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Report Highlights Need For Change

Report Highlights Need For Change

ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman labelled the Jules Mikus report, released today by chief CYF social worker Shannon Pakura, as an appalling litany of failure and said the document highlights the need for major departmental change.

"Jules Mikus, an offender with 78 prior convictions, first came to the attention of child welfare authorities in the mid-1970s, when he was convicted of two counts of indecent assault of a young girl," Dr Newman said.

"In 1984, he was convicted of the attempted rape of a 14 year-old girl while his four year-old son was in the house - and in 1987 he abducted, raped and murdered Teresa Cormack.

"In spite of this litany of offending, CYF allowed him to have continuing custody of children - including sole custody of his two day-old daughter.

"The Mikus report identified major systemic failure: a lack of focus by social workers, inconsistent practice, insufficient knowledge of care, lack of practice guidelines, as well as inadequate support and training. Social workers passively monitored situations instead of actively investigating and pro-actively preventing abuse, were lax in following cases up, had poor information systems and kept inadequate records.

"It is inexcusable that a department charged with a statutory protection of children can attest to such massive failure.

"The chief social worker in the report stated `If we want to significantly improve child and family safety, New Zealand needs mechanisms that are preventative. Some of these are beyond the scope or responsibility of Child, Youth and Family. A comprehensive multi-agency approach is required to increase the safety of children'.

"This substantiates the view that the current CYF structure is obsolete, and is now in need of modernisation. I am calling on Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey to urgently investigate the benefits of the `one-stop shop' model operated by the Starship Children's Hospital.

"Such a co-ordinated, community based agency - linking health, education, welfare and police - would have a core responsibility for pro-actively preventing child abuse as recommended in the report.

"Unless such a new model for child welfare is developed, in spite of the best intentions, Teresa Cormack will simply be another name on the roll-call of departmental failure, rather than a clarion call for change," Dr Newman said.

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