives/reducing-family-and-sexual-violence/safer-sooner


This is getting cross party support, which is a very positive sign. This is too important to get bogged down by partisan politics.

Violence is not just a male versus female problem. It can also be female versus versus male, and adult versus child.

It’s good to see the Prime Minister John Key strongly promoting this, but it is perhaps not a coincidence that both Ministers driving this, Adams and Tolley, are women.

If the Government and all parties in Parliament can make a real difference on reducing family violence they will leave an admirable legacy for this term.

 

 

Oranga Tamariki

Yesterday a new Ministry was announced dedicated for the care and protection of children.

Like the Children’s Commissioner and many others I really don’t like the English name of the new Ministry so it may be better known by the Maori version – Oranga Tamariki.

Tamariki is well known as being young people, children.

oranga

1. (noun) survivor, food, livelihood, welfare, health, living.

So Oranga Tamariki looks appropriate enough.


New ministry dedicated to care and protection

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says that a new child-centred, stand-alone ministry with a new Chief Executive is to be established to focus on the care and protection of vulnerable children and young people.

Cross-agency advice from the State Services Commission, Treasury and MSD has recommended that, given the significance and scale of the proposed reforms to state care and protection, a stand-alone department is most likely to provide a single point of accountability, clear organisational focus and the ability to attract strong leadership. This reflects the advice given by the Minister’s independent expert panel, and has been agreed by Cabinet.

The new department, named the Ministry for Oranga Tamariki will begin operating by April 2017.

“The new ministry, new name and completely new operating model reflects our determination to remain absolutely focused on the individual needs of each child,” says Mrs Tolley.

“The inclusion of an aspirational Maori name as part of the title reinforces our clear expectation that much more needs to be done to address the fact that 6 out of ten kids in care are Maori.

“This is not a rebranding exercise. It is how this ministry performs, rather than its name, which will make a difference for vulnerable young people. It will also require strong leadership to implement the massive changes required over the next 4-5 years, as well as embed the necessary culture change within staff.”

Following an in-depth analysis and a detailed business case from the expert panel, the Minister recently announced wide-ranging state care reforms as part of a radical long-term overhaul, which will see the current crisis-management CYF system replaced by a completely new model which addresses the short and long-term wellbeing of at-risk children and supports their transition into adulthood.

This new ministry 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, and will have the ability to directly purchase vital services such as trauma counselling as soon as they are needed by children.

A major transformation programme is underway at the moment, supported by $200 million of initial new investment in Budget 2016, and this is taking place alongside normal CYF operations which have received an extra $144 million for cost pressures.

Legislation is currently going through Parliament which will raise the age of state care and protection to a young person’s 18th birthday, ensure that children’s voices are heard in decisions which affect them, and establish an independent youth advocacy service.

“The long-term outcomes for young people in the current system are simply atrocious,” says Mrs Tolley.

“When we started this process nearly a year and a half ago, I promised that there would be no more tinkering around the edges. Fourteen reviews and numerous reorganisations have not improved the outcomes for children.

“A detailed, long-term plan over a number of years is required.

“Too many kids who come into contact with CYF end up on a benefit, or in prison, or with few qualifications. This has to stop. They deserve better than this, and the new operating model will put the needs of children first, above everything else, so that they can have the opportunity to live happy and successful lives.

“I’m also pleased to announce that a new Youth Advisory Panel comprised of young people in state care or with experience of state care will advise me and the transformation team as the new system is developed over the next few months.

“For too long the needs and opinions of children and young people in the care system have been ignored. The Youth Advisory Panel, the independent youth advocacy service, and legislation requiring that children’s voices must be heard in decisions affecting them, will mean that the new system is truly child-centred.”

The new Ministry will be reviewed after two years to ensure that it is working as it should and that it is delivering the expected results for children and young people.

