Suppression continues in Labour camp assault case

The man facing multiple charges of sexual assault at a Labour Youth summer camp in February has had his name suppression extended until either a verdict or other determination, on the grounds that “there would be a real risk to fair trial rights”. This is a common reason for suppression pre-trial.

NZH:  Labour Party summer camp indecent assault accused keeps name suppression

The 20-year-old was arrested in June and charged with six counts of indecent assault against four complainants.

Today, the accused appeared before Judge Russell Collins in the Auckland District Court seeking to extend his interim name suppression.

The man’s lawyer Emma Priest argued her client should keep his name suppression until determination of the charges, and may seek permanent suppression if there were valid grounds to do so.

Judge Collins granted interim name suppression until either verdict or other determination and bailed the man to appear in court again later this year.

“I am satisfied, and have been satisfied quite quickly, there would be a real risk to fair trial rights,” he said.

The judge continued there had been an “extremely high-level of media coverage” with many people talking in the press “without thinking that a prosecution may ultimately result”.

“Many people have commented publicly with the only inference to be taken from the comments is that the defendant must be guilty.

“His presumption of innocence is paramount,” Judge Collins said.

Given the level of public and media interest in the case I think this is a fair call, presuming that it will be a jury trial.

This suppression means that no attempt to identify the person in any way can be allowed here.

“Disaffected youth” and radicalism

A committee set up to advise New Zealand’s security services – the Strategic Risk and Resilience Panel – says that “disaffected youth” in New Zealand are at risk of being radicalised and should be a key focus in combating terrorism.

Disaffected youth tend to be prominent in poor crime, mental health and suicide statistics too – which have much bigger impacts on our society than terrorism, which is mostly a threat and a fear rather than being real here.

NZH: Homegrown terrorism threat is angry young people adrift from society

New Zealand’s security risk remains at “low” after being heightened in 2014 with an assessment a domestic terrorism event is possible but not expected.

But intelligence sources have told the Weekend Herald that the possibility of an attack is constant and it is a matter of “when” and not “if” terrorism will appear in New Zealand.

Details of meetings of the panel, released through the Official Information Act, show the panel’s focus was developing a “risk register” which posed specific security threats to New Zealand.

It showed key issues included “the importance of continuing to focus on the threat of radicalisation of disaffected youth”.

Deliberate targeted radicilisation of disaffected youth is a problem overseas.

It also stated that there was a need for “a more forward looking approach in particular focused on community cohesion” and “more focus needed on the drivers of domestic extremism”.

Examples given to the panel were “those radicalised due to strong positions on ecological and technological issues” but the security services have previously expressed concerned over online targeting by Islamic extremists.

Massey University’s Terry Johanson – a lecturer at the Centre for Defence and Security Studies – said disenfranchisement was a significant factor in radicalisation and recruiting.

“It needs to be because they feel disenfranchised from their own society. That tends to be because these people don’t have the community framework around them.”

Johanson said closer communities were an element in fighting that dangerous disaffection because people didn’t tend to attack groups of which they were part.

But they do attack similar kinds of groups (gangs).

The key issue identified in the summary of the minutes was the need to create an overarching “risk register” for New Zealand which forecast dangers to our country and ways to meet the threats.

The development of a register would meet a gap in our security system identified by Johanson in the recently released New Zealand National Security book, which drew articles from a range of experts in the field.

The panel minutes show it would allow a specific risk to be assigned to public agencies which would be held accountable for dealing with it.

Examples of risk areas developed for the panel to consider included terrorism, corruption, large-scale people smuggling, biodiversity loss and price shocks which impact across the community.

Young people have always had greater tendencies towards radical behaviour, rebelling against the system. Some of this is just growing up.

Extreme and violent radicalism needs to be the biggest focus of concern.

We need to be wary of the possibility of terrorism, but most problems involving radicalised youth are more mundane and more pervasive – and far more damaging to young people and to society.

 

 

 

Modern living impacts on mental health and suicide

Peter Gluckman, from the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, has released a discussion document on youth suicide.

It says that complex issues are involved but the pressures of modern living are a major stress factor.

