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Smith Files Court Action Against CYF

22 July 2002

Smith Files Court Action Against CYF

Nelson MP, Nick Smith, today filed a private prosecution in the Wellington District Court against Child, Youth and Family for not ensuring a child in its care had been enrolled and was attending school.

"I am taking this case to highlight the slack approach by Government to ensuring every child under 16 attends school. This is about making sure every child gets an education, but also about keeping the community safe from out of control youngsters.

"The specific case involves a 14-year-old boy from Nelson in the care of Child, Youth and Family who has only attended school for three days in the last year. The boy was recently apprehended by police for breaking and entering a launch in Nelson haven.

"This court action is the last resort. The boy's parents raised the issue of his school attendance over a year ago. I wrote to CYF in March and again in May. Even after raising the issue publicly in June, the boy is still not at school or in any education programme, despite the Minister claiming he was. I also want to test the truth. In June the Department said the boy had had a "good chunk of schooling", but my checks with the schools they say he has attended show he's been at school for only three days this year.

"Today, the case involving a 12-year-old boy charged with murder opened in Auckland. He is the youngest person ever charged in New Zealand with the offence. The boy's lawyer has said he had not attended school for two years.

"It should not take the tragedy of a 12-year-old facing a murder charge for this country to get serious about ensuring every child is attending school.

"It's a cop-out to say that no school can handle difficult youngsters. New Zealand must develop a range of schooling options, including specialist secure residential schools, to ensure every child can, and does, get an education."

Dr Smith says a National Government will look at proposals of introducing instant fines for non-attendance, beefing up truancy and non-enrolment services, expanding alternative learning centres and providing secure residential schools for the toughest youngsters.


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