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.