Access supervisors limited

By Sandra Conchie

A shortage of qualified people to oversee supervised access visits in Tauranga could prevent non-custodial parents from seeing their children, the NZ Law Society says.

The problem is highlighted in president Jonathan Temm's 60-plus page submission to the Government's Family Court Proceedings Reform Bill, which proposes major changes to the family justice system.

The Family Court can make an order that a parent has supervised contact with their child as part of a parenting order, but the Law Society says if there is not enough accredited "supervised access providers" in Tauranga it may prevent some parents from having any contact.

The Bay of Plenty Times has learned there is only one accredited provider in Tauranga - Care Solutions - which has its headquarters in Nelson.

Director Jenny Martin said Care Solutions has provided the service for the past two years since Barnardos closed down and has supervisors who also travel to Katikati and Waihi.

"We don't have a waiting list and try to arrange a meeting with both the primary carer and the non-custodial parent within a week of them making contact with us, and arrange a supervised visit the following week."

Ms Martin said the shortage of providers did limit parents' choices and travel costs could stop some parents from visiting with their child if they live further away.

Tauranga branch of Union of Fathers spokesperson Sheila Ewart said the organisation had huge concerns about insufficient providers in Tauranga.

"Several months ago, a father contacted me because he was struggling with this very issue and he told me he had to pay $92 to see his children for two hours."

Mrs Ewart said Kidz Need Dadz, an offshoot of the Union of Fathers, had applied to Aotearoa New Zealand Supervised Contact Association for accreditation.

"But to become accredited with Child Youth and Family is quite a struggle as it's a long-winded procedure, which requires lots of paperwork including writing a policy document."

Senior Tauranga Family Court lawyer Trish Jones said there had been a woeful lack of supervised access providers and she supported the Union of Fathers' group accreditation application and the Law Society call for the issue to be addressed urgently.

Minister of Justice Judith Collins said the proposed reforms to the family justice system, including a new Family Dispute Resolution Service to try and sort out custodial issues before the courts step in, was in response to serious concerns raised by court users.

Ms Collins said the cost of running the Family Court has skyrocketed from $84 million in 2004/05 to $142 million in 2010/2011, despite the same number of court applications. additional reporting APNZ

- Bay of Plenty Times

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