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Celebrating Families: 28 March 2006

Celebrating Families

Judith Collins Family and Welfare Spokesperson 28 March 2006
Working Hard for Families

Egg on Labour’s face over CYF

The Government has decided to merge Child Youth and Family (CYF) with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). Just a matter of months ago, the CYF Minister was praising the performance of CYF and saying that it was “moving towards performance excellence”. The State Services Commission’s damning report on CYF gave Labour the opportunity to merge CYF into MSD and spin that as action for our vulnerable children.

The welfare of children MUST be the top priority in the joining of these two departments. However, to date there is no concrete evidence that merging CYF into MSD will improve the quality of services to at-risk youth and their families. So far basic questions about the merger are yet to be answered. Where are the Treasury estimates? Where is the analysis that children won’t fall through the cracks in a huge department? The main concern I have is how will this merger benefit vulnerable children? Our country is unfortunately one of the leaders when it comes to child abuse. The worst cases of child abuse invariably happen in homes well known to CYF and the Police.

The Minister in charge of CYF, Ruth Dyson, says the sudden resignation of Canadian CYF CEO Paula Tyler, who cost $135,000 to recruit, has meant the department can now be restructured. The fact that the department has had two chief executives and two acting heads in three years is not the primary reason for the merger. The main reason is that the agency is in serious crisis. The Government has said the merger should be finalised by 1 July this year. However, with three months to go we’re yet to see how much this re-branding will cost. More importantly we need to find better ways of catering for over 5,000 children and young people in the care of CYF so that we don’t have more children seriously abused or killed while government departments go through re-branding exercises.

Government considers ID numbers for children

The Ministry of Social Development is considering whether children should be allocated identification numbers for a central database. The system is apparently designed to prevent abuse at home and failure at school. Personal details would be collected for all children and accessed by schools, social agencies and health authorities through the common database. I fully understand why children who are living in abusive homes or with parents who are incapable of protecting and caring for them need the intervention of the State. I’m just not sure how numbering and keeping tabs on all children is going to help those that need special care. Cost is clearly a factor; so is the ability of the State to care for the children to whom it already has obligations. The responsibilities and rights of good and competent parents also need consideration.

I’m keen to support any initiative that protects the vulnerable. However, there is some concern that this might not be the way to go about it.

I would be very interested in your views and feedback on this issue. I am willing to be convinced by sound argument and evidence either way.


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