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The problem is child poverty not CYF

Written By: - Date published: 1:49 pm, September 28th, 2015 - 34 comments
Categories: benefits, child welfare, class, class war, Deep stuff, national, same old national, welfare - Tags:

 

child poverty a national disgrace

The Government is busily trying to blame Child Youth and Family for its inability to handle the tsunami of social problems caused by child poverty.

It clearly wants to make dramatic change to the Service and then claim that it has done something.  Earlier this year it handpicked a review panel led by Paula Rebstock and the results of the panel were recently published.

The Herald has provided this synopsis:

A review panel is scathing of Child, Youth and Family’s performance, saying the current system is focused on immediate risks and containing costs at the expense of tackling harm and supporting long-term outcomes.

The panel, led by economist Paula Rebstock, has recommended CYF should adopt an “investment approach” to needy children, intervening earlier in partnership with other agencies.

The funny thing though is that between all the bluster the report could be read as stating that a