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Govt is building strong relationships with NGOs

26 July 2006

Government is building strong relationships with NGOs

Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope said today that government agencies have made significant progress in improving the framework for the care and protection of vulnerable children, including the way they work with non-government organisations.

He said that the first report of the Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families, to be released tomorrow, would set out the next stages for strong and co-ordinated action across the government and non-government sectors.

Mr Benson-Pope said it was regrettable that the views expressed in the paper released today, Care and Protection in New Zealand, did not give sufficient regard to the progress being made.

"The Labour-led Government has made excellent progress in developing partnership with NGOs, and the views in the paper don't reflect those of the wider NGO sector", Mr Benson-Pope said. "We fund and partner with NGOs for many social services, and we're running capacity-building initiatives in areas like funding, workforce capacity, and co-ordination".

Mr Benson-Pope said his "door was always open" to NGO members who wanted to meet him. "We depend on the knowledge and feedback of the community sector. I hope to meet with the paper's authors and discuss their concerns".

Mr Benson-Pope said it was important that the government and non-government sectors remain focused on their shared work in early intervention and preventing family violence. "We must all work collaboratively, not competitively, towards our goal of safe families and safe communities".

Mr Benson-Pope said there was a range of indicators showing the improved work of CYF:

- Unallocated cases have reduced from 5,000 in September 2004 to 934 today.
- In the year to June 2006, CYF met all its standards for timeliness in investigations.
- Departmental funding for CYF has increased from $203m in 2000/01 to $403m in 2006/07.

Ministry of Social Development's response to NZCCSS paper

Ministry of Social Development response to New Zealand Christian Council of Social Services paper:

Is Any Progress Being Made in Care and Protection for New Zealand Children?

The Government has been working systematically on many of the issues identified in this paper over the last six years and is making significant progress. On advice of SSC government took the decision to merge CYF and MSD from 1 July 2006 – a mere 26 days ago. This merger provides huge opportunities to provide new levels of leadership, improve capacity, and leverage MSD capability and infrastructure to develop better ways of dealing with complex and entrenched family problems that lead to child abuse.

Performance Indicators

- In the year ending June 2000, CYF dealt with 13,672 abuse and neglect cases requiring further action by social workers.
- In the year ending June 2006, CYF dealt with 49,063 abuse and neglect cases requiring further action by social workers
- Since 2000, CYF has dealt with 221,141 abuse and neglect cases requiring further action.
- Although the number of cases has risen by well over 300%, the increase of numbers of children in care has increased by only 16% - from 4,281 in 2002, to 5,077 in June 2006.

- Unallocated cases reached a peak of over 5,000 in September 2004, and today stand at 934. This major decrease is the result of excellent, careful social work and decision making by our staff in the regions.
 In the year ending June 2006, CYF met all its standards for timeliness in investigations. This is a substantial reason for our ability to deal with the huge increase in work, and will support sustained improvement.
 We have improved the speed with which we respond to notifications, so a check on the immediate safety of children happens in a timely manner when we receive a notification of abuse or neglect.

- In 2000 our residences (both C&P and YJ) provided 97 beds. On 27 July 2006 we have 156.
- Departmental funding for CYF has increased from $203m in 2000/01 to over $403m in 2006/07.

- CYF contracts and funds some 800 community providers, at an annual total of approximately $134m. Services include: care and treatment services, counselling, education and prevention programmes, family violence prevention, youth programmes, provider development and capacity building, and support for umbrella groups.

Points raised in the paper

1 Systematic Approach

The paper confuses the relationship between Judge Brown’s review, the Care and Protection Blueprint, and the Baseline Review.

Judge Brown was asked by the incoming government to review CYF; the Care and Protection Blueprint was a CYF-led response to improve services to children and their families; and the Baseline review was an exercise involving Treasury to look at the ongoing funding requirements of CYF. A baseline review of CYF had been proposed previously, (post establishment as a separate department), but the review was delayed to allow the agency time to settle in and for the results of additional funding provided by government to be established.