An edited version of the report:


Youth Suicide in New Zealand: a Discussion Paper

Not all suicide is the same and youth suicide often has different drivers to suicide at later ages. Further while much is spoken and argued about its prevention, it remains a complex and contentious area with much advocacy for unproven interventions.

In particular this paper makes the point that youth suicide is more than simply a mental health issue and that, with what we know at present, the focus must also include an emphasis on primary prevention starting from very early in life. This means promoting resilience to the inevitable exposure to emotional stresses and building self-control skills in early childhood and primary school years, by using approaches that we already know about.

It means promoting mental health awareness and ensuring that there are competent and adequate adult and peer support systems in secondary schools. This must be backed up by a capacity to find and rapidly support those children and young adults who are in mental distress and ensuring that the needed interventions and therapy are early and effective.

The changing context of a young person

The way that young people live their lives has changed greatly over recent decades and this has created a range of poorly understood but probably critical pressures that affect their psyche and behaviour.

Family structure has changed; childrearing practices have changed; for many, the level of parental engagement has changed. Technology has changed the nature of their social networks and communication; media, celebrities and other social factors can create unrealistic expectations and pressures on young people.

Compared to previous generations, youth face many more choices at an earlier age, but at the same time may have less clarity as to their path ahead. The role of traditional community supports such as sports, church and other youth groups has declined. Youth now have more access to credit cards and money that gives them greater freedoms.

The pace of these sociological and technological changes is unprecedented and it is not surprising that for many young people, particularly those with less psychological resilience, it can leave them with a growing sense of dislocation.

The many factors that impinge on the risk of youth suicide

Youth suicide cannot be considered as just a mental disorder. A number of factors interplay. Studies in the US5 and elsewhere4,6 show that the likelihood of a suicide attempt is associated with a number of factors including:

  • socio-demographic factors and restricted educational achievement;
  • family discord and poor family relationships;
  • the tendency to being impulsive;
  • what is termed externalising behaviour (anti-social behaviours, and alcohol
    problems);
  • what is termed internalising behaviour (e.g., depression);
  • low self-esteem, hopelessness, loneliness;
  • drug and alcohol misuse;
  • a history of suicidal behaviour among family and friends; and
  • partner- or family-violence exposure in adolescence.

Impulsive-aggressive behaviours are commonly associated with suicide in young
people and decline as a factor with age. Youth who demonstrate antisocial or
delinquent behaviours are 10 times more likely to have attempted suicide.

The key conclusion from these studies is that youth suicide needs to be regarded as much more complex than simply outward evidence of mental disorder. Rather, it needs to be seen as the result of a state of stressed, impaired or underdeveloped self-control in which mental health, emotional and brain development, alcohol, sociological, economic, and other factors interact to put some young people at greater risk.

Adolescence as a vulnerable period – brain, biology, and behaviour

There is now compelling evidence that children who enter puberty at a younger age
are at far greater risk of behavioural, psychological, and emotional disorder. There
are probably multiple reasons for this but most relate to:

  • a longer period before those counterbalancing inhibitory brain pathways
    fully mature;
  • greater sociological and sexual pressures related to the mismatch between
    the earlier onset of physical signs of maturity and psychosexual ideation and
    chronological age: and
  • socialising with older peers who may be engaged in or express anti-social
    behaviours.

There is unequivocal evidence that children who enter puberty relatively early:

  • are more likely to indulge in alcohol and drug abuse;
  • often demonstrate more impulsive behaviours; and
  • boys show greater impairment in the quality of their relationships.

Variation in suicide rates across population groups

Many factors appear to contribute to explaining the different prevalence of youth
suicide across different population groups. They include:

  • living in environments where low self-esteem within the peer group is
    common;
  • poverty, inequality, and social fragmentation;
  • having a high rate of engagement with the justice sector and a greater
    presence of gangs;
  • higher use of drugs and alcohol2; and
  • suicidal behaviour becoming a means of demonstrating worth to the peer
    group

Deficits in self-control

Adolescence is a period of relatively poorly developed self-control and heightened impulsive behaviour. This is why some stressors that do not lead to troubled emotional responses in more mature individuals can do so in some in this age group.

