Family First NZ says that figures obtained from the Ministry of Social Development under the Official Information Act show that the CYF Complaints Authority is failing its job, that the Ministry has done virtually nothing to make people aware of its existence, and that CYF remains unaccountable.
According to the previous Minister for Social Development and Employment Ruth Dyson in response to our request for information last year, a pitiful $14,000 had been spent on brochures and some posters for distribution around CYF offices to advertise the Complaints Authority, and no additional training has been given to frontline staff in terms of referring clients to the Authority.
And the Ministry of Social Development has informed Family First this week that only three written complaints have been made since the Authority was established in July 2008.
“Family First is being regularly contacted by families who claim to have been unfairly treated by CYF social workers – yet they have no independent body to appeal to,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. “Their only option is a costly court process where CYFS have an unlimited pool of resources to defend its actions, courtesy of the taxpayer.”
“This is grossly unfair when families are being ripped apart, often just based on the subjective judgment of a social worker. The recent response to the CYFSWatch website shows just how deep-seated the concern is.”
“An independent CYF Complaints Authority is in the best interests of the social workers,” says Mr McCoskrie, “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 CYF workers.”
“There is a Health and Disability Commissioner, a Police Complaints Authority, even a Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal. We desperately need an independent body to hear complaints about the highly sensitive nature of intervening in families.”
“The Advisory Panel being adopted by the Ministry of Social Development has the inherent flaw of not being independent, and the Chief Executive still has the final decision as to the success of the complaint. This is unacceptable.”
Family First calls on all MP’s, the majority who will have received anecdotal evidence of claims of unfair treatment by CYFS, to support the urgent establishment of an independent CYF Complaint Authority.