The paper notes that systematic action is required, but then questions reforms such as the establishment of Family and Community Services and organisational changes such as the merger.

The merger of CYF and MSD provides an opportunity to build on and consolidate existing whole of government approaches, including Early Intervention and Strengthening Families. The merger provides:

- strong leadership
- strong organisational capability
- improved community and government partnerships
- ability to get ahead of child protection problems through work in income support, employment, housing assistance, and interventions with families prior to the occurrence of a crisis
- improved links with other government agencies, with the ability to promote and lead whole of government sector action

2 Who does what

The paper claims that the future of the Differential Response policy appears uncertain

The Differential Response Model (DRM) is currently being tested. We need to know that we have the policy and approach right before moving to full implementation – to do otherwise would be irresponsible. Testing is required to ensure NGOs have the capacity to assist, and that DRM gets the right services and supports to the right families at the right time.

The Government is committed to the successful implementation of the DRM, and CYF has made significant progress in developing the model. DRM is being applied to all notifications in two CYF sites (Taranaki and Royal Oak) and at the call centre for notifications relating to Taranaki and Royal Oak. DRM better identifies the needs of families in situations where CYF has been notified of a care and protection concern.

A standard training package has been written by CYF, with NGO sector personnel providing peer review. The training package has been jointly delivered by CYF and local NGO personnel. Both CYF and local NGO personnel delivering the training have received train-the-trainer support, led by CYF. This process ensures that a single, standard training programme is delivered within a local partnership approach.

In 2006/07 CYF will test, evaluate and refine the DRM. It will develop a strong evidence base to refine the DRM and supporting infrastructure before it is applied more widely, and build confidence throughout all parts of the care and protection system about the significant process and systems changes that the DRM will bring.


3 Who coordinates it?

The paper claims support to families is not coordinated

While the merger of MSD and CYF only occurred at 1 July this year, and it will take longer than four weeks to see the full benefits, the merger provides clear leadership to family support services, both statutory and non-statutory – something we have not had in the past.


4 Who pays for what?

The paper claims there is no clarity about who pays for what or about who supports NGO services

The establishment of Family and Community Services (FACS) within the Ministry, and the testing of programmes such as the DRM, demonstrate our commitment to getting the relationship between government and NGO services right and ensure we are working together in the interests of children.

The Funding for Outcomes (FFO) project is not a pilot. It allows for integrated contracts between government and non-government agencies to ensure clarity of service provision and strengthen relationships across sectors and between agencies.

The merger allows us to work together to develop and fund a continuum of services for children, families and communities. CYF and FACS are already working on joint planning and funding strategies and, where appropriate, joint contracting with service providers.

The second stage of the NODE review, which was completed in December 2005, substantially met the requirements of Recommendation 18 of the Baseline Review. Significant progress has been made in transferring the relevant service provider contracts from CYF to FACS. The merger provides the opportunity for MSD to progress the remaining work as part of its business as usual. CYF and FACS are continuing to work together to ensure a continuum of services covering the whole range from general, support-focused prevention to targeted, intensive intervention services.

5 Are we doing the right things?

The paper claims practice is being undermined by staff turnover and lack of a co-ordinated approach

Social workers work in a genuine skill shortage area. As CYF social worker qualifications increase, they are becoming increasingly marketable, particularly in the health sector. The average length of service of CYF social workers remains at 5.7 years.

The merger ensures a co-ordinated approach to family support services, ranging from early intervention and preventative services to services for families in crisis. The new environment also supports an integrated case management approach to ensure individual families receive the range of services that will best meet their needs.

6 Where will we get the people to do it?

The paper suggests the stability and quality of staff are a concern

The paper acknowledges:
- wage increases for Social Workers
- study assistance programmes and rewards.

We could add to this the over 50% increase in CYF funding over the last few years, and that the proportion of staff with a social work qualification (level 6 or better) is now 64%.