So, rather than resilience, which might be expected – and needed – we see severe and harmful (including self-harm) responses. These stressors can include aspects of engagement with peers (e.g., bullying, including cyber-bullying) and emotional situations (e.g., break up of relationships).

A further possible factor is a substantial change in the way we raise children: they now tend to be under tight control in the pre-pubertal period but less control postpuberty (as reflected in: school subject choice; parental controls on time, place and behaviour; access to credit cards; access to internet, etc.).

In contrast, 50 years ago, western child rearing practice followed a loose–tight pattern in which pre-pubertal children had more freedoms, especially to undertake risky play, but adolescence was much more constrained. This reversal may have resulted in a reduction in the capacity to self-assess risk in adolescence.

Alcohol and drugs

Alcohol intoxication or a history of alcohol abuse are often associated with youth suicide30. Alcohol misuse is often associated with triggering events (conflicts in peer and intimate relationships) and, in relation to suicidal behaviours, is probably underestimated and under-reported. Furthermore, alcohol reduces self-control, can increase despair and depression and, among those with mental disorders, exacerbates symptoms.

New Zealand data show that considerably more than half of youth suicides involve alcohol or illicit drug exposure.

Peer influences, bullying and cyber-bullying

Adolescence is a stage of life when there is a “trading of dependency on parents for dependency on peers”: it is therefore not surprising that peer relationships affect mood and behaviour, including possible suicidal behaviour.

Peer influences may be particularly evident in the growing evidence for online bullying leading to self-harm. Bullying in schools occurs in many countries to varying degrees but the reported rates are high in New Zealand.

Implications for reducing the incidence of youth suicide

Suicide prevention is complicated because we do not understand the causes well enough at the individual level. Completed suicide is a rare event so it is difficult to study in the way we can study influenza or diabetes. It is really hard to predict at an individual level, with perhaps the best indicator being a previous suicide attempt/self-harm even though most who commit self-harm (which may or may not be an attempted suicide) do not go on to commit suicide.

Nevertheless, the 8–9% of all youth who are suicide attempters – with their high subsequent life-course costs (as they often have long-term psychological morbidity) to themselves, family, whānau, and society – are an important risk-group to target.

There is no definitive solution but there is a growing consensus on the following.

Primary prevention: This must start in the pre-pubertal period and is aimed at  developing resilience to the inevitable stressors of growing up, and promoting development of impulse control. The broader benefits of this approach49 include major spillover benefits to educational achievement and, later, in employment, family stability, and quality-of-life measures.

Such approaches must start early in life – and early childhood is an important opportunity for enhancing these skills and should be an evaluable focus of all early childhood education. There needs to be intense engagement with the most vulnerable families in the first years of their children’s life.

There is clear and strong evidence that a primary prevention strategy using welldefined
and structured activities (e.g., Good Behaviour Game) focused on behaviour in primary school children as young as 6 and 7 contributes to reducing later adolescent suicidality as well as other unwanted behaviours, and we would strongly suggest the introduction of this into all primary schools.

Secondary prevention: This refers to programmes that focus on the adolescent period and seek to identify those at risk and make referrals when necessary. Such programmes include activities that seek to increase understandings and change attitudes about youth suicide and to enhance the capacity to intervene and prevent.

The role of teachers, trained counselors and peer leaders is seen as key. There is some evidence to support the importance of adults actively engaging with distressed students, but outside those situations where close counseling relationships have been developed, these programmes tend to be distressingly ineffective. Better results are claimed when secondary prevention is combined with primary prevention and engaging peer leaders (that is well-trained youth leaders).

Tertiary prevention: This focuses on those who are identified as being at particular risk, for example having attempted suicide. It generally involves CBT or medication or both; as noted above, the effect on suicidality, as opposed to other aspects of mental health, is relatively small. Although investing in youth mental health is a critical priority for the reduction of adolescent and adult mental health disorders, it cannot be the only strategy for reducing youth suicide.

Summary and conclusions

Youth suicide remains a complex, multifaceted challenge. A focus on adolescent mental health, although important, is not sufficient. Rather, we conclude that the high-priority need is to introduce and reinforce programmes focused on primary prevention starting early in life and developing secondary prevention strategiesinvolving well-trained and engaged mentors including peer mentors. Understanding and co-design with our communities and particularly with Māori perspectives will be crucial at each stage as we develop, test and take to scale approaches shown to make a difference.

