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State May Need Tougher Line on Contraception: Tolley

Minister: State May Need Tougher Line on Contraception to Certain Families.

Appearing on TVOne’s Q+A programme this morning [27/9], Social Development minister Anne Tolley would not rule out more actively trying to limit or prevent births to families which have come to the attention of authorities.

She said while it would be a tough line for the State to take, the panel looking at restructuring Child Youth and Families (CYF) may come back with strong recommendations along those lines.

“Well, we’ll wait and see what the panel report. I expect that they’ll be saying, ‘We should get much, much faster contraceptive advice in. We should be offering, you know, tubal ligations, all sorts of things and counselling those families’,” she said.

She said it was a huge step for the State to take – but that New Zealanders may need to have the conversation about such measures.

The Minister is expecting to receive a final report from her advisory panel in December, with changes to CYF starting next year.

Here’s the link to the full interview: http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news/overhauling-our-child-care-services-video-6394139

Q+A, 9-10am Sundays on TV ONE and one hour later on TV ONE plus 1. Repeated Sunday evening at 11:35pm. Streamed live at www.tvnz.co.nz

Thanks to the support from NZ On Air.

Q+A is on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/NZQandA#!/NZQandA and on Twitter,http://twitter.com/#!/NZQandA

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Q + A
Episode 31
ANNE TOLLEY
Interviewed by MICHAEL PARKIN

MICHAEL Good morning, Minister. Are there children out there now in the protection of the state that they are failing to be looked after?

ANNE Well, I think they’re being looked after. The question is what are the outcomes for those children? So when you look at it, and we’ve got the details from the panel which has reported the outcomes from a particular cohort. 90% of them ending up on a benefit. 25% of them with a child on a benefit. 80% of them not achieving NCEA Level 2. So the outcomes for those children are not good, and it’s not good for the state. The state isn’t a good parent.

MICHAEL Yeah. So if the state’s not a good parent, then should it get out of trying to be a parent for these people?

ANNE Well, the reality is that many of these children have been abused in their home life, and they need someone to step in and look after them and make sure that they do get a better life.

MICHAEL Would that be a profit-making company, then, rather than the state? Is there scope for them to come in and-?

ANNE I don’t think that we want to go anywhere near that, and I have tried to make that very clear. For anyone to step in and take a child out of their biological family, it can only be the state that does that.

MICHAEL What about social bonds? Is that something you would look at?

ANNE I just don’t think- Look, these are children’s lives we are dealing with. I just don’t think that we should be experimenting with that. Certainly we contract now for a whole lot of providers. So people like Barnados, the Salvation Army. There’s a myriad of contracts. About $81 million a year Child, Youth and Family contracts with mainly NGOs for services. I can’t see that changing. We might want to see some private providers of services. For instance, psychological services and therapeutic services. That sort of thing.

MICHAEL So what sort of benchmarks would they be working to, then, given they have that private interest?

ANNE It has to be based on the outcomes for the kids. We’ve got to be looking at getting better results for those kids. They are traumatised. We want to know that they are safe, and we want to know that they are living better lives.

MICHAEL You are talking about a ground-up overhaul of CYFs here. Does that mean disbanding the brand, doing away with that agency and starting again with something completely new that nobody’s ever heard of?

ANNE Well, I think what the panel is proposing is that we take the whole system to pieces and we rebuild it based on the needs of the children.

MICHAEL But is there so much bad blood with CYF? Even that name has so much negativity associated with it. Do we need to get rid of that?

ANNE Look, I don’t know. That will come in the final report that they bring to me in December with the costings. But what I do know is that this is the first time that we have proposed actually taking the whole system apart and rebuilding it from the ground up.

MICHAEL You were pretty critical when you spoke to this Fostering Kids conference in the week, and you said, ‘You know better than most the vagaries of a system that prioritises administration and transaction over the needs of children.’ Are you saying, though, CYF workers, that they don’t put children at the heart of what they’re doing?

ANNE The system doesn’t allow them to do it, and when you talk to those front line social workers, they are as frustrated as anyone else that they don’t get the opportunity to spend the time with those children. They know they should be out there keeping a close eye on them, supporting the caregivers, supporting the children. But the system itself demands over 50% of their time spent in administrative tasks.

MICHAEL That comes from the top down, then, doesn’t it? So are we going to see some senior managers of CYF go as a result of this?

ANNE Well, I think we’re going to see a change in the management. Well, I certainly- That’s beyond my care. That’s an operational issue for the chief executive.

MICHAEL But are there senior people there that need to go that are just too old school, they’ve had too long to get this right and they’ve failed to do so?

ANNE I can’t get involved in the operational aspects of management, but I certainly think - and the report makes it very clear - that they do need a different mix of skills in management. There’s a lack of strategic overview, there’s a lack of strategic planning. For instance, there’s no national strategy for attracting and retaining caregivers and foster parents. That just seems ridiculous.

MICHAEL So you get this panel, and they’ll come back to you in December. What’s going to happen then after they rip through this agency?

