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Steve Maharey - Partnerships for Children

Maharey Address To The New Zealand Association Of Child And Family Support And Community Services First Annual Conference

Partnerships for Children

Address to the New Zealand Association of Child and Family Support and Community Services First Annual Conference. Memorial Theatre, Student Union Building, Victoria University of Wellington.

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Introduction

Thank you for inviting me to speak at your conference.

In some ways your Association is a new born child.

But in fact the Association was conceived several years ago and distinct rumblings have issued from the womb ever since.

So to extend the child metaphor to near breaking point - the gestation has been a long one - but the baby appears to be thriving.

Seriously, I know that this Association is the result of years of networking and a deeply held desire to improve the relationship of community based service providers with the Department of Child, Youth and Family.

In this regard, your theme is my theme - so valuing and improving our partnership will be my central topic today.

But why should partnership be so important?

I think Mick Brown summed it up well in the title of his report - 'Care and Protection is About Adult Behaviour'.

It has strong echos of that other famous line - 'it takes a whole village to raise a child'.

Child wellbeing is not about people working in isolation.

We all know that the best parents need support from time to time. In fact the best parents are probably the ones who realise when they do need a helping hand from family, friends or neighbours-that is after all how communities are built.

Parenting should be a collaborative exercise - within a secure relationship - with an extended family - with a supportive community.

And supporting parents should be a collaborative exercise too.

No one agency has all the answers - and no one agency could ever provide the range of services or cover the range the approaches that different children, young people and families need.

That is why the focus of the Department's response to the Mick Brown report, 'New Directions', is on improving the core services of the Department AND building strong community partnerships.

Some providers may have experienced a degree of scepticism as they heard about New Directions.

Jackie Brown and Craig Smith have certainly felt this as they have begun their presentations to staff and community providers on the programme around the country - but there has been little sign of it when they have finished.

Experienced service providers who have been vociferous critics of the Department's working relationship with community have applauded the New Directions objectives.

I think one of the reasons is that people recognise that a partnership approach is plain common sense.

If you have read Judge Mick Brown's report you will know that he was greatly taken by the views of British social worker Tony Morrison, quoting him in his conclusion on Inter-Agency work:

"One of the greatest challenges for professional oriented child protection systems is how to engage in meaningful dialogue with local communities, often in neighbourhoods suffering acute deprivation whose accumulated experiences of welfare and other institutional systems may often have been very negative. If a more holistic approach to child protection is to be achieved, it will require the ability of agencies to:

· work collaboratively at this developmental level; and

· to have the confidence to relinquish some of their power and to learn how to identify, work with, and strengthen the informal caring networks that in any event carry out the bulk of social and child care work within communities.

The notions of providing an holistic approach of working on an interagency and partnership model with communities seems to be the way forward."

As Judge Brown put it: "The failure to carry out the rich promise afforded by Puao-te-Ata-tu in particular is a stark example of our failure to work with the community even when there were statutory imperatives."

This Government agrees that Child, Youth and Family - and New Zealand families - can only benefit from a firm commitment to community partnership - and that partnership with the community on non-statutory work will allow Child, Youth and Family to focus on the effective execution of its statutory duties.

Child, Youth and Family have been asked to develop a "whole-of-community" response to child abuse that involves closer working relationships with both communities and voluntary sector providers.

This is one of the crucial elements of the Child, Youth and Family New Directions programme.

So how do we build that partnership-

I think that the prescription is quite simple (after all we are all involved in partnerships every day of our lives).

Partnership denotes:

· strong leadership and commitment from both partners to the relationship; · a shared vision about what the partnership is trying to achieve; · commitment of mutual resources and co-operation to obtain new resources; · a spirit of innovation to see new solutions to traditionally intractable problems; and · realistic resourcing with ongoing and secure funding.

STRENGTH-BASED PRACTICE

But forming a partnership should also mean being willing to take a fairly hard look at yourself - after all how many people want to marry the guy who strips down the car engine in the lounge.

For Child, Youth and Family this has meant looking at it's current social work practice paradigm.

As a result, the New Directions plan aims to move the Department away from the current crisis management thinking that has produced what we might call a deficit model of social work practice.

This model has emphasised family weakness rather than looking to build on strengths - and as a by-product has led to a focus on outputs and processes rather than outcomes for kids.

And we all know that a sticking plaster approach cannot hope to address problems that have often built up over years or perhaps generations.