The primary prevention approach involves strategies to improve impulse control and executive function from early childhood and this has broad spillover benefits. It involves combining these critical interventions in early childhood and primary education with secondary prevention approaches in adolescents and it requires a social investment approach particularly focusing on those communities with low resilience and self-esteem.

http://www.pmcsa.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/17-07-26-Youth-suicide-in-New-Zealand-a-Discussion-Paper.pdf

Q+A – youth not in work, training or education

One of the most contentious issues about immigration is the approximately 90,000 youths not in work, training or education, but the apparent need to get immigrants to work because employers can’t find Kiwis to fill positions.

Some politicians say we shouldn’t bring in immigrants until unemployed Kiwis have been given a chance.

But many people know from experience that a hard core of young people in particular are either unemployable, or at least not keen on getting work and are very unreliable.

Q+A looks at all this (hopefully) this morning.

Nearly 90-thousand young New Zealanders aren’t in work, training or education. Yet many of our employers are desperate for skilled staff. American social entrepreneur Jeffery Wallace may have the answers. He joins us live.

Labour’s youth employment costings

Labour have laid an official complaint with TVNZ over coverage of the announcement of their “Ready for Work” policy on Sunday night. Phil Twyford was very grumpy about this yesterday.

See Labour lay complaint over coverage of policy costings.

Labour has released detailed costings to justify their estimate that giving 10,000 youth per year six months full time employment would cost about $60. When pushed for details Labour said that they based their costings on an average of 4 months rather than the full six months for each person.

Their costings must have been provided directly to media, I can’t find anything on their website Press releases, and their Factsheet: Ready for Work doesn’t provide these facts, still stating:

Labour will:

  • give unemployed young people a job for six months doing work of public value, so they can gain work experience and avoid long-term unemployment.

With an estimated 10,000 participants per year, Ready for Work will cost $60m a year.

Stuff: Labour discloses assumptions behind under-fire youth work scheme costs

Labour has released detailed costings of its plan to offer long-term unemployed youth six months paid work, after the Government questioned the accuracy of its $60m estimate.

It followed the party’s campaign manager Phil Twyford getting into a public row on Twitter after he accused some media of bias, a lapse of professional standards and a “hatchet job” on the policy.

Labour is particularly sensitive to coverage that could undermine its reputation for financial management, which it sees as crucial to its chances in next year’s election.

The policy was unveiled in leader Andrew Little’s speech to Labour’s centenary annual conference in Auckland on Sunday. 

He said the “Ready for Work” policy would offer all young people who had been on the Jobseeker Allowance for six months, full-time employment for six months at the minimum wage of $15.25.

Labour has assumed 10,000 would be involved each year, and it costed the policy at $60 million a year.

But in response to media queries, Labour has since disclosed that was based on an average time on the scheme of four months, not the full six months.

On Monday, Little’s office released details of how it had costed the scheme, in a move to rebut the criticisms.

It shouldn’t have come to media inquiries and a row over coverage,and a belated release of details.

Labour have been caught out on their costings in the past and should have been thoroughly prepared – in fact they should have detailed actual facts on their factsheet, not just vague and misleading  indications.

They showed the net after-tax cost of employing someone on the minimum wage for six months, rather than paying them the benefit, would be about $8700.

The available data from Work and Income suggested that over the course of a year there are about 12,500 young people who have been receiving Job Seeker benefits for six months or more – from which Labour assumed 10,000 would be covered by its scheme, because the rest would likely find a job or go into employment, training or formal education.

That would give an-all up cost of $87m a year, but Labour said that would be too simplistic and incorrect because not everyone who started on the Ready for Work programme would finish it.

It had assumed, on the basis of evidence of how long people stayed on Jobseeker benefits, that on average those on the scheme would spend four months each on it. While most would complete the full six months, many would not.

After adding $3m for the net costs to the Ministry of Social Development it came to a final figure of $59m a year – which it had rounded to $60m.