These are significant achievements.

Why is it so hard?

Misunderstanding communities

The paper bemoans short term thinking and unco-ordinated action

In fact, the merged MSD/CYF provides:
- Co-ordinated action

 Greater community reach through a continuum of support, care and protection, youth justice, income, and employment services from FACS, CYF, and Work and Income
 Regionalised decision making
 Closer community contacts
 Ability to get ahead of family and community problems through early intervention services, income support, accommodation assistance and employment services
 Ability to draw together other government agencies for whole of government initiatives

- Programmes like Family Safety Teams, Youth Offending Teams, Family Start, Social Workers in Schools, SKIP, Strengthening Families, High and Complex Needs, Pacific Wave, and the New Service Approach. These all demonstrate effective cross agency partnering and a long term commitment and approach to support families and strengthen their capacity to support and care for their own.

Bureaucratic Patch Protection and Policy Wonk

The merger is all about ensuring co-ordinated, cross-government action to support families to support themselves. Programmes like High and Complex Needs, Strengthening Families, Family Safety Teams, Youth Offending Teams, Family Start, Social Workers in Schools demonstrate the potential of this approach. The Family Violence Taskforce involves CEs from central government agencies, the Children and Families Commission, the Judiciary, and the NGO sector. It's another example of all parties showing a commitment to working together to solve complex social problems in this area.

The fact that policy is evidence based is something to be proud of, and to encourage. We are spending tax payers’ money to improve long term outcomes for children and their families; we have a duty to spend these funds well and wisely.

The merged MSD is more connected with community and family reality than ever before, with links into every New Zealand community and day-to-day contact with families in need. The merger also allows for greater opportunity for policy development to be influenced by the realities of front line practice.

Programme-itis and Pilot-mania

As noted above, our funding is the tax payers’ investment. It is our duty to ensure taxpayers' money is used wisely. Further, it is in all our interests to ensure that services actually work and achieve the outcomes we want. Piloting ensures that programmes are robust and can effectively meet the particular circumstances of the community in which they are located.

The programmes we fund are provided in partnership with community NGOs, and are having a positive impact. Our focus now is to work towards greater coverage through effective early intervention and family support services and programmes.

Fear of Cost

The paper is incorrect. Differential Response is being tested to check, amongst other things, that NGOs really do have the capacity to provide support to families at risk – families who may be experiencing more difficult circumstances and challenges than their typical caseload.

Risk Aversion

As noted above, we are dealing with tax payers' funds and the lives of children. Doing everything we can to get it right is our duty. We have a responsibility to develop programmes based on solid evidence of “what works”. However, we also have a good record of partnership with the NGO sector to foster innovative services, such as the SKIP initiative, and we have a culture of innovation of our own, for example Work and Income Family Violence Coordinators.

Political Climate

The paper is critical that “politicians promote problems and failings in any service funded by government…”. That is exactly what this paper is doing.


The Way Forward

Recommendation – the cross-party group and MSD clearly articulate a continuum of support services for families and publicly commit to its implementation

Co-ordinated action will continue to be central to achieving safety, security and wellbeing for children at risk. This will require a wide variety of support services or support packages tailored to individual circumstances and need. Individual tailored support, community partnerships (including action to challenge abuse) and strong early intervention and support are key elements.

Recommendation - that social workers are appropriately paid

Thanks to increases in government funding, the median salary for a CYF social worker is now $50,068.

Recommendation – substantially increased funding for preventative social work

Government has already invested significant sums in community services such as Family Start and Social Workers in Schools and is continuing to do so. These services are government funded and delivered by community-based NGOs.

Recommendation – strengthen CYF teams and create a stable workforce

As noted above, CYF social worker qualifications have increased; social workers are now registered; pay has increased; and the average length of service remains relatively unchanged.

Recommendation – expand Strengthening Families to include service planning and community partnership in care and protection

Strengthening Families has already been improved, and support has been increased. DRM is piloting community partnerships in core care and protection. FACS is identifying gaps and developing ways to address them.

