CYFS needs urgent change says judge

By JOSIE CLARKE

Child, Youth and Family is under extreme pressure and needs urgent change, according to a major review of the service released today.

Judge Mick Brown's long-awaited report makes 57 recommendations to improve the service, but he said it was obvious that most of the problems were due to factors beyond the department's control.

"Child, Youth and Family is justifiably annoyed and entitled to be indignant at what is unfairly dumped on their doorway," said Judge Brown.

He said the Government should give a "clear, unequivocal commitment" for extra funding, so the service could be revamped and to provide the quality of personnel required.

However, some factors were largely within the department's control, including the culture that had developed within the organisation and the quality of social work practised.

His recommendations include:

* the department enters into an honest alliance with the media in which its activities are well publicised and a culture of openness is promoted;

* that the introduction of social worker registration be given urgency;

* the department be given three months to provide Mr Maharey with a plan on how it will develop a fully skilled social work staff;

* that senior social workers supervise, coach and support no more than four fulltime social workers;

* that funding and resources are concentrated on reducing the number of unallocated cases to zero within the next six months;

* that the practice of delaying filling vacancies as a cost-saving technique be reviewed;

* that children in care be provided with kits containing age-appropriate information about being in care and their rights;

* the practice concerning placement of children with family and whanau be reviewed to ensure that all placements are made in the best interests of the child;

* consideration be given to the establishment of a Child Welfare Commission and community councils, attached to each CYF site;

* that work takes place towards a blueprint for a care and protection sector.

The Government commissioned Judge Brown, a former Principal Youth Court Judge, to investigate how CYFS placed at-risk children with caregivers and how CYFS responded to reports of child abuse or neglect.

* Full text of Judge Brown's review

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