What still isn’t clear is what provisions have been made for the administration of this.

Employing and supervising and training 10,000 people would require hundreds of support staff, if not into thousands. This would add millions of dollars to costs.

From Labour’s fact sheet:

It is anticipated many will work on Department of Conservation projects. DoC is struggling to meet its goals in the face of funding and staffing cuts. The area of land where pests are being controlled is falling and only 56% of tracks are maintained up to DoC standards. Councils and NGOs, too, have many important environmental and community projects that they would like to do but cannot do because the labour cost is prohibitive, such as riparian planting.

This won’t all be happing in the cities where most unemployed youth live, so there also could be substantial additional costs for travel and accommodation.

Giving youth employment experience is a good aim.

Perhaps some of the youths could be employed researching and documenting party policies so pertinent facts are readily available when the policies are announced.

Risk factors for children

Minister of Finance Bill English has announced the release of data on major risk factors for babies through to young adults (ages 0-24).

Final data-set enhances at-risk youth profile

Further data on the risk factors that indicate children are likely to lead difficult lives has been released today, giving social service providers valuable insights into the issues these vulnerable children face, Finance Minister Bill English says.

Since 2013, Statistics New Zealand has collected data from government agencies including the Ministries of Social Development, Health and Education, as well as Child Youth and Family, Corrections, Police and Housing to create the world-leading Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI).

Mr English says today’s publication extends the analysis to include 0-14 year olds, giving a broader picture.

“Like the two earlier reports, the analysis of the risk factors affecting 0-14 year olds has produced information that will help government agencies, NGO’s, Iwi, Pacifika, and the wider social sector understand the needs of the most vulnerable New Zealanders.”

The analysis has identified four indicators that could lead to poor outcomes later in the lives of this group of children.

  • a CYF finding of abuse or neglect
  • being supported by benefits for most of their lifetime
  • having a parent who has received a corrective sentence
  • having a mother with no formal qualifications

If children have two or more of those indicators they are at much greater risk of having poor outcomes.

Being supported by benefits for most of their lifetime and having no formal qualifications won’t be solved by just giving them more money. Probably the same for most who abuse or have corrective sentence.

Compared to 0-14 year olds with fewer than two of the four indicators, those with two or more indicators are:

  • three times more likely to leave school with no qualifications
  • three times more likely to receive benefits for more than five years between ages 25 and 34
  • three times more likely to receive a prison or community sentence between ages 25 and 34
  • six times more likely to be referred to Youth Justice services
  • four times more likely to be on a sole parent benefit by age 21

Which means the cycle of risk factors is inter-generational, not surprisingly.

Mr English says this means as they grow older, more than a fifth of children who have two or more of these indicators will be on a benefit for five or more years or serve a prison or community sentence.

“Those are grim outcomes by any standards. This information – which is being made widely available – will enable the social sector to create solutions and interventions to better help vulnerable people make positive changes to their lives.”

Alongside the 0-14 year old data-set, Mr English has also launched an online mapping tool called Social Investment Insights which allows users to point and click to drill down into the data by location.

“The Government’s programme of social investment is about using information to improve the lives of New Zealanders with evidence-based investment in social services.

“For the first time we can see the risk-factors affecting young people within their various communities – with the necessary privacy protocols in place.

“This is priceless information for service providers who need to understand the people they are trying to help.

“We want to reduce misery, rather than service it and that requires a deep understanding of the drivers of social dysfunction.”

Not sure why the Minister of Finance has fronted the release of this.

Tools and data can be viewed and downloaded:

Looking beyond CYF for solutions

To vulnerable children and at risk families CYF may look more like a problem than a solution.  The Children’s Commissioner’s State of Care Report found that at times they create more problems than they solve when they place children in state care that doesn’t care for them adequately.

CYF (Child, Youth, Familiy) is a Government department that has a responsibility to help keep children safe.

Who we are and what we do

We help families help themselves. We believe all children belong in families that will love and nurture them. We team up with many different groups and people so that families have the support they need to help their children thrive.

What we do

We work closely with families to help them find their own solutions, so they can:

  • deal with their problems
  • make the changes they need so their children will be safe and well cared for
  • achieve their goals for the family.

