Need for CYF Complaints Authority Evidenced by Payments

Media Release 27 Dec 2011
Family First NZ says that the urgent need for an independent CYF Complaints Authority has been highlighted by the increasing number of ex gratia payments over the past 2 years valued at over $1 million made to former and current clients who have had the energy and knowhow to follow through their complaints. 

Information obtained by Family First NZ under the Official Information Act  show 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. Incredibly, CYF are unable, or are unwilling, to provide figures prior to 2009. 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. Nearly half of these ex gratia payments relate to historic abuse while in state care. 

“CYF do an important job in difficult circumstances and limited resources, but it is essential that there is external accountability for their actions. Ex gratia payments are made well after the damage has been done,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. “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 complaints panel.” 

The call comes on the same day as the revelations of the case of two toddlers who were due to be put into respite care with a sexually abusive pre-teen. It was only the outrage from the grandmother that prevented a potential tragedy occurring. This follows an admission by CYF last week that it should have done a better job protecting a nine year old West Auckland girl abused by her mother. 

“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.”

“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 found that ACT, Green, Mana, NZ First, and United Future parties all supported the establishment of an independent body.

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