Ardern supports closure of Roxburgh vulnerable children facility

A care facility for vulnerable children and a regional town have taken a hit with the announced closure of the Roxburgh care facility for vulnerable children, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seems to support this.

ODT: ‘Huge blow’ for Roxburgh as Stand confirms closure of children’s village

The closure of the Roxburgh village for vulnerable children has been described as ”desperately sad”.

Yesterday, Stand Children’s Services announced its children’s villages in Roxburgh and Otaki would close.

It would mean the loss of 31 jobs in Roxburgh, about 6% of its population of about 520.

Stand chief executive Dr Fiona Inkpen said the organisation had been topping up the shortfall in government funding from its own funds for many years but reserves were used up and the organisation would need an extra $3million to keep the villages open.

Dr Inkpen confirmed southern children would be unable to attend the only other South Island Stand village, in Christchurch, as the waiting list was long and only Canterbury children could stay there.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said it was a ”desperately sad” day for the children of the lower South Island.

”Even though I anticipated this news coming today, I still feel physically sick reading it. I’ve got to admit that when we got all the way to the top [Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern] last week, and got turned down, I didn’t see how the village could be saved.”

The Prime Minister can’t intervene in every funding decision and every care facility, but she appears to be indifferent to the closure. The issue was raised in Parliament yesterday:

9. Hon ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Children: Does she stand by her statement in relation to childcare services that “We need to know who the kids are; what places are best going to meet their needs; and then match them”?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development) on behalf of the Minister for Children: Yes. Those comments were made in relation to care placements. Obviously, the better we can match carers and children, the better the outcomes. What we know is that strong, stable, and loving relationships are key for children. Going forward, we also need to design and purchase services that work best for children and will best meet their needs.

Hon Alfred Ngaro: Does she agree with the Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan and Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan about Stand Children’s Services in Roxburgh meeting the children’s needs and, I quote, that they did “utterly critical work, … no other agencies provided the intensive, residential, wrap-around service[s] the Roxburgh facility provided for children who had experienced … trauma.”?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: The mayor’s comments that are made in relation to Stand are made almost on the premise that funding has been cut. I need to assure this House that Stand is still receiving $20 million each year to provide intensive wraparound services to children and their families—the same amount of funding that was received under the previous Government. Stand, though, has decided to close two of their villages—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: You’re shutting them down.

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Stand has decided to close two of their villages. These villages have nine intakes per year with a maximum of 21 children per intake. The Minister has directed the chief executive of Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children to track the 21 children at any given time that would normally be referred to the village. The chief executive of Oranga Tamariki will ensure that any additional support that is required is made available to these children.

Hon Jacqui Dean: If her Government’s aim is about looking after vulnerable children, what service provider will replace the only facility in the whole of the lower South Island providing intensive, residential treatment for traumatised children and their families to best meet their needs?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Oranga Tamariki has given assurances that the children will still receive the services they need through the ministry and through a range of other providers, including Stand, Anglican Family Care, Mirror Services, and Presbyterian Support Otago. That network of services is made up of competent, professional providers who are already moving towards more integrated ways of working across the child well-being, health, and education sectors in the region.

Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern: Can the Minister confirm that at any given time in Roxburgh there are roughly 21 children utilising this service and that therefore, by necessity, there are a range of other services available through the country to meet the kinds of needs Stand meets in just seven current facilities?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I can absolutely assure the House, on behalf of the Minister, that that is the case. There are other services providing the types of wraparound and therapeutical support that those two villages were providing, as well as there are still seven existing villages, I understand, that continue to operate and provide that therapeutical support.

Ardern seems to have washed her hands of this, feeding her Minister Sepuloni with a patsy question to help her dismiss the concerns of the people of Roxburgh, Central Otago and the lower South Island.

The care facility predecessor, the Roxburgh Health Camp, was opened on 6 November 1941 see Camp part of tradition going back to 1919