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Report Shows CYF Has To Go

Report Shows CYF Has To Go

Thursday 18 Dec 2003 Dr Muriel Newman Press Releases -- Social Welfare

The centralised system that is the Child, Youth and Family Department has passed its use-by date, and has contributed to the deaths of at-risk children throughout the country, ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said today.

"The Duffy report, released today, on CYF's handling of a call from Ron Burrows - father of murdered Coral - has once again highlighted how systemic failure can occur in faceless, bureaucratic agencies," Dr Newman said.

"Child, Youth and Family's call centre is the nerve centre of its entire child welfare operation. Mistakes made on this front can see `critical' cases wrongly classified `non-urgent' - or not classified at all. The ramifications of such errors can be life threatening.

"Today's report found that standard practice was not followed in the call centre, and a young girl died. If this call had been logged with a community-based child welfare agency - where local social workers had personal knowledge of the families they were dealing with - rather than the distant, faceless CYF, tragedy may have been averted.

"The Baseline Review found that CYF's failings were largely system-based, rather than just funding-based. That review, along with the three published over the past two days, has highlighted that we should now be questioning whether the fundamental concept of a centralised bureaucratic agency - with staff far removed from the communities in which the families and children they deal with live - has indeed passed its use-by date.

"If we are to prevent a recurrence of tragedies from a department whose record reads like a litany of failure, it is time to look at more effective models based on international best practice.

"I am urging Labour to consider the idea of a one-stop community-based child welfare agency, staffed with professionals who can not only bridge the information and resource gap that exists between police, health, education and welfare services, but who live in the communities where they work, and know the families they are trying to help - rather than present systems which involve faceless voices at the end of a phone, trying to make assessments that could mean life or death," Dr Newman said.

For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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