• Dick Cuthbert is a veteran protester and community campaigner. He retired from CYFS in 2011 after a 20-year career in social work, and remains passionate about the care of children. It's a role he continues after becoming a first-time grandad recently.

Once again the incident involved a Maori baby and CYFS failing to follow up concerned family warnings that the baby was at risk.

The new Department of Vulnerable Children (formally CYFS) admitted "our social workers didn't act with the appropriate degree of urgency in assessing Isaiah's safety. We have learnt from this and improved our monitoring of case activity on the site."

Really? Haven't similar promises been made in the past after each horrific death? What about Nia Glassie's death in 2007 and the awful roll call of child deaths since?


Why has more than 10 years of restructuring, staff retraining and extra resources come to nothing? Why hasn't Vulnerable Children got it right after more than 10 years of trying?

New Zealand is a violent place to be young or a woman, particularly if you are Maori. We must accept that in New Zealand we have a huge child and family abuse problem.

Kiwis used to say that New Zealand is a great place to bring up kids. But this has increasingly become a distant memory. Putting political correctness aside, we have a longstanding issue with the way many children are abused, Maori children in particular.

Reducing future child abuse will require immediate and long-term increases to Vulnerable Children's budget.

It must be resourced at levels no current political party has been willing so far to consider.

We could find millions to fund the police when their call centre catastrophically failed in the Iraena Asher affair, there's the $5m interim payment the Government has spontaneously promised to the next America's Cup campaign (with probably more to come), and the $24m the former Prime Minister spent on a failed flag-changing exercise.

Our children have been waiting at the back of the line for a long time. Will they once again be the losers in the race between increased funding to prevent child abuse and funding the next America's Cup campaign?

I believe in mandatory reporting of abuse. All professionals in contact with children must automatically report child abuse as part of their code of ethics.


This especially applies to our GPs, who currently make up less than 3 per cent of all referrals to Vulnerable Children. That defies belief. They are one of the only professions who have contact with most New Zealand families and who are trained to recognise child abuse.

I believe there should also be a nationwide children-at-risk register. Vulnerable Children must accept that repetitive reports of abuse and family violence, particularly over a long period, or new concerns for children who have an existing proven history of abuse, must be much more tightly monitored by its senior staff.

This sort of notification must be the top priority for our Vulnerable Children office managers. They should personally review these cases weekly to ensure action is effective and timely. Currently office expenditure gets this sort of oversight - why not children at risk?

Finally, there must be more support and recognition for childcaring grandparents. As the largest unrecognised family resource in the 21st century, they hold together many failing families.

Grandparents are now living longer after retirement and are increasingly becoming the childcarers of our society, as they did historically.

We must resource these family heroes much more than we do at present. They know kids, have the time, the family connection and naturally want to provide safe options for their own grandchildren (and others) whose own parents are unable to do this. Many grandparents are already doing a huge amount but are faced with barriers in terms of accessing the minimal help from Winz.

We need a new proper "grandparenting allowance" now.

The Department of Vulnerable Children is the National Government's own new baby. Let's hope Prime Minister Bill English and his party turn out to be very generous parents at election time.