When children need secure, loving, long-term homes, we’ll work with family and whanau, caregivers, and adoptive parents to find them one.

When young people offend, we want them to get back on track and make good decisions in the future. We’ll organise a conference for the young person, their family and the victim of their offending to meet and talk about the impact of their actions. We’ll then help them get back on track for a successful future.

We partner up with hundreds of social services providers to get the message to communities – together we can help all our children be safe, strong and thrive!

So they have an important role to play – but one of their most effective roles may be to work with and refer to solutions beyond themelves.

An NZ Herald special report looks at this – A child abuse solution beyond CYF.

Fixing child abuse and neglect is all about building relationships with families in need, social workers say.

It requires respect and time and an ability to connect through a common culture. And that is likely to require far more fluid ways of working than the fixed roles and rigid time limits that have been part of the culture of Child, Youth and Family (CYF).

A succession of inquiries into CYF has found collaboration has been sacrificed to deadlines. Repeated reviews of the worst cases, such as the 13-year-old boy who killed Henderson dairy owner Arun Kumar featured in the Weekend Herald, have found children fall through the cracks.

Grant Wilson, a social worker for West Auckland’s Te Whanau o Waipareira who worked with the boy’s drug-addicted family, says CYF can’t hope to build a trusting relationship with such a family under current rules. Last year the average CYF worker looked after 14 families and saw them for a total of only 13 per cent of their paid hours each week.

“My method is to build a substantial relationship with those people,” Mr Wilson says. “Having a shared experience is a really important thing when you’re trying to build a relationship with someone who’s been in prison, who thinks their life is more ratshit than anyone else’s.”

And:

Katie Murray of Kaitaia-based youth agency Waitomo Papakainga says that as 58 per cent of children in state care are Maori, CYF must work with agencies like hers.

“You cannot be sending non-Maori into our hard Maori homes,” she says. “But I can send any of my crew in there and it doesn’t matter which gang it is, they all know us in town.”

And:

The Maori Women’s Welfare League has told the Rebstock panel CYF needs to share investigation and decision-making with community groups, hand over running family group conferences to community leaders, hold the conferences on marae instead of in CYF offices, place children with extended whanau, and work with their parents so the children can return if possible.

“[We] need to develop a culture within CYF that they are there to help, not to prosecute,” it says.

While CYF is the Government agency with overall responsibiklity for the safety of children in families the solutions have to be found withion families and within communities as much as possible.

Children’s Commissioner’s State of Care Report

Children’s Commissioner Dr Russel Wills has just released the first of what will be an annual report. It’s damning of the poor quality of State care of children and notes grave concerns about the safety of children in Sate care.

Radio NZ report: ‘Dump and run’ culture at CYF

The Children’s Commissioner’s first annual report has strongly criticised Child, Youth and Family for what it calls a dump and run culture of neglect

In his first annual report, State of Care 2015, commissioner Russell Wills finds systemic failures in the service and says it is doubtful children are better off in state care.

“We don’t know if children are any better off as a result of state intervention, but the indications are not good,” it said.

The report said too many children were bounced from one placement to the next.

“In the course of our preparation for this report, we heard of children who had had upwards of 20, 40, and in one case over 60 care placements in their short lives,” it said.

Supervisors and social workers did not understand their roles and responsibilities, and there was often very little supervision of children.

“Some providers went so far as to characterise CYF’s attitude to these placements as ‘dump and run’.”

Many workers lacked the right qualifications or experience, and were not properly supervised.

Dr Wills told Morning Report other ministries, such as justice, health and education, ministries must work with CYF, to get the changes needed. “I think we’ve got a culture where the other agencies expect CYFs to do all the work, that’s not right and that’s not fair.”

From State of Care 2015: At a glance:

What do we expect from Child, Youth and Family?

CYF is the statutory service charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect, providing secure care to those who need it, and the care of children who have committed an offence.

New Zealanders expect CYF to keep children safe from immediate harm and hold children who have committed offences accountable, but more than that, we expect CYF and other government agencies to take good care of children and improve their life outcomes.

