Social Workers Support Call for CYF Complaints Authority

Media Release 16 March 2012
Family First NZ is welcoming calls by the Aotearoa NZ Association of Social Workers to have an independent complaints process for social workers. The call is contained in their submission to the government on the Green Paper for Vulnerable Children.

“We are greatly encouraged to hear that even social workers themselves see the need for an independent watchdog. CYF work in very difficult circumstances but it is essential that there is external accountability for their actions. We are being contacted by far too many families saying that either CYF aren’t listening or that CYF are a ‘law unto themselves’,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. “Social workers in other organisations also need an appropriate level of monitoring, independent from the organisation they represent.”

“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.”

Information obtained by Family First NZ under the Official Information Act shows 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. 

In September 20111, 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.’

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

An independent poll of 1,000 NZ’ers in 2011 found two out of three support the need for this Authority.

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