Media Release 27 February 2017
Family First NZ says that CYF’s own admission that it had failed multiple times in a tragic case of a child abuse death is just one of many examples that proves that the state agency and the agency soon to replace it desperately needs a fully independent Complaints Authority as a watchdog on the state agency, yet the Government restructure of CYF continues to ignore this need.
“Irrespective of how the system is actually structured, we must 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,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“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.”
“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.
“The police have an independent complaints authority – the IPCA. This is the type of watchdog we need for CYF and for the upcoming Ministry for Vulnerable Children.”
“CYF say that they want public trust – but they need to earn that, and it needs to be seen.”
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 endorsed the call for an independent CYF Complaints Authority, saying that a complaints authority is well overdue.
“An independent 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 state social workers, and will protect families from abuse, and from abuse by the state,” says Mr McCoskrie.