Mick Brown's report, and now the New Directions plan, tell us it is time to turn the focus instead to the achievement of long-term quality outcomes for children and families.

Strength based practice is not a theoretical approach dreamed up in the wake of the Brown Report.

Strength-based practice is in fact a cornerstone of the CYP&F Act and providers are already using it in New Zealand. Two that come to mind are the James Family Trust in Auckland and the Heretaunga Maori Executive in Hawkes Bay but I know that others of you are employing the strength-based approach.

NEW DIRECTIONS AND COMMUNITY PROVIDERS

Five strategies have been identified as critical to the success of the New Directions programme.

Implementing practice improvement This strategy focuses on the improving Child, Youth and Family's performance in core services through both short-term focused actions and long-term strategies.

Strengthening the professional workforce Outcomes in this strategy focus on improving support of our social workers professional practice through practice models, tools and supervision. It also include the provision of professional registration for all social workers.

Collaborating with the community Collaboration requires clear strategies and improved relationships, building a relationship with a continuum of services children and families need. Future Search Conferences with the sector are one of the key outcomes of this strategy.

Getting the best from the funding and delivery arms of the agency This strategy focuses on aligning the Departments structure, processes and systems to support the partnership approach to strength based social work.

Building leadership capability In essence this is about the Department demonstrating leadership in the child protection sector leadership.

For the community the benefits will focus on improved interaction with the Department through greater involvement, reduced compliance costs, and clear processes and messages.

Under New Directions it is expected that all decisions will demonstrate commitment to:

Join & build alliances with communities to achieve better outcomes

Child, Youth and Family cannot make major improvements in isolation. The Department sits within a continuum of social services and is intent upon developing practices and strategies that maximise community collaboration and partnership.

Become a joined-up agency that is outcomes focused, strengths based and client centred:

The Brown Report found that Child, Youth and Family is a fragmented organisation and that this results in a lack of clarity for stakeholders and staff and inconsistent practices.

Take a regional approach to delivery:

Over the past decade control of Child, Youth and Family resources and decision making has moved from the regions to Wellington. Decision-making will be moved back, closer to the front line to where the impact of decisions is felt.

Tomorrow morning Verna Smith, the General Manager of Child, Youth and Family Contracting will spell out what these objectives will mean in terms of agencies funded by the Department.

She will be talking about how she and the Contracting team intend to work with the direct service delivery arms of the Department and to build alliances with the community, and what this could mean in terms of your agencies.

COMMITMENT TO PARTNERSHIP MODEL

The New Directions Programme reflects Government's commitment to a partnership model for the delivery of social services.

And our commitment was reflected in the Budget.

Child, Youth and Family gained significant new funding through the recent Budget - almost $44 million in the upcoming financial year; more than $216 million over the next four years.

This represents the most significant investment in New Zealand's at risk children and families for many years.

This funding will allow Child, Youth and Family to meet the recommendations of Mick Browns report and also will go towards strengthening the capacity of the community sector providers to provide the support and care services that make a difference in so many families lives.

Many of the community organisations represented here today are providers of care services for children and young people who are unable to be cared for by their own families.

The Brown report recommended an increased focus on and support for care services whether they are provided by family caregivers, Child and Family Support Services, Iwi Social Services or Departmental caregivers and residences.

Government is making $14 million available for each of the next four years, specifically to improve the quality of care services and management.

The new funding will respond to increased demand for care, allow a national care manager to be appointed and specialist care positions to be created. More significantly for community providers the Department will be moving toward a new model of purchasing care services from community providers.

The new model will be progressively introduced and will involve purchase of the full range of care and social work services and a more flexible system of contracting for care services.

Verna Smith will talk about new care purchasing directions in more detail tomorrow.

Workshop - Thursday 14 June

The 4.00 - 5.30 p.m workshop by Child, Youth and Family on "Future Directions in Care Services" today will also have a care management focus.

It will include input from: Bev Markham, National Manager Residential and Caregiver Services, David Nicholson, National Manager Contracts and Annabel Taylor, Strategic Policy.

They are the key people currently involved in care services planning, delivery and purchase.

This workshop will give you a good chance to find out how the budget initiatives will actually progress over the next six months and what consultation processes we are putting in place nationally for provider groups as part of implementing these.

Annabel Taylor will tell you about the likely longer-term direction for care services and the underpinning rationale for these directions.

