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Gordon Campbell on the Children’s Commission report on CYF

Gordon Campbell on the Children’s Commission report on CYF

Accusing the overworked and underfunded staff at Child, Youth and Family of a “dump and run culture of neglect" is the kind of luxury that a Children’s Commissioner can afford to indulge in from his own comfy perch in the bureaucracy. Newsflash: CYPS staff care about the welfare of children at risk, too. In the real world of case workers ‘clients’ and caregivers, every link in the chain of care that the Children’s Commissioner identifies as lacking would be strengthened by more funding.

Its not rocket science. If you really want a better, more stable family environment for these kids, put the money into training the case workers and the caregivers and pay them more for doing the job: because obviously, the people doing the hard work of fostering are not the tut-tutting audience of RNZ, and they’re not the well paid staff at the Children’s Commission office, either. That work of caring for some of the most troubled and difficult children in the country is being done day after day year after year by case workers and by foster families who are themselves finding it tough to make ends meet. Dumping on them for the quality and extent of their effort - because you claim to care about kids – is pretty shameful.

Given this climate, it should come as no surprise that analyzing the adequacy of CYPS’s current funding for the statutory job it is being expected to fulfil has not been part of the assessment task carried out by the Children’s Commissioner. As a consequence, the report virtually exempts the current government from responsibility for what has been happening to children at risk on its watch. In that respect, you could accuse the Children’s Commissioner of a “ dump and run” attitude… As in “dump” on CYPS and “run” in terror from attaching blame to his political masters.

Ultimately though, the Children’s Commissioner is merely the warm-up act for the total revamp of CYPS that Social Development Minister Anne Tolley raised on RNZ this morning.

This review is being headed by Paula Rebstock – who was responsible for the report that culminated in the government’s recent round of welfare reforms. The terms of reference for the Rebstock review of CYPS can be found here.

Among other things, the Rebstock panel will consider the potential for privatisation:

The core role and purpose of Child, Youth and Family; and opportunities for a stronger focus on this, including through outsourcing some services

It will also consider the role of intrusive Big Data in focussing the state’s resources on those deemed most at risk:

The potential role of data analytics, including predictive risk modelling, to identify children and young people in need of care and protection

· How technology might be better utilised by Child, Youth and Family to enable staff to focus on more effective working with children, young people and their families ·

And if that raises serious privacy issues – which it certainly does – then the terms of reference have that covered, too :

Any legislative barriers that prevent the delivery of improved results for children and young people who come into contact with Child, Youth and Family…

The intrusive role of data analytics has been raised before here by Computerworld. It elicited this interesting response:

There are obvious privacy implications in correlating the data from MoE, CYF and Work and Income and some changes had to be made to the law to accommodate this. There were challenges in the matching of identities between records and the likelihood of a mismatch was evaluated as part of the exercise.

And there were significant ethical questions surrounding the whole exercise -- "should we be doing this at all?" -- O'Neil acknowledges. The exercise was justified on the strength of MSD's responsibility to use taxpayer funds responsibly. The ministry has "a fundamental duty" to optimise allocation of the money it receives, O'Neil says.

And if that “fundamental duty” to optimise the allocation of their funding means privacy infringements, then the state will change the law to make that legal. This, from the same National politicians who made such a big deal (when in Opposition) about powers of the Nanny State. And without a peep of course from David Seymour, the latest in a string of Act political operatives whose interest in individual liberties begins and ends with the de-regulation of business - most recently on behalf of the booze industry.

Will the virtual scrapping of liquor licensing hours during the World Cup put any children further at risk? Who cares….kids are kids, but this is rugby.

Deafheaven return

Much as it seems to fixate on negativism, black metal also offers the usual romantic subtext : deep in the dark, the stars shine brighter etc. Despair and grandeur occur in equal doses. That’s how Deafheaven’s 2013 album Sunbather album struck me anyway and I tried to write about it at length here.

Sunbather became the black metal album for people who normally find it either (a) insufferable or (b) a bad joke for 16 year old misfits. It combined bedrock aggression with shoegaze’s trippy sense of ethereal detachment, and put them on a stadium size canvas. As a band, Deafheaven are heavy enough, but they’re not pulverisingly so : that’s not the main intent. Time and again, George Clarke’s growled/barked lyrics get lost in a maelstrom that is lit on a regular basis by the chimingly melodic lines from guitarist Kelly McCoy. Even if you regard them as the U2 of black metal - or as a variation on My Bloody Valentine - Deafheaven offer a rewarding change from the usual loud/soft/ really loud dynamics of a more typical metal band like say, Mastodon. (Though Blood Mountain and Leviathan were pretty good, too.)

So…on their new album New Bermuda, can Deafheaven pull it off again ? It seems so. For old times sake, here’s the classic “Dream House ” opening cut from Sunbather

which begins to open up into full melodic flower around the 4.10 to 5 minute mark. And here’s the opening cut from New Bermuda, called “Brought To The Water”:


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