“CYF work in very difficult circumstances but it is essential that there is external accountability for their actions. We are being contacted by far too many families saying that either CYF aren’t listening or that CYF are a ‘law unto themselves’,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“When CYF make mistakes, the only option for families is either a costly court process where CYF have an unlimited pool of resources to defend its actions – courtesy of the taxpayer, or trying to get in front of the existing internal complaints panel.”
“We have long been asking for a totally independent Board similar to the Independent Police Complaints Authority. We desperately and urgently need an independent body to hear complaints about the highly sensitive nature of intervening in families. There is a Health and Disability Commissioner, a Police Complaints Authority, even a Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal.”
Information obtained by Family First NZ under the Official Information Act shows a 150% in ex gratia payments between 2010 and 2011 – from $334,912 in 31 cases in 2010, to $836,375 in 55 cases in 2011. Ex gratia payments are made where the Ministry’s actions or performance have been deficient to a degree that the individual has suffered loss or harm.
The Social Services Committee released a report last September recommending that the Government investigate establishing an independent CYF Complaints Authority. The Select Committee acknowledged that were ‘concerned to hear that the ministry does not monitor complainants’ ultimate satisfaction with the process‘ and that ‘people whose complaints reach the Chief Executive’s Advisory Panel have to be persistent to resolve their issues’.
“An independent CYF Complaints Authority will ensure that appropriate policy and procedures have been followed, will be in the best interests of the social workers, and will result in public confidence and accountability for actions and decisions by CYF workers,” says Mr McCoskrie.
Family First’s Value Your Vote survey of the party leaders released during the election last year found that ACT, Green, Mana, NZ First, and United Future parties all supported the establishment of an independent body.
An independent poll of 1,000 NZ’ers in 2011 found two out of three support the need for this Authority.