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Service to support victims of abuse in state care


Hon Rick Barker
Minister of Internal Affairs


8 July 2008
Media Statement


Confidential Listening and Assistance Service to support victims of abuse in state care

Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker today announced the appointment of Judge Carolyn Henwood as Chair to the confidential Listening and Assistance Service, and released its terms of reference.

The Service is based on the Confidential Forum for Former In-Patients of Psychiatric Hospitals, established in 2004 to provide an opportunity for former in-patients to speak about their experiences.

“Given the success of the Confidential Forum, the government decided to extend the listening and assistance services of the forum to all people who allege abuse or neglect or have concerns about their time in state care in the health, child welfare or residential special education sector prior to 1992,” Mr Barker said.

“This date was chosen as it reflects the time by which these sectors had modernised their standards and improved mechanisms to manage complaints.”

Once the Service is operating, it will:
• provide the opportunity for participants, along with their families if participants wish, to talk about their concerns and/or experiences with a panel of suitably qualified people
• help participants and their families identify their needs and get assistance to access services on a non-preferential basis compared to other members of the public
• enable participants to access information held about them by the State, in an environment where they can ask questions and seek corrections to the information held
• assist participants to come to terms with their experience and achieve closure, as far as it is reasonable, within the context of the Service.

The Service is not intended to determine liability or the truth of participants’ experiences or stories, nor provide for the payment of compensation.

“I am very pleased that Judge Henwood has accepted the position of Chair of the Service. Judge Henwood is a member of the New Zealand Parole Board and has over 20 years experience as a District Court and Youth Court Judge. The mediation and negotiation skills that Judge Henwood has developed throughout her career will be of great assistance to help participants talk about their concerns or experience in State care,” Mr Barker said.

The Service will be established over the coming months. Once it is up and running, information will be provided about how those wishing to take part in the Service can do so.

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Terms_of_Reference__LAS.pdf

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Confidential Listening and Assistance Service: Questions and Answers


What is the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service?
The Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (the Service) is a new body established by the Government to provide assistance to those who allege abuse or neglect or have concerns about their time in State care in the health, child welfare or residential special education sector prior to 1992.

Why has the Service been established?
The Service is largely based on the Confidential Forum for Former In-Patients of Psychiatric Hospitals, established in 2004 to provide an opportunity for former in-patients to speak about their experiences. Given the success of Confidential Forum, the Government decided to extend the listening and assistance services of the forum to all those in State care before 1992 rather than just those who were in psychiatric hospitals.

Who is eligible to participate in the Service?
The Service is open to those who were in State care in the health, child welfare or residential special education sector prior to 1992 who wish to talk about their concerns and/or experiences. If participants wish, their families may attend to support them.

Why is the Service only open to those who were in State care before 1992?
This date was chosen as it reflects the time by which these sectors had modernised their standards and improved mechanisms to manage complaints.

What are the functions of the Service?
The functions of the Service are to:
• provide the opportunity for participants, along with their families if participants wish, to talk about their concerns and/or experiences with a panel of suitably qualified people;
• help participants and their families identify their needs and get assistance to access services on a non-preferential basis compared to other members of the public;
• enable participants to access information held about them by the State, in an environment where they can ask questions and seek corrections to the information held; and
• assist participants to come to terms with their experience and achieve closure, as far as it is reasonable, within the context of the Service.

The Service is not intended to determine liability or the truth of participants’ experiences or stories, nor provide for the payment of compensation.

How will the Service operate?
The Service will operate as a panel of appropriately qualified individuals who will meet with participants and hear their stories. As outlined in the Terms of Reference for the Service, members of the panel will be selected because they:
• are familiar with at least one aspect of State care in New Zealand from a consumer’s perspective; and/or
• have a significant and respected community profile.
The membership will include a gender and cultural mix to reflect the background of likely participants.

Participants will be able to appear before the panel and have their stories heard in a comfortable, confidential and private setting. The panel will normally be made up of three members but meetings can be held with two members if necessary. Participants may also be permitted to have their story heard by one member alone if this is what they would prefer.
Facilitators will be available to participants to provide them with support through the process.

Judge Carolyn Henwood has been appointed Chair of the Service. No panel members have yet been appointed to the Service.

Why has Judge Henwood been chosen to chair the Service?
Judge Henwood is a member of the New Zealand Parole Board and has over 20 years experience as a District Court and Youth Court Judge. During that time, Judge Henwood has been involved with youth and criminal justice issues, as well as having significant involvement in the arts. Judge Henwood has also been involved in Te Hurihanga, a residential programme aimed at preventing youth re-offending. The mediation and negotiation skills that Judge Henwood has developed throughout her career will be of great assistance to help participants talk about their concerns or experience in State care.

When will the Service be established and how long will it run for?
The Service will be established over the coming months. It is anticipated that the Service will run for a period of approximately five years. However, this length of time depends on the number of participants who choose to take part in the Service. The Service may operate for a lesser or greater period of time depending on demand.

If I participated in the Confidential Forum can I also participate in the Service?
The terms of reference do not explicitly exclude this possibility. It will be up to the members of the Service whether it will allow those who have previously participated in the Confidential Forum to also participate in the Service.

If I participate in the Service will anyone else be able to find out what I have said?
The Service must ensure that processes and systems are established to maintain complete confidentiality. Participants must be advised that they participate on the basis that what is said to the panel will be treated as strictly confidential to the extent possible under the law.

Will the Service impact on litigation that is already before the Courts? The litigation will be able to continue separately from the work of the Service. The work of the Service is not to confirm truth or guilt but is designed to assist people in another manner.

How much will the Service cost?
This will depend on its duration and the number of participants. $1.6m has been budgeted for the first full year of operation for the Service.

How will you publicise the Service to the general public?
This will be done widely through the media and other appropriate channels such as consumer groups.

Who is responsible for administering the Service?
The Department of Internal Affairs will have responsibility for appointing the panel members and administering the Service.

Once the Service is up and running, information will be provided about how those wishing to take part can do so.


ENDS

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