ANNE So then I have to take that through Cabinet early next year. I’ve asked them. There will be significant legislative changes that we’ll have to put through the house, and then what I’m looking at- So that’s the end, the panel’s responsibility finished. What I’m looking at then to make sure that the changes- Because in the previous restructuring, not all the recommendations have been put in place. So I think we need probably a newly constituted panel independent to oversee those changes, and I will be talking to Cabinet about that. I’ve already talked to Paula Rebstock about that.

MICHAEL And is that going to be enough to save the children who are in the system at the moment? Or do we have to accept some of them are going to come out of this the wrong way?

ANNE No, we are making changes. I’ve said this is a multi-year programme. They will be prioritising some of the parts of the system in order to get better oversight of what’s happened-

MICHAEL And so how quickly can we get to a point where children in the system now will be better off than they are today?

ANNE I think, from the system’s sake, I’ve said we’re not going to do a patch-up job to react to a crisis, which is the history of CYF. We are going to do this properly, but there are some things that we can do, and we have already started implementing far more monitoring of what happens to children rather than waiting for a renotification.

MICHAEL But it will be years rather than months before these-

ANNE It will be years, unfortunately. So we’ve got to do the best that we can for the children that are in the system now, and we’ve got to have a system that makes sure that we intervene earlier and more effectively in children’s lives. So what the panel’s report showed us is that a great deal of the work and the increase in emotional abuse has almost been caused by the system itself. They come to our attention at age 2 or 3. We churn them through the system until they’re about 8 or 9, and by that time, they are severely traumatised

MICHAEL So the 23% that get re-abused when they go back to their parents, the 10% that go back to a family member get re-abused. It’s a lot less when they’re not going back to whanau, isn’t it? How much of a difference is there?

ANNE So, it’s 1%. The 2010 report showed 1% with completely non kin.

MICHAEL So is it time to stop them going back to families?

ANNE Well, I think the good thing is that about 75% of them don’t get re-abused when they go back to family.

MICHAEL But compared to 1%, it’s a bit of a no-brainer, then, isn’t it?

ANNE So we do have to look at whose agendas- I think we have to have that discussion about who comes first. For me, I’m absolutely on the side of the child. Their needs have to come first.

MICHAEL So would you stop them going with families? Would you send them into more residential facilities?

ANNE No, I don’t think we want to do that. What we want are more New Zealanders stepping forward to say, ‘We are happy to work with these children, take them into our homes.’ The children say themselves they want that first placement to be the best placement. We want our links with our family. Too many of these children are Maori. Many of them want to maintain their links. They want to have their whakapapa recognised.

MICHAEL But they’ve failed to do that.

ANNE But that’s not necessarily living with their families.

MICHAEL You talk about early intervention a lot here. Isn’t obviously the most early form of intervention stopping some people from having children or having more children?

ANNE Well, that’s very difficult for the state to do. I certainly think we should be providing more family planning, more contraceptive advice to some of the families that we know who are- I mean, I know of cases that CYF have taken the sixth and seventh baby from. The question I’ve asked is, ‘So what advice now is going into that parent?’

MICHAEL How could you stop them from having baby three and four, because you know that they are going to fail at it.

ANNE Yes, yes, that’s exactly right.

MICHAEL If you were really tough about these things, that’s what you’d do, though, isn’t it?

ANNE Well, we’ll wait and see what the recommendations are. That’s a conversation that New Zealanders, perhaps, need to have.

MICHAEL Could that be the result of this?

ANNE Well, that’s a big step when the state starts telling people- you know, deciding that, ‘You can have another child, and you can’t.’ And that’s a huge step for the state to take.

MICHAEL But you’re not ruling that out being part of the next report that comes to you?

ANNE Well, we’ll wait and see what the panel report. I expect that they’ll be saying, ‘We should get much, much faster contraceptive advice in. We should be offering, you know, tubal ligations, all sorts of things and counselling those families.

MICHAEL A lot of the children that go into care are going into families – 42% are on a benefit.

ANNE Yeah.

MICHAEL Is it time to stop that practice as well? Should people on benefits not be able to take in these kids, or should there be some sort of means testing around that system?

ANNE I think- I don’t think means test. I mean in some cases, it’s unfortunate if the family are on a benefit. I think too many are going in to homes-

MICHAEL So we should just stop beneficiaries from taking part?

ANNE No, I think that’s a step too far, but I think we should be very careful when we place a child into a family that’s already under financial stress. It’s very hard to manage on a benefit. And the outcomes for the kids that we know in homes of long-term beneficiaries are not great either, so we’re, sort of, compounding the problem. We do need more New Zealanders to step up and open their homes, and we saw an outpouring. New Zealanders are very generous people. We saw that outpouring over the Syrian refuges, but we’ve got children here that, you know, need some loving homes, and they need other people in New Zealand communities to take some responsibility for them.

MICHAEL Minister, we’ll have to leave it there. We’ll talk to you in December, no doubt. Thank you very much for your time.

ANNE Thank you, Michael.

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