Next steps for CYF overhaulSocial Development
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has released an interim report from an independent expert panel which shows that the Child, Youth and Family system is not delivering effectively for vulnerable children and young people, and that transformational change is required at the agency.
The expert panel has started work on a multi-year future operating model for the agency which addresses the findings in the report by prioritising the needs of children. This includes developing proposals for a new advocacy service to represent the voices of vulnerable children and young people.
The panel will also provide operational advice on a number of others areas including early intervention, support for caregivers, recruiting and retaining quality caregivers and raising the age of state care. It will also investigate whether some of the young people in youth justice residences and care and protection residences can be given more effective support in a community setting, while maintaining public safety.
“This high level business case for change is extremely compelling and concerning,” says Mrs Tolley.
“It provides a vital overview which is being used to design our radical overhaul of the CYF system, which I have no doubt will require targeted additional investment and reprioritisation of resources to get the best possible results for our vulnerable young people.”
The report highlights that while new notifications have been falling over the last few years, demand for CYF services has increased as a result of children re-entering the system on multiple occasions.
“This shows that the current system is not effective in intervening early to provide the support that these children deserve, so that they don’t need to come back into contact with CYF,” says Mrs Tolley.
“It is also simply heart breaking and completely unacceptable that vulnerable seven year-olds can have eight different home placements. It is very clear that we need a wider, high quality pool of caregivers, with the necessary support in place to help them provide a long-term safe environment where children can flourish. A stable and loving home is the number one priority for these kids. That is what they tell me they want above everything else.
“We need a better skills mix and enhanced training for frontline staff, with a clearer system that allows staff to do their job and spend more time focussed on the needs of children, rather than spending the majority of their time on administration.”
The panel has set out four key areas which underpin the new operating model:
- A child-centred system, shifting away from processes and administration, where the voices and needs of children and young people are at the forefront of everything the agency does.
- An investment approach, where data and evidence of what works is used to target earlier intervention and use of resources, to improve the life outcomes for children while also reducing future costs for taxpayers.
- An effective professional practice framework, allowing staff to use their professional judgment and cultural competence to support children based on clear principles, rather than rules, compliance and time-driven practice.
- Engaging New Zealanders and communities to provide loving, stable families for vulnerable children, take action to support vulnerable children and build their understanding of what care means for children and young people.
The expert panel, supported by my Youth Advisory Panel, a Māori Reference Group, a Practice Reference Group and a secretariat made up of cross-agency staff, will provide a detailed business case including costings to the Minister by December. It will also provide recommendations for legislative reform and implementation planning.
A feasibility study of an investment approach to improving outcomes for vulnerable children is also being commissioned by MSD on behalf of the panel, and the findings will inform the panel’s December report.
The panel has also started work to engage the philanthropic sector in developing a proposal for a new child advocacy service, while investigating opportunities to engage New Zealanders on how they can support and care for vulnerable children and young people.
“There is no quick fix over a few days or months. We need a significant shift in thinking together with a comprehensive plan to be rolled out in the years ahead,” says Mrs Tolley.
“The whole country has to take ownership of this situation. We cannot say that these children are someone else’s problem. Government agencies need to work together and communities need to play their part, to make a difference for these vulnerable kids.”
The independent expert panel’s interim report, the relevant Cabinet paper, and more information on the panel can be found at: http://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/work-programmes/cyf-modernisation/index.html