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Labour Leaving Children In Danger

Labour Leaving Children In Danger

ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman today accused the Labour Government of an appalling lack of commitment to child welfare, in light of new information showing that some children at risk of abuse have waited more than two-and-a-half years to be seen by a Child, Youth and Family social worker.

"Answers to my written Parliamentary Questions show that a child, classified by the department as a `low urgent' case, had not been seen by a social worker for 752 days - and an `urgent' case for 621 days. This is in spite of a statutory requirement for CYF to see `urgent' cases within seven days, and `low urgent' cases within 28 days," Dr Newman said.

"As at March 2003, CYF had 1,709 unallocated `urgent' cases of potential child abuse, and 908 unallocated `low urgent' cases. There are no excuses for this lack of performance. Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey must accept full responsibility. He has been in charge of the department for more than three years, and no amount of rhetoric can justify at-risk children waiting for years to be seen by a social worker.

"CYF deals with the most difficult cases involving children, and is an agency of last resort. Yet the performance signalled by these figures - including the fact that it took six months for the Minister to determine the longest periods that children had been waiting to see a social worker - indicates widespread systemic failure. The private sector could well do better.

"The Child, Youth and Family agency model is now obsolete. Child abuse is on the rise. A modernised approach is needed, with a `one-stop shop' community-based agency linking health, education, welfare and police. The primary objective of this agency would be the prevention child abuse in the community.

"Unless Mr Maharey instigates structural change, as sure as day turns to night, another tragic child death will be in our headlines," Dr Newman said.

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