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Child Protection Systems in Crisis

The number of potential child abuse cases reported to the Child Youth and Family Service, hit a record of 2,489 last month, prompting Act Social Welfare spokesman Dr Muriel Newman to call for an urgent reorganisation of the department.

Dr Newman said today she was told in response to a Parliamentary question that the number of care and protection notifications, needing further investigation, increased 22 per cent from 2,046, in August last year.

“This is an all-time high, and comes at a time when the Minister of Social Welfare, Steve Maharey, has admitted that the Child Youth and Family Service is under pressure with high staff turnover rates,” she said.

Dr Newman said that while case notifications had jumped significantly, the Minister, had only secured enough funding in the budget for another 22 social workers.

“This will be clearly inadequate as the service is already under severe pressure.

“The new surge in notifications will hugely increase workloads and this is certain to get worse,” Dr Newman said.

“Mr Maharey is under real pressure, and he is simply not delivering”.

Dr Newman said fresh parliamentary questions showed that Mr Maharey had no central strategy to get extra resources, and was hiding his inaction with “nothing-statements” such as “reprioritising” and “holding discussions to clarify the issues”.

“The Minister said he wanted to attract retired social workers back to the job but he has done nothing to launch a recruiting campaign or offered any real incentives to get them back.

“The truth is the Government has no more money because of a shrinking economy, and child-abuse services are at crisis point,” she said.

Case numbers will get worse when the protocols requiring notification to CYFS are signed by the ACC, schools, and doctors.

“The Minister is now overseeing the worst statistics and the worse staff-case ratio we have ever had.”

Dr Newman said the Government’s problem was compounded by the exodus of skilled people overseas. “New Zealand has lost a net 217 social workers since the election.”

“Even the PSA, normally slow to criticise the Government, is admitting the dams are bursting. They say social workers are struggling and burning out.”

Dr Newman said the service was in urgent need of a change in direction and was advocating the establishment of a “one stop shop” system.

“We need to re-build a comprehensive one stop shop, regionally-focused organisation, that will see social workers, police, health professionals and the like, working together with the clear goal of protecting our children and reducing child abuse” Dr Newman said.

ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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