Wills on CYFS and kids

Outgoing Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills has featured on Breakfast and Paul Henry this morning talking about what needs to be done to improve the care of children and the services of Child, Youth and Family.

NewsTalk ZB also covers this: Dr Russell Wills: Must listen to kids in CFYs care

The Children’s Commissioner said we need to know the meaning of “child-centred” if the new Child, Youth and Family system’s going to work.

Dr Russell Wills has today released his second New Zealand State of Care report – his final act in the role – it argues upcoming reforms don’t do enough to put children at the centre of CYF’s work.

He said child-centred literally means listening to the child – because that’s the only way we’ll ever actually meet their needs.

“The key thing that we want to see from Child Youth and Family for children in care is a much clearer idea – from the national office right the way down to the coalface – about what it means to be child-centred when looking after these children in care.”

He’s made three recommendations in the report, including getting a plan in place to reduce the risk of a dip in performance during the transition to the new Child, Youth and Family system.

“60,000 kids are going to come into contact with CYFs this year. These are the most vulnerable kids in our country, and we can’t afford a dip in performance for those kids.”

More people on the frontline of social work is being put forward as the solution to a possible drop in Child Youth and Family’s work.


“We have seen real change. I think the team have done a really good job [over the last 5 years]” Dr Russell Wills, Children’s Commissioner

Children’s Commissioner wants ‘conversation’ on targeted welfare

Following on from How many children ‘in poverty’? is this report from NZ Herald that suggests that the Green Party approach to poverty is at odds with the Children’s Commissioner – Universal benefits challenged.

The Children’s Commissioner wants a rethink of universal services such as pensions and free children’s healthcare so more public spending can go to the neediest families.

The commissioner, Hastings children’s doctor Russell Wills, wants tomorrow’s Budget to start a national “conversation” about how to use limited public spending to best effect.

“We need all taxpayers’ funds to make the biggest difference they possibly can,” he said.

And that can only be done by targeting rather than blanket benefits.

“That might mean further targeting of some of those benefits that are currently universal.

“There are lots of examples of that, such as free healthcare under 13 for everybody, free early childhood education for everybody.

“It may be that very structured investment, if spent differently, could make more of a difference to health and education outcomes than it currently does.”

Dr Wills said elderly people would be willing to see more targeted pensions if the savings went to needy children.

Some would be willing, others would probably resent it.

It should be simple to allow pensioners to choose to divert some or all of their pension into a poverty fund.

He also nominated Working for Families as a programme that was “not as targeted as you think”.

A family with four children can get abated tax credits on incomes of up to $120,000 a year.

That doesn’t make sense – upper middle class welfare.

A report last week said 74 per cent of beneficiaries under age 25 came from intergenerational welfare families where their parents were also on benefits.

The report recommended giving priority to parents with children for intensive case management to break that cycle.

Just handing out more money to cement in a welfare class is nuts.

Back the new Children’s Commissioner

Government agencies are dissed a bit. Sometimes they are dissed a lot. Lay off the new Child Commissioner – I think he’s a great person to be heading an agency that addresses one of the biggest problems we have in New Zealand.

New Children’s Commissioner announced  (TVNZ)
Tuesday May 03, 2011

The Head of Paediatrics at Hawke’s Bay District Health Board Dr Russell Wills is to be New Zealand’s new Children’s Commissioner.

Wills said he was “honoured and pleased” to be appointed to the role and believed his experience as a paediatrician would bring integrity to the job as he worked with many families on a daily basis who struggled with day-to-day life.

“In Hawke’s Bay over the past five years, <strong>we have halved non-accidental admissions to hospital of children</strong>, through our family violence programmes – we are all learning and there is every reason to be hopeful that by bringing together clinical networks and policy makers we will make a difference,” Wills said.

Dr Wills was interviewed on Marae Investigates this morning – if you didn’t see it I encourage you to have a look. Dr Wills is leading an approach to address a critical area of society that has been neglected – vulnerable families and vulnerable babies and infants.

The first five years is critical in influencing the outcomes for our kids. One of the best investments of public funds should be directed  at the most in need.

This doesn’t mean just increasing Early Childhood Education budgets. It means targeting the families that are less likely to get care and good education for their kids.

Maori and PI kids and families are over represented in bad statistics of health, abuse, illiteracy and eventual crime. It doesn’t mean “giving more money to Maori”. It means targeting the worst of the problem.

This is a long term problem with no quick easy fixes to tie in with an election cycle. But I think this is one of the best things we can invest public money in – the payback will good for the country as a whole.

It will mean children of desperation can be assisted into becoming children with a decent future, so our society can have a more decent future.

Support the Children’s Commissioner. Dr Russell Wills deserves all the support we can give him.