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CYFS merger could have positive spin-offs

CYFS merger could have positive spin-offs for children and whanau

Tariana Turia; Co-leader, Maori Party

The Maori Party today suggested the proposed merger of CYFS with MSD could have positive spin-offs for children and whanau, but highlights the difficulties the Government is having in properly managing its bureaucracies.

"We have always had concerns" stated Tariana Turia, "that the difficulties faced by poor families in caring for the children of relatives; has meant that these children are often placed with foster parents who are strangers and who receive greater remuneration than whanau who would look after the same children".

"Having the benefit system and the child-care system, in the one organisation, may assist in ensuring that kin-care is properly resourced".

"It has always troubled me" says Mrs Turia "that the children of the poor are cared for by people who may have better material circumstances but who are unable to care for these children in the same way that kin who are properly resourced can care for them".

"The merger is an opportunity to provide an integrated approach towards addressing child poverty given that many of the children and whanau CYFS work with, are the children of the poor" said Tariana Turia today.

"We would hope that the new momentum of becoming a Super Ministry enables fresh approaches to the critical issues facing Aotearoa, such as child poverty, child abuse, and the quality of care all children should expect".

"The measure of any society is how we care for its most vulnerable members" said Mrs Turia. "Children who are referred to Child, Youth and Family are some of the most vulnerable. The Maori Party will continue to speak out about the need for the best service that our community and our society can provide".

"With this change, the time has come for the Government to be brave" said Mrs Turia. "We would expect a first priority to be the closure of the Lower North Youth Residence which we understand was heavily criticised in the report taken by former Youth Court Judge Carolyn Henwood".
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"This report, because of its findings, has never seen the light of day, and there is of course the risk that it may now become swallowed up deep in the bowels of this new organisation".

Mrs Turia also struck a note of caution. "Our fear is that within one colossal ministry, the issues for children may get lost" said Mrs Turia. "We are, however, eternally optimistic that the Government will at long last require or at least improve its ability to facilitate an all-of-Government approach".

"Inevitably with mergers of this type, there are staff losses" said Mrs Turia. "Both Departments have community funding mechanisms. It would be naïve not to think that staff in this area would not be affected".

"To be involved in consultation is no solace for staff threatened with losing their jobs" said Mrs Turia. "We have already too much evidence of the effects of staff under stress in a climate of uncertainty. The Government must do everything it can, for the future of our children and families, and the future of the staff and their families and children".

"The Maori Party will stand in solidarity with the vulnerable children of this country, and of course with the workers who now find themselves in a vulnerable situation".

"We will be watching this process carefully to ensure the changes result in improved social work practice; increased support for social workers at the front line; less children being removed from their families and more consistent approaches to explore options for these children within whakapapa" said Mrs Turia.

"We will be working hard to ensure that the Government recognises that options to place children with their own kin must be resourced adequately rather than those resources going to strangers, or so-called helping agencies".

ENDS

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