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ACT calls for an independent inquiry into CYF

ACT calls for an independent inquiry into CYF

Thursday 5 Dec 2002 Dr Muriel Newman Press Releases -- Social Welfare

ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman has today called for an independent inquiry into whether the Department of Child, Youth and Family contributed to the deaths of Saliel Aplin and Olympia Jetson.

"Evidence at the trial of the girls' stepfather, Bruce Howse, showed that CYF was involved with the family for around 10 years, yet apparently saw no signs of the emerging tragedy," Dr Newman said.

"Worse, the actions of CYF in sending a letter to the family home - where there was a very good chance Howse would see it - as well as failing to return phone calls during the fortnight leading up to the murder, probably contributed to their deaths.

"Even more disturbing is the fact that, by labelling a note from one of the victims' diaries alleging abuse as `not urgent', CYF effectively ensured the case would not be investigated for months. In fact, parliamentary questions show that the longest low urgent case has been waiting for investigation for almost a year.

Surely the Minister will admit that not only is this situation unacceptable, but that amongst those 500 other unallocated `low urgent' cases and the 900 unallocated `urgent' cases - some of which have also been waiting for almost a year - other tragedies are waiting to happen.

"I believe families and the public deserve better, and I am writing to the Minister to ask him to call on retired Judge Mick Brown to undertake an inquiry into whether the department's failure contributed to the deaths of these children.

"I believe that Judge Mick Brown - who recently carried out a major review into the Department of Child, Youth and Family - would be the right person to undertake just such an inquiry. He already knows the department's weaknesses and is in an excellent position to ascertain whether the problems are isolated, or represent widespread and systemic failure. That is something that the family and the public deserves to know," 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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