More resources should be made available to Child Youth and Family workers in Northland who are "snowed under" by high-end cases of sexual and physical abuse, a Northland school principal says.

The comment comes after a report by the Children's Commissioner, Russell Wills, into the state of Child Youth and Family (CYF) care in New Zealand.

The report paints a grim picture of New Zealand's state care - a result Pat Newman, chairman of the Tai Tokerau Principals' Association and Hora Hora School principal, said was not surprising.

"I accept the CYF emergency care is very good but it is the follow-ups that are a problem. But you have to note that they are totally under-resourced and underpaid for the workload and cases they deal with," Mr Newman said.


The report showed 117 New Zealand children were abused while in the care of CYF and one case where the stretched system meant one person had over 60 care placements. Northland-specific figures are not available at this stage and have been requested under the Official Information Act.

It also showed being chronically short staffed put pressure on existing staff and affected morale. There were also issues with staff retention due to people moving into different jobs within the same sector or experiencing burnout. Mr Newman said this was definitely a problem in Northland.

"Two or three years ago there was a real lack of capability of staff, no doubt," he said.

"But these days they are professional and they do care deeply but they're burnt out.

"They're snowed under with high-end abuse cases. Everything from sexual abuse, physical abuse, not feeding kids, kids roaming the streets."

While the report focused on CYF nationally, statistics on the CYF website also painted a grim picture in Northland.

In the 12 months to June last year there was a total of 1192 findings of substantiated abuse and 3696 care and protection reports of concern that required further action in the region.

"It doesn't surprise me. We've been saying in Northland there is a crisis," said Mr Newman.


Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis said he was not surprised by the report but was surprised about the statistics for Northland.

"I'm surprised it's so low. My impression was that it was higher but I mean when you look at sexual abuse only 5 per cent of cases are reported so their could be many more going unreported."

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said the report provided a valuable resource for an independent expert panel who will lead an overhaul of CYF.

"There are no quick fixes and no magic wands that can be waved. Simply throwing resources at a system that isn't performing as it should hasn't worked in the past and won't work now."

But Mr Newman disagreed.

"At the end of the day there needs to be more training, more resources and better pay," he said.

"There needs to be something to bring people to the job."