“A review by the ministry of Social Development found that CYF is massively understaffed and that social workers do not have manageable caseloads and workloads. One of the key comments was ‘….we are working with people and children and all of our decisions affect their lives forever. It would be good to be able to have the time and capacity to think, analyse and reflect rather than acting in the moment…’,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“CYF perform a necessary function but the lack of accountability to their process and procedures and their overwhelming workload should concern all families. There is no external and independent accountability. We need CYF to get it right, and we need to know that they’re getting it right. That evidence is not there,” says Mr McCoskrie.
Earlier this month, a report was released by the NZ Council for Educational Research which found that a survey of Principals were not positive about CYF support. 70% said CYF workers were ‘not useful’ or of ‘mixed use’. Only 4% said they were ‘very useful’.
A report last year commissioned by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett supported Family First’s call for an independent CYF Complaints Authority.
“We note that a key feature of the Police watchdog (IPCA) which they promote is that the IPCA is not part of the Police, is established by law to be fully independent, and is headed by a District Court Judge, and supported by independent investigators,” says Mr McCoskrie.
The call for an official Inquiry and an independent complaints process also comes in response to a number of recent cases – including a case of shocking abuse by two parents on their four young children – where the agency had been shown to have acted inadequately or irresponsibly on serious cases of child abuse and with dysfunctional families. At other times, CYF have not acted when there was clear evidence that they should have. Where do families turn when they believe CYF isn’t performing?
“We need to have a mechanism that ensures that families who have been notified to CYF as being at-risk are actually monitored in an appropriate way, but also to prevent abuse of families by the State. It is vital that there is 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. CYF currently has an internal complaints process but virtually nobody trusts it, or knows about it, or uses it.”
“An official Inquiry will be in the best interests of the social workers, will result in public confidence and accountability for actions and decisions by CYF workers, establish appropriate workloads for social workers, and will protect families from abuse, and from abuse by the state,” says Mr McCoskrie.