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Too many under CYF care and in residence

6 January 2005

Too many under CYF care and in residence

“It is staggering that over 5,000 young New Zealanders are now under the care of Child Youth and Family and the Government has no intention to turn around the growing numbers,” ACT Deputy Leader and Social Services spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said today

The figures released by Dr Newman show the number of children under the care of the Department of Child Youth and Family either for care, protection or youth justice purposes has grown a massive 47 percent from 3,481 on 30 November 1999 to 5,141 at the same time last year.

Dr Newman said CYF’s youth justice residences now collectively provide 131 beds, mainly for 15 and 16 year olds. Under Labour the cost to run the six individual facilities throughout the country has increased markedly to over $800,000.

“While I’m concerned about the extra costs for taxpayers, I’m more worried that the Government has no real early intervention plan to try to turn these young people’s lives around.

“Young people in these CYF’s residences are a captive audience yet Labour is failing to make the most of this golden opportunity. In fact far from constructive action we’re seeing very destructive behaviour coming out of these facilities.”

Dr Newman also released CYF information that showed 25 proven claims of physical abuse at four of the country's youth residential centres over the past 18 months, with many more claims of sexual abused alleged.

“While young people clearly find these facilities to be very negative environments - which is presumably why so many abscond from them, sometimes for weeks at a time - it is tragic that more constructive use is not made of this opportunity to catch up on the schooling they will have invariably missed and generally turn their lives around.”

“For many of these young people, a youth justice facility is the last chance to avoid prison. New Zealanders expect these residences to be expertly managed in order to provide a structured environment with proper boundaries as well as a zero tolerance to violence and any other objectionable behaviour.

“As a society we want to know that the very best attempt has been made to help these young people get back on track and achieve their potential. It is unacceptable that Labour is failing in this vitally important duty,” said Dr Newman.

ENDS

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