CYF Complaints Authority Welcomed But Needs Full Independence

Media Release 12 Sep 2013
Family First NZ is welcoming a report endorsing its call for an independent CYF Complaints Authority, saying that a complaints authority is well overdue. However Family First is rejecting the recommendation that the Children’s Commissioner be responsible for it, saying that one governmental group overseeing another will not work and will lack the independence that is being called for by families.

“While we’re stoked that the report agrees there should be a complaints authority separate from CYF itself, it should be seen as completely independent, in the same way that the Independent Police Conduct Authority is. The Children’s Commissioner would not be seen as independent or unbiased. We believe a judge overseeing the panel would be ideal, similar to the IPCA,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“We note that a key feature of the IPCA which they promote is that they are 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.”

The call for an independent complaints process came 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?” says Mr McCoskrie.

“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.”

“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 to serious concerns or that CYF are a ‘law unto themselves’,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“A fully independent CYF Complaints Authority will ensure that appropriate policy and procedures have been followed, will be in the best interests of the social workers, will result in public confidence and accountability for actions and decisions by CYF workers, and will protect families from abuse, and from abuse by the state,” says Mr McCoskrie.

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