Cabinet papers relevant to the overhaul of care and protection are available at:

http://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/work-programmes/investing-in-children/index.html

Related speech from Anne Tolley: New ministry to focus solely on vulnerable children

 

The Nation on social investment

This morning The Nation is looking at social investment, with an interview with Bill English, Hekia Parata and Anne Tolley lined up,.

You’ve never seen this before. We interview 3 ministers together- , &

This week social bonds programme had a big fail. So is his social investment approach working? Find out 9.30am TV3

Top panel today: & weigh in on social investment, housing, v National…

… our Twitter panel today are and

Stuff on Thursday: Govt social bonds pursued despite failed pilot

The Ministry of Health is still pursuing the Government’s social bonds pilots, claiming to have learnt a number of lessons after the Wise Group withdrew from what would have been the first programme funded with such an instrument.

Hamilton-based Wise Group, a charitable organisation seeking to enhance the well-being of people and communities, withdrew from negotiations with the Ministry over a potential social bond to fund a pilot delivering employment services to people with mental illnesses.

The Ministry kicked off talks with Wise and its financial arranger, ANZ Bank New Zealand, last year after the 2015 budget set aside $28.8 million for social bond programmes, “but at this late stage, they have advised they are not able to proceed with the contract”, Ministry chief strategy and policy officer Hamiora Bowkett said.

“That is not unexpected in a process like this and the work to progress the social bond continues,” Bowkett said.

“One of the goals of the pilot was to develop and grow knowledge in the market on outcome-based contracting and establish a toolkit of templates and lessons learnt, which are being applied to subsequent bond pilots. This has been achieved.”

A social bond allows the introduction of new, private money into social programmes without increasing public debt and without the need to decrease spending, with investors paid based on the level of social value achieved.

Points from The Nation’s Twitter feed:

Bill English says National committed to spending money now on at risk families to save money in the long-term.

Big data being used to target money to the most vulnerable 600 5 year-olds. But what about the 600 next most vulnerable? & next 600?

Hekia Parata: “we’re not about stigmatising kids”, but about giving teachers ability to put funds to kids who need it most.

Why don’t all deprived children get the same funds targeted at the bottom 1 percent? “Because they don’t need it,” says Anne Tolley.

English says Government both raising incomes through benefit increases and targeting funds to most in need.

Extra money given to most vulnerable under social investment approach. But don’t all 119,000 deprived kids need that?

Tolley admits Government does not track individuals coming off benefit. So can they know their lives are better, as per targets?

90 days of work a good indicator that a job is sustainable, says Tolley.

Will Government meet its BPS target of getting people off benefits? “It’s a very aspirational target,” says Tolley.

English says “we are following the evidence” that universal cash transfers are the best way to tackle poverty, by raising benefits”.

Three Government ministers deny social investment is privatisation by stealth, ‘not concerned about who delivers the services, but what works.

“Better lives” more important to English than saving money in his social investment revolution.

English slaps down RBNZ re policy on housing: we are making changes… “the Reserve Bank may not be familiar with those”.

“No we’re not committing to doing that” – English on negative gearing and immigration numbers.

Social trial successes despite Herald emphasis on failure

The headline of a Herald article on social trials (by Nicholas Jones) screams failure, but the cup is only 1/3 empty. There has been 11 successful trials and only 5 failures.

5 ‘social sector trials’ to be abandoned

Five experimental “social sector trials” won’t be continued after poor results.

At the sites, funding for youth services run by Police and the ministries of education, health, justice and social development was handed over to local communities.

But there was over twice as many successes as failures:

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley announced today that 11 out of 16 trials had produced good results and would now be transitioned to new “community-led models”.

“The trials brought together decision-makers at a local level, such as mayors, stakeholders and agency representatives to collaborate on how social services were funded and delivered. They were most successful where there was good co-ordination from those involved.”

Back to the problems:

But trials in five sites will be ended at June 30 – in Whakatane, Rotorua, Waikato, South Taranaki, and Wairarapa.

