Child Youth and Family set for major overhaul

NZME staff ,
Publish Date
Thu, 7 Apr 2016, 10:37am
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley (Photo / Getty Images)

Child Youth and Family set for major overhaul

NZME staff ,
Publish Date
Thu, 7 Apr 2016, 10:37am

UPDATED: 6.27PM Families with children judged to be "at risk" will be funded to get extra health, education and counselling services under radical new child protection reforms announced today.

An expanded child protection agency with a broader remit than the current Child Youth and Family (CYF) will get extra funding to "directly purchase services for young people from other government agencies, district health boards, non-government organisations and other specialist service providers to get children and young people the care they need".

A fact sheet issued by Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said the new agency would be "a single point of accountability so that one agency is responsible for the long-term welfare of these vulnerable children and young people, rather than funding and services being scattered across multiple agencies".

LISTEN ABOVE: Social Development Minister Anne Tolley talks to Larry Williams

It said the new model would be similar to the Accident Compensation Corporation, which can buy health services from state and private hospitals to get immediate treatment for accident victims.

"Specialist services such as counselling, trauma, psychology, education and health will be able to be purchased on behalf of the child when they are needed," it said.

"This is similar to the ACC model, and means staff won't have to spend time trying to negotiate with agencies to get kids the help they need, and can spend more time working with children.

"Services could be purchased from DHBs, education providers, NGOs, and specialist services such as psychologists. Some of the funding for this approach could be reallocated in future years from relevant departments."

Mrs Tolley said: "It's acknowledged that the new system will require additional funding.

The expert panel also recommended over $360 million of extra funding be spent to enact the changes.

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern said the solutions proposed are useful but doubts the Government will come up with the necessary funding.

"We've already had an opportunity to ask the Minister how much funding she thinks will be required to properly resource this new entity. No figures have been provided at this stage and the success or failure of this new entity will come down to whether it is properly resourced.

"The total amount will only become clearer once the detailed work on the operating model is complete, and following a comprehensive look at what funding, if any, can be reallocated from other departments."

Finance Minister Bill English said he's willing to stump up the cash to ensure our vulnerable kids are better looked after.

He said all the options are being considered.

"We're willing to spend the money where we can see we can make significant change. It's really just a matter of all of those professional, well-intention people who look after these kids, showing us how they can do that and we will certainly support it".

Services supporting children in care, and work with families before they need state intervention, will be set up as separate services within the new child protection agency to ensure that the agency does not become preoccupied with investigations at the expense of long-term care - a criticism levelled at CYF by the review panel chaired by Dame Paula Rebstock and by Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills.

The new agency will have five separate services:

• Prevention: "Support families to develop stable and loving relationships to avoid young people having to end up in state care."

• Intensive intervention: "A single point of entry for identifying and assessing the needs of vulnerable children, young people and their families."

• Care support: "Focus on getting children into a stable and loving caregiving family at the earliest opportunity."

• Youth justice: "Using an investment approach children with complex needs who offend will be treated as a priority group, and evidence-based services which reduce offending and reoffending will be increased. Where appropriate and with public safety in mind, alternatives will be found for some young people currently remanded in secure residences to reduce the unintended long-term negative impacts this has on them."

• Supported transitions into young adulthood: "The minimum age of state care will be raised to a young person's 18th birthday, with options being developed to allow some young people to remain or return to care up to age 21. Consideration will also be given to having some kind of support in place, depending on needs, up to age 25."

Mrs Tolley said it's about extending the same support to young people in care that other young people get from their families.

"If we think of our teenage children they somewhere to come home to in the weekends, they have somewhere to touch base with when their feeling a bit down. Some will need just a light touch".

Former CYF child and current social worker Daryl Brougham told Larry Williams it's not the vetting of caregivers that is substandard.

"I think they're are a lot of good caregivers but I think there is a lack of support for them. They need more training, they need a qualification just about".

Brougham said during his studies he learnt nothing about the impacts of state care on a child.

"I then worked for Child Youth and Family, went through their training processes, and I didn't learn anything about the impacts of State care on a child. How on earth can you be child-centered if you don't understand the impacts on a child it's impossible".

The shakeup at CYF's been welcomed by the Greens although they're concerned some of the services may be farmed out to private sector providers.

Co-leader Metiria Turei said something clearly needs to be done to prevent harm being done to children who go into care.

But she said the focus should be on preventing them going into care in the first place.

"The primary concern has to be keeping the children safe within their own family and that's where the prevention comes in. Early intervention, intensive intervention where it's necessary, is the the best option".

Labour's lobbying the Government to follow the panel's recommendation and set up a new Ministry to handle the work of Child Youth and Family.

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern said the idea should be adopted.

"We've long advocated for a children's ministry. We feel the panel has really put justification around that and I hope that the Government takes up that recommendation and forms a ministry".

The reforms aim to cut long-term welfare and crime costs. About 87 per cent of children born in 1990-91 who spent time in state care ended up on welfare, and 28 per cent were jailed, before they turned 21.

Put the other way around, more than 60 per cent of all young people jailed before age 21, and almost half of young parents on benefits with their own children by that age, had been notified to CYF for care and protection reasons in their childhoods.

60 per cent of the 5139 children in state care at the end of 2015 were Maori. More than one in every three (35 per cent) of Maori children born from 2005 to 2007 were reported to CYF before reaching school age, compared with 11 per cent of non-Maori children.


• An expanded child protection agency will buy education, health and other services to get immediate help for children in care, just as ACC now buys health services from hospitals.

• The new agency will have separate services for preventative work with families, and for children in care, to make sure immediate crises don't divert resources from these areas.

• Age of leaving state care will rise from 17 to 18, with some transitional support to age 25.

• New independent advocacy service for children in care.

• Extra funding justified by cutting long-term welfare and crime costs.