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Review backs changes to the landscape of child protection

MEDIA RELEASE

27 May 2014

Review backs changes to the landscape of child protection

The Ministry of Social Development today released the findings of the Workload and Casework Review.

Commissioned last year by Chief Executive, Brendan Boyle, the review was carried out by the Office of the Chief Social Worker, with the involvement of the PSA.

Mr Boyle says the review is an honest and thorough analysis of the day-to-day reality for frontline social workers.

“Put simply, we’ve found that some of our social workers have too much on their plates, and this has gotten in the way of the most important part of their work – spending time with children and families. Social workers do a very tough job – one of the toughest in the country – and they deserve our support and praise. The findings from this review will make it easier for them to do what they do best.”

While the review recommended increasing the number of social workers, it recommended a systems change first before the exact number could be determined.

Work is already under way to alleviate the pressure on those with caseloads that are deemed unmanageable. As well as that, a Ministry-wide modernisation project will reduce the amount of time social workers spend on reporting and administration, thus freeing them up to spend more time with families. This will involve the appointment of a dedicated Associate Deputy Chief Executive of Child, Youth and Family to fully focus on modernisation.

The review also found that Child, Youth and Family is working with a lot of families who don’t meet the threshold for statutory intervention.

“Over the past six years, we’ve seen a six-fold increase in notifications into Child, Youth and Family, and our social workers have done a tremendous job responding to them,” says Mr Boyle.

“However, this has affected the time that should be spent helping our most vulnerable children and young people. We welcome the changes that are taking place at a legislative and government level – which will help us to focus on our core business, that is helping children who have been abused or at great risk of abuse.”

Government reform includes the establishment of Children’s Teams to help struggling families before they get to a point where Child, Youth and Family should become involved. Legislation is currently before Parliament to make Chief Executives of government departments, such as Health and Education, accountable for children’s wellbeing.

Mr Boyle is confident that stronger inter-agency work, as well as the changes soon to be made to Child, Youth and Family’s systems and practices, will go a long way to ensuring a better future for vulnerable children.

“New Zealand is not alone in this. Similar changes are taking place in comparable countries such as the UK and Australia. The message is clear – children’s wellbeing is everybody’s business. Stronger inter-agency collaboration on cases will make a huge difference.”

The review is available on the Ministry of Social Development website, www.msd.govt.nz

ENDS

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