Those trials have been running since July 2013, but results meant continued funding could not be justified.

The Ministry of Social Development said, broadly, the problems with the scrapped trials were that in some areas other programmes were already operating that resulted in “crowding”, and when trials covered large geographic areas they had “been difficult to embed”.

It’s disappointing to see most emphasis in this article put on the smaller number of failures.

There can even be positives in the failures.

It’s good to see that the Ministry is prepared to try different things, then to continue with those that are successful and learn from and scrap the ones that haven’t been successful.

Wide support for new Children’s Commissioner

Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft has been appointed as the new Children’s Commissioner.

NZ Herald: Outspoken child advocate overcame doubters

Mr Becroft, now 58, has been Principal Youth Court Judge for 15 years. He is an active member of the Karori Baptist Church and chairs the Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship.

“Most of the serious young offenders are really struggling with neurodisability disorders including fetal alcohol syndrome, traumatic brain injury, autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia and communication disorders,” he said.

This appointment has support across the political spectrum.

His appointment as Children’s Commissioner was welcomed yesterday across the political spectrum. Labour MP Jacinda Ardern, who was consulted on potential candidates, said Mr Becroft would be “fantastic”.

Green co-leader Metiria Turei said the decision was “exciting”.

Good to see that Ardern was consulted and that she and Turei strongly support Becroft.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said Judge Becroft would be seconded to the role for two years in what Ms Ardern described as a “change-manager” role to monitor CYF’s transformation into a new agency with a huge $1.3 billion annual budget to buy extra education, health, employment and social services for the families of about one in every five New Zealand children.

Judge Becroft said the proposed changes were a “visionary” approach to tackle the nation’s “utterly unacceptable child abuse and neglect record”.

“I hope there is an opportunity for even more of that vigorous debate to say this cannot continue and how is it that it is happening,” he said.

The CYF transformation and Becroft’s appointment will hopefully ensure ensure big steps forward in the State care of children.

Vulnerable children and information sharing

Personal information, who can have it, what they can use it for and who they can share it with are contentious issues.

The starting point should generally be that personal information should remain as private as possible. But there need to be exceptions, for the good of individuals and for the greater good.

And the care and protection of vulnerable children is a priority that should override some privacy. Their rights should certainly take precedence over abusive carers and families.

Stacy Kirk writes: About time children’s rights came first

Under proposed new laws, government agencies dealing with a vulnerable child in danger will be able to share information without needing the family’s permission.

It’s about time.

The final report of a panel tasked with overhauling Child, Youth and Family (CYF) was released this week. It delivered on a promise to propose radical change.

A major problem for CYF is that when a vulnerable child is handed to them  by another agency (such as health or justice),  the child often becomes CYF’s responsibility alone.

Not always, but far too often, other agencies will notify CYF if they see an issue and then think: “great, child referred, job done”.

Worse, they won’t notify  CYF due to privacy concerns.

Two key paragraphs buried within a mountain of text signal a major shift toward the presumption of information-sharing when children are at risk.

“If information is to be shared without consent, this should only occur where the practitioner believes that the benefits of information exchange to a child or young person outweighs any potential negative impacts…”

Under this proposal, anyone acting in good faith would be protected from civil, criminal or any professional disciplinary action.

That includes doctors, priests, psychiatrists, social workers, lawyers and all those other professions where client confidentiality is ingrained and sometimes legislated for.

But where those people are dealing with children, and particularly children in danger, they will not only be given the ability to share relevant information without permission, they will be expected to.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley, in a Cabinet paper to her ministerial colleagues, said she supported the approach.

Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills, a paediatrician, says it’s an important shift that lowers the threshold for information exchange.

The safety of a child should always trump the privacy of a family that doesn’t always have the best interests of that child at heart.

Rights of children, especially the care and safety of vulnerable children and abused and mistreated children, must be a higher priority than keeping information private.

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.

THE FUTURE OF CHILD PROTECTION AND CARE

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.