BUDGET 2001

The current Budget allocations further reinforce funding initiatives established in the year 2000 Budget.

Stronger Communities Action Fund

The Stronger Communities Action Fund was established to allow communities to develop decision making processes to identify which social services initiatives best meet their own local needs, and to provide them with financial assistance to do so. The Fund is now being implemented in seven communities across New Zealand.

I have asked Child, Youth and Family to explore further options for devolution of the Department's community funding to local decision making structures. This work complements the implementation of the Stronger Communities Action Fund as a pilot of devolved decision making.

Iwi/Maori Provider Development Fund

An Iwi/Maori Provider Workforce Development Fund of $14.052 million has also been committed over four years to develop the capabilities of these service providers. Nine pilots - involving three Iwi and six Maori organisations - are now in the process of being established, and there are some very exciting, and encouraging, initiatives among them.

Two established initiatives which will receive continued funding are the Family Service Centres and programmes for Maori Youth at Risk of Offending. I am very pleased to be able to announce the continuation of funding - a total of $13 million over the next four years - for these two very positive community initiatives.

Family Service Centres

Family Service Centres have successfully brought together a wide range of services under one roof in a number of disadvantaged communities. They have also been in the forefront of delivering the HIPPY home based early childhood education programme to hundreds of children and their families giving them a head start at school and raising their hopes for their children's future.

Funding of nearly $7 million for the Family Service centres over the next four years is now confirmed.

Maori Youth at Risk of Offending

The Maori Youth at Risk programmes have turned young lives around. Innovative programmes based in the far North, South Auckland, Rotorua and Gisborne have taken troubled rangatahi and encouraged and supported them into positive lifestyles through the use of drama, sport, cultural practices, music and physical challenges.

The Wraparound programme in South Auckland has been able to provide a solid model of comprehensive unconditional care and support for young people whose lives have often been characterised by change, uncertainty and fear.

For the first time some of them will have a consistent and caring adult involved in their lives. An adult who will not walk away or reject them when the going gets tough, but who will stand by them and support them, while challenging them to turn their life around. These programmes have been independently evaluated and shown to have positive results and government is proud to be able to ensure their continuing availability.

Government has put another $6.196 million into the Youth at Risk and Wraparound Services over the next four years.

PARTNERSHIP

Working in partnership with the community sector is a key priority for Child, Youth and Family. The aim is to provide the most effective early intervention services for at risk children and families.

Organisations working in the social sector have faced increasing operating costs over the past few years and this has had impacts on the viability of some agencies. The injection of additional funding of $15 million over four years into existing services and providers will be the first increase in this type of funding for four years and is an initiative I am especially pleased to share with you today.

Strengthening providers and strengthening communities will lead to strong families and safe children in the long term. Working together to achieve this goal is the only way we can achieve it. That was a key message of the Brown Report - "Child, Youth and Family cannot stop child abuse on its own".

It will take the combined efforts and dedication of not only governments and government departments, but even more importantly of community organisations, community networks, families and individuals to turn the tide and ensure that New Zealand is the safest and best place it can be for children and their families.

REFERENCE GROUP

And partnership must be reflected at every level.

That is why Child, Youth and Family are establishing an external reference group which brings in representatives of groups with significant knowledge and experience in the delivery of social services, and a keen appreciation of the challenges that confront the department.

The following groups have expressed willingness to supply a representative for the external reference group:

· Family Law Section of the NZ Law Society · Office of Commissioner for Children · PSA · Child Policy Reference Group · ANZASW · Te Komiti Arai Taki Manaaki · Pacific Peoples Reference Group · Te Kaiahwina Ahumahi · NZ Council of Christian Social Services

People from these groups will provide advice on the New Directions plan and on significant individual projects. They will also act as educators within their own spheres of influence, within and outside the Deportment.

FUTURE SEARCH CONFERENCE

And we want to involve providers large and small.

In September/October there will be a Future Search Conference bringing all of the stakeholders together to consider outcomes, roles and responsibilities and possible future scenarios - in short to work toward a blueprint for the social services sector.

IN CONCLUSION

Community-based groups - from small grass roots groups to major national organisations - are a vital part of the solution for at-risk children, young people and their families.

I look forward to increased partnership - a seamless and integrated relationship - between Child, Youth and Family and the community sector, including the members of your Association.

I wish you well for your conference.


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