The CYF review – an exercise in predetermination?

Child Youth and Family (CYF) has a troublesome history of underperformance and botched care and protection cases, the most recent being its abject failure, along with the Police, to address the Roastbusters sexual abuse allegations with any semblance of professionalism.

So when Social Development Minister Anne Tolley announced a high level review of CYF last week, my first thought was “It’s about time! I’ve been asking for this to happen for years.”

But on looking at the composition of the Minister’s Expert Review Panel and its terms of reference, my momentary elation rapidly turned to dire concern about what the review will recommend.

The Review Panel will be chaired not by someone with a background in child protection or youth justice issues, but by Paula Rebstock, an economist with a reputation as a privatiser and cost-cutter.

Yes, that’s the same Paula Rebstock who chaired the Welfare Working Group which completely ignored the best interests of children and young people and even went so far as making recommendations, adopted by the National Government, which increased the risk of abuse and neglect.

The other Review Panel members are the Commissioner of Police, the head of a Scottish charity, the Māori Party’s former Chief of Staff, and a Professor of Psychology. That there’s no-one there at all with a background of grassroots work with at-risk kids in New Zealand does not bode well.

Turning to the terms of reference, I didn’t have to read far for my concerns to be heightened. The second bullet point of the Review Panel’s scope reads:

  • The core role and purpose of Child, Youth and Family; and opportunities for a stronger focus on this, including through outsourcing some services (my emphasis)

The terms of reference also talk about the “… development of an investment approach for Child, Youth and Family…” That’s management-speak for CYF targeting funding into areas that will save them the most money in future, rather than into areas that will keep the most kids safe.

There is no opportunity for public submissions to the Review Panel, and no requirement that it consults with anyone working on the ground with at-risk children. Even worse, there is no requirement that the Review Panel address the well-established links between child poverty and child abuse and neglect.

This review has all the hallmarks of Government having a predetermined intent to take CYF down a path of privatisation, outsourcing and cost-cutting; and establishing a Review Panel that will deliver the recommendations it needs to justify doing that – just as happened with the Welfare Working Group.

That is a recipe for corporate profiteering and continued or worsening fragmentation and dysfunction in the delivery of CYF services.

Our nation’s most vulnerable children and young people deserve better.

3 Comments Posted

  1. I am a long retired social worker/manager with the former Social Welfare Dept and prior to that with Child Welfare and I agree that throughout those times and now there has been and continues to be too many unacceptable outcomes. But I agree with Metiria Turei that unless the change comes from within it will not address the reality. It is imperative that practising social workers are on the decision-making panel. I have no idea who the folk are who’ve been chosen for the panel but I do suspect that that none of them has practised ‘child welfare intervention and continued support’. Like the old saying ‘Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is knowing not to put it in the fruit salad, ‘ I fear that the recommendations that come out of this panel (no matter how much ‘consultation’ they do) will only ever reach the first part of this adage…and their fruit salad will continue to include tomatoes, because the panel is lacking PRACTICAL WISDOM.
    I can guess now that the first recommendation they will make is ….’Earlier intervention is essential’ (or words to that effect.) It will be followed by a series of how to achieve this with the least possible money put to it Other recs that follow will take the route that ALL social workers know. anyway… children must be made safe, need one constant carer, they need a better sense of belonging…workers (including ‘volunteer’ foster parents) need to be more highly trained, better supervised…have less caseloads….various parts of the work will need to be farmed out (to NGOs who are expected to do the job for less), sharing of inf to be made important (always used anyway…) and so on and so forth. ALL stuff practioners already know and probably do if they ahve any nous.
    What I believe is needed is to have WISE EXPERIENCED social work PRACTIONERS (NOT just knowledgeable ones…or ones that can work a computer or meet the Key Performance Indicators…whatever that’s supposed to do or mean) plus competent trained SOCIAL SERVICE MANAGERS (not panelists who can run a business venture or company…but ones who understand the intricacies of families and their needs) come up with THEIR STRUCTURE . Wise people who know the basic premises of social work intervention and change. I think then that it is most likely to be more REALISTIC and PRACTICAL in meeting the needs of our most vulnerable people.
    Kath Beattie

  2. I think that the fail rate for CYF’s is too high and was at first excited by the thought of review. I have a niece who has a sad tale to tell about poor handling by a CYF investigation of abuse that reversed things so she became the focus. The partners lawyer collected the fees and went to work, CYF didn’t investigate properly.
    It nearly broke her spirit and famiiy gathering around her finally got social workers doing there job. She now has them back but gagging rules and poor performance leave things unchanged, and my niece would advise all to avoid CYF’s. No wonder we get improvement in the stats as those in the know avoid the underfunded, undertrained system.
    I believe social services should be run like schools, in the community – maybe local council and state funded. This way appropriate services are locally seen and accessed.

  3. Or you could look at this the other way up: CYF will continue to do as good or bad a job as they do today, but cost lest taxpayer money to do so.

    Pretty much every equivalent organisation worldwide shares the reputation for “troublesome history of underperformance and botched care and protection cases”, so maybe what we have here is NZ is by world standards about as good as it is likely to get? Sure, we could shuffle the chairs, but would that lead to a better outcome?

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