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner expects best practice

Our independent monitoring of CYF provides a tool to ensure CYF, as the primary service responsible for the care of vulnerable children, provides high quality services that improve children’s lives. We examine CYF’s policies and assess its practices, and consider how well these meet the needs of children. Our expectations of CYF are set out in our monitoring framework.

We expect CYF to deliver high quality services, plan for the future, make good decisions, learn from mistakes, work effectively with other agencies, seek children’s views, and improve children’s lives. Part 1 summarises the findings of our monitoring of selected CYF sites and residences against these expectations between January 2014 and June 2015.

Children expect to be treated with care and respect

Children also have expectations of CYF. They expect CYF to tell them what they are entitled to, provide them with high quality social workers and caregivers, help them maintain relationships with their birth family/whānau, give them a voice in decisions about their care, and, crucially, listen to what they say.

Children can tell us a lot about whether CYF is meeting its objective of putting children at the centre of everything it does. Part 2 summarises what children told us about their experiences with CYF between January 2014 and June 2015.

Children should be better off as a result of state intervention

A fundamental expectation we have is that children who come into contact with CYF should be better off as a result. Part of our monitoring function is to consider the outcomes CYF is achieving for children in care.

CYF’s practice framework talks about keeping children safe from abuse and neglect, providing them with secure care, addressing the effects of any harm they have already suffered, and restoring and improving their wellbeing.

CYF has recently developed an outcomes framework that will require CYF and other agencies to ensure that children are safe, healthy, achieving, belong, participate, and have improved life outcomes. As CYF develops indicators to measure these outcomes, we thought it would be timely to provide an assessment of how well CYF is currently doing at improving children’s outcomes.

Part 3 attempts to do this, based on the available data, our overall findings, and feedback we received in our engagement with key stakeholders.

Is CYF meeting these expectations?

CYF’s practice is not consistent

Some of the CYF sites and residences we monitored in the past 18 months met or exceeded our expectations. CYF generally has strong frontend systems and processes for investigating and making decisions about cases of potential abuse and neglect, which means it generally does well at keeping children safe from immediate risk of abuse and neglect.

However, CYF’s overall performance against our monitoring framework was highly variable. Across most of the sites and residences we monitored, we found inconsistent vision and direction, variable social work and care practice, and insufficient priority given to cultural capability. Underpinning these findings was a core issue with workforce capacity and capability.

CYF does not put children at the centre of everything it does

Some children report positive and life-changing experiences with CYF, but others report negative and harmful experiences. Generally speaking, the longer a child spends in CYF care, the more likely they are to experience harmful consequences.

The feedback we received from children suggested a system that is not centred on their needs, and that does not take into account the potential negative consequences of CYF’s actions and decisions on children. We have a number of suggestions to help CYF ensure children are at the centre of everything it does.

We don’t know if children are better off as a result of state intervention

Accessing data about children’s outcomes is core to our monitoring framework. Yet there is little reliable or easily accessible data available about the outcomes of children in the care system. In our view, CYF and MSD’s systems are not set up to measure and record the information that matters, and the integration of data between MSD and other government agencies is poor.

Better collection and analysis of data is essential for CYF to improve its services and for the Government and the public to have confidence that CYF and other state agencies are improving outcomes for vulnerable children. We don’t have enough information to say conclusively whether children are better off as a result of state intervention, but the limited data we do have about health, education, and justice outcomes is concerning.

CYF focuses more on keeping children safe, and less on improving their long-term outcomes

CYF has become oriented towards front-end processes for investigating and making decisions about cases of potential abuse and neglect, at the expense of on-going support for children in all types of care placements.

We make this observation based on our monitoring findings, which found strong intake and assessment practices in most of the CYF sites we monitored, but poor case management and oversight of young people in specialist care placements. It is supported by what children and other key stakeholders told us about their experiences with CYF.

This observation is consistent with the conclusions in the recent Workload and Casework Review undertaken by the Office of the Chief Social Worker within CYF.

The reasons for this focus on front-end services are complex and historical, and we have not attempted to analyse them here. Rather, we have focused on ways to support CYF to maintain its focus on initial safety, and to expand this to include the on-going support necessary to improve children’s outcomes in the long term. This will require a greater level of investment in children in all types of care placement.

