Desperate Need For One Piece Of Legislation
Desperate Need For One Piece Of Legislation That Focuses On Children
Relationship Services says there is a desperate need for one piece of legislation that focuses on the needs of children.
Today, for the first time, the agency is releasing statistics showing the sorts of issues New Zealand families are grappling with – the sorts of issues that lie behind cases of child abuse and neglect.
The figures show a growing number of families are seeking help under the 21-year-old Family Proceedings Act to resolve child safety and care issues.
Yet, under this legislation they have no access to the child-centred mechanisms, such as family group conferences or input from social workers, which are available under the more recent Children Young Persons and Their Families Act.
Relationship Services chief executive Viv Maidaborn says there is a desperate need for one piece of legislation that focuses on what children need.
“This agency is seeing more and more complex child access agreements being reached, sometimes with up to four parties within a family. These are often a case of people using the Family Proceedings Act to work out child safety issues. Yet the Act gives them only limited resources and processes to do that,” she says.
“The resources available to support families depend totally on how they come into the system. There needs to be consistency between the two Acts or, preferably, a new piece of legislation.”
Under the Family Proceedings Act families are referred, by the Family Court, to agencies like Relationship Services for six free counselling sessions. These do not typically include the children.
“If we’re really serious about preventing family breakdown through the Family Proceedings Act the Government needs to drop the barriers to people receiving early support,” Ms Maidaborn says.
“The sorts of changes that are needed include involving whole families in the process, promoting the existence of the free Family Court service, increasing resources that are ring-fenced for counselling and child access agreements, and changing the legislation so all families are included in its scope.”
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