Media Release 27 March 2017
Family First NZ has appeared before the Select Committee today considering the bill to establish the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children to replace Child, Youth and Family, and has called for a fully independent Complaints Authority as a watchdog on the new state agency.
“Irrespective of how the system is actually structured, we must have a mechanism that ensures that families who have been notified to the new Ministry as being at-risk are actually monitored in an appropriate way, but also to prevent abuse of families by the State – yet the Government restructure appears to ignore this need,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
Ironically, in 2011, the same Select Committee recommended that the Government investigate establishing an independent Complaints Authority for CYF.
Family First has told the committee that the success of any Complaints Authority will depend on its independence – it must have legislative independence, operational independence, and the perception of independence, similar to the IPCA.
“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 they believe CYF isn’t performing? There is an internal complaints process but virtually nobody trusts it, or knows about it, or uses it.”
“The police have an independent complaints authority – the IPCA. This is the type of watchdog we need for the upcoming Ministry for Vulnerable Children.”
“An independent Complaints Authority will also be in the best interests of the social workers as it will provide an independent body to ensure that appropriate policy and procedures have been followed. This will result in public confidence and accountability for actions and decisions by social workers.”
The Aotearoa NZ Association of Social Workers called for an independent complaints process for social workers in their submission to the government on the Green Paper for Vulnerable Children. An independent report to the government in 2013 also endorsed the call for an independent CYF Complaints Authority, saying that a complaints authority is well overdue. The report said that there is “no independent voice or agency of sufficient size and capability to speak for children and hold the system to account” and that a “more accessible complaints system is required.” It also highlighted that the Children’s Commissioner’s monitoring had been insufficient, limited, and not fully independent.
A poll in 2011 found significant support (65%) for an independent watchdog for CYF (only 20% opposed).