CYF can’t do this on its own. Some changes are within CYF’s power to effect, but some will rely on other state agencies, service providers, and NGOs working effectively in partnership with CYF. It is our view that all the participants in the wider care
and protection and youth justice systems need to work together much better to deliver effective, high quality services to vulnerable children.

Health and education services in particular need to support children in care to achieve better outcomes. This will require leadership from the Ministries of Health and Education to be accountable for achieving better outcomes for these children, and for ensuring local providers in their sectors are supported to meet explicit expectations about what they deliver to children in care.

Recommendations

We made 53 recommendations to help CYF lift its performance and improve outcomes for children in our monitoring reports between January 2014 and June 2015. Some were directed at individual sites or residences, while others were changes CYF national office could make to improve policies and practice across multiple sites and residences.

The 53 recommendations were aligned to the key themes that recurred in our monitoring findings, and can be grouped in the following categories:
• Clarity of purpose, direction, and strategy (nine recommendations);
• Ensuring child-centred practice (11 recommendations);
• Improving the quality of social work practice across all types of care placement (nine recommendations);
• Building workforce capacity and capability (eight recommendations);
• Building cultural capability (five recommendations);
• Improving integration of services between CYF and other agencies (three recommendations);
• Strengthening partnerships and networks (four recommendations);
• Improving the physical environment in residences (two recommendations); and

Other recommendations relating to operational systems and processes (11 recommendations).

For this report, we have reviewed all our individual recommendations within the context of the themes emerging from our monitoring findings, our engagement with children, and the available data about children’s outcomes. From this review, we have developed a set of seven aggregated, future-oriented recommendations that we believe will help address shortcomings in the current system and improve children’s outcomes in future.

Aggregated recommendations, in brief, are:
1. Set clear expectations about CYF’s core purpose and the outcomes it needs to achieve;
2. Ensure CYF is fully child-centred in all its activities;
3. Invest more in on-going support for children in all types of care placements;
4. Address capacity and capability issues across the CYF workforce;
5. Improve cultural capability across the organisation;
6. Collect and analyse relevant data to drive improved outcomes for children; and
7. Set clear expectations for other state agencies responsible for improving the outcomes of children in care.

PDF: State of Care

One graph says very little

Anthony is on a roll at The Standard today, posting Youth rates and youth employment, which includes this graph.

Remember how National’s youth rates were going to raise levels of youth employment? Turns out not so much. This slide from a talk by CPAG’s Alan Johnson is doing the rounds on Twitter this morning:

That appears to agree ok with NZ Statistics data.

Anthony says:

The red line is employment for the over 65’s. The blue line is 15 – 19’s. The take home message is at the bottom, “30,000 fewer 15 – 19 year olds in jobs today than in 2007″.

Yes, there are fewer 15-19 year olds in employment than a peak in 2007 (the data goes back to 1990 so the starting date for the chart has been selected).

It’s well known that employment, especially for youth, dropped significantly, starting with New Zealand’s recessionary shift in 2008 followed soon after by the Global Financial Crisis.

So National’s “brighter future” isn’t working out so well for a new generation. Since youth rates don’t raise rates of youth employment, all they do is penalise younger workers.

I’m not sure what he means by the youth rates sentence, but I’m sure he doesn’t back his claim that a “brighter future” isn’t working out so well for a new generation.

The graph shows that youth employment rates seem to be recovering, as one would hope coming out of a major financial crisis.

One of the Government aims has been to get more young people into higher education to enable them to get better jobs. That takes time. And if it’s working it will shift employment from the 15-19 age group to higher age groups.

Repeating a simple graph and sating it proves the Government is crap is a bit simplistic.

Influential youth

Who are the young people most likely to have a lasting influence on New Zealand politics?

PartyPartyChch6Or…

Generation zero

You’ll find the former at the next party. Someone is spending millions of dollars, using them to settle an old score and but some personal attention.

You’ll find the latter all over the place – based here: http://www.generationzero.org/ – actively engaged and actively engaging in politics and promoting what they believe will help the planet and achieve better social equity.

One person with some pissed neuts, versus a campaign for a better world.