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MP plans to prosecute CYFS

Nick Smith MP for Nelson

4 June 2002

MP plans to prosecute CYFS

Nelson MP and National Education spokesperson, Nick Smith, is proposing to prosecute the Child, Youth and Family Service for not ensuring a 14-year-old boy in its care attended school for more than a year.

This is the first time such a prosecution has been attempted.

"The Education Act is very clear that parents or guardians must ensure that a child goes to school until their 16th birthday. This legal obligation falls on Child, Youth and Family when a child is in its care. The Department should face the same penalty as a parent for failing to ensure a child is enrolled and attending a school," says Dr Smith.

"The boy has been in the state's care since 1999. The Department has admitted that he has spent negligible time at any school in the last year and has not been enrolled in any meaningful education programme. The Department has had great difficulty in matching a suitable caregiver with a school that will take him because of his disruptive behaviour. The Department has not even enrolled him at the Correspondence School, a common last resort for children repeatedly suspended. The boy was last week apprehended by Nelson Police for breaking and entering a launch in Nelson Haven with a 17-year-old youth.

"Children not going to school are a recipe for disaster. A 12-year-old boy who had not attended school for a considerable length of time stands trial in July for murder. I know of other serious charges pending on school age children who had also been absent for many months. I am pursuing this case to highlight this problem and ensure it is addressed before there are further tragedies."

Dr Smith has engaged a Nelson solicitor to undertake the private prosecution in the Nelson District Court under section 24 and 29 of the Education Act. The offence of non-enrolment carries a fine of $1000, and for non-attendance $150. The proceedings are generally conducted in private under section 32 of the Act.

"I don't want to target any individual in Child, Youth and Family but I want to make the point that it is just not acceptable for a child in the care of the state to be not attending any school. The Ministry has prosecuted only one parent in the last 5 years for school non-attendance. The state agencies are not taking school attendance seriously and our children are the losers for it.

"I want some realism in the debate about caring for highly disruptive children like this 14-year-old, and burying the political correctness that won't let them be held in a secure facility.

"This boy has repeatedly absconded from Child, Youth and Family homes and has been suspended from one school after another. He is a risk to himself and to others. We must provide secure residential schools for this sort of child. We do these children, and the community at large, a disservice by continuing to sweep the issue under the carpet," says Dr Smith.


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