Media Release 24 Oct 2012
Family First NZ says that the Government should immediately establish an independent CYF Complaints Authority to prevent abuse of families by the State, and that the proposed review set up by the Minister of Social Development will achieve nothing.
“It is difficult to understand why the government is so apprehensive about independent accountability for an organisation that can make decisions to uplift children and potentially destroy families without even having to produce concrete evidence of abuse. At other times, CYF have not acted when there was clear evidence that they should have. Where do families turn when faced with abuse by the state?” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“The current Advisory Panel has the inherent flaw of not being independent, and the Chief Executive still has the final decision as to the success of the complaint. The police have an independent complaints authority – the IPCA. This is what we need for CYF.”
Figures provided by the Ministry of Social Development under the Official Information Act shows that in the four years since the Authority was established in July 2008, just forty complaints had been considered by the Authority – but of those, more than 80% of the complaints were upheld either in full or in part. Ex-gratia payments of $10,000 – 15,000 were made to eight families.
25 complaints were referred back to CYF as they had not dealt with the complaint under its internal complaints resolution process, and 15 complaints were awaiting a decision by the Chief Executive – despite the potential urgency and ongoing effect that it may be having on the families concerned.
In September 2011, the Social Services Committee released a report recommending that the Government investigate establishing an independent CYF Complaints Authority. The Committee acknowledged that ‘people whose complaints reach the Chief Executive’s Advisory Panel have to be persistent to resolve their issues’ and that they were ‘concerned to hear that the ministry does not monitor complainants’ ultimate satisfaction with the process.’
The Aotearoa NZ Association of Social Workers has called for an independent complaints process for social workers in their submission to the government on the Green Paper for Vulnerable Children.
Information obtained last year under the Official Information Act showed a 150% in ex gratia payments by CYF 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, and some of these payments cover historical abuse cases.
Family First is also rejecting the proposed review of the complaints authority by former police commissioner Howard Broad as he was part of the Prime Minister’s review on the anti-smacking law led by Nigel Latta which was subsequently shown to be inaccurate, misleading, and failed to meet its terms of reference.
“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, will result in public confidence and accountability for actions and decisions by CYF workers, and will protect families from abuse by the state,” says Mr McCoskrie.