Recommendation – disband the CYF call centre

The call centre was initiated to ensure children received the same support wherever they live. The call centre development was in part motivated by a concern that under the local intake system, intake thresholds could be adjusted at a site level in response to capacity constraints and work pressures. This was not a transparent process.

Recommendation – that Government fund a continuum of services, including expected outcome targets

Government already funds a wide range of community services – including many provided by NZCCSS member agencies.

Government has already signalled its intention to consider further improvements to early intervention and family support services, both areas of significant investment over the last six years.

For example, Early Years is a broad-based, cross-government strategy for building an early intervention system for children aged up to six. Early Intervention is known to be effective in changing the life-course of children at risk of poor health, educational and social outcomes, and is cost effective. Early Intervention helps address inter-generational issues for children and families. It is an important primary prevention strategy for reducing crime, as it addresses the circumstances and behaviours that give rise to offending.

Many of the elements of an Early Intervention system are already in place. MSD is leading work on a six-year investment strategy to build a more comprehensive system that leverages off what is already in place. The Early Intervention system will be a strong continuum of services that support family/whanau access to the level and type of support and service that best meets the needs of each child. This will be achieved through the following system components:

- Universal services that support families/whanau access to services and community-based support networks
- Targeted services that meet additional needs with effective co-ordination and referral services
- Intensive remedial services for children who continue to be vulnerable to poor outcomes.

Well-designed and delivered programmes, such as those for children and their families/whanau with complex needs, therapeutic services for children with, for example, conduct disorder, and intensive case management, are all important aspects of the Early Intervention system.

Recommendation – outcome- based funding for community organisations

As noted in the paper, government is already progressing work in this area.

Recommendation – capability building for community organisations involved in social work

Government is already working with community organisations to help lift organisational capability and social work training.

Recommendation – that Justice, Health, Education and Social Development have care and protection goals and be required to collaborate

The Chief Executives of these agencies meet monthly and already collaborate on policy development and service delivery. This occurs at a national level and in communities – including through High and Complex Needs and Strengthening Families, Youth Offending Teams, and Family Safety Teams. Significant work has taken place under the Care & Protection Blueprint to encourage collaboration in inter-sectoral areas such as children with disabilities and parents with drug and alcohol issues.

Recommendation – review the Public Finance Act to remove barriers to collaboration

Government agencies continue to pursue collaborative action to address complex social issues such as child abuse within the current PFA framework.

Recommendation – that the Prime Minister establishes a joint ministerial team to improve care and protection performance

Government decided to merge MSD and CYF to strengthen care and protection and youth justice performance. This occurred from 1 July this year.

Ministers already work closely together to ensure co-ordinated action at policy and service delivery levels. This includes Family Violence work, closely linked to child abuse.

Recommendation: NZCCSS asks all politicians to rise above politics and lead on this issue

As Judge Brown noted, care and protection is the responsibility of each and every one of us: as parents; as family members; as neighbours; as community members; and in our professional roles and lives.

It is hard to see how the criticisms of CYF in the NZCCSS paper do anything to promote community action to help children or their families.

Recommendation – all political parties commit to cooperative action to make child wellbeing and safety a national priority, and
Acknowledge collective responsibility
Acknowledge that mistakes will be made – some services will fail, some instances of poor performance will emerge

Child safety and wellbeing is already a national priority and our collective responsibility to stop child abuse is widely recognised.

Services do occasionally fail, and the public has a right to ask questions where taxpayer funding or private donations are involved – this is natural and appropriate. What is important is to learn from our failings as well as our successes.

MSD is committed to working collaboratively with the community sector, government agency partners, local government, business, and others, to ensure children and families receive the support and assistance they need, when they need it. The benefit of the merger is that we can now draw on more resources and exercise greater leadership in the provision of services to ensure every New Zealand child can reach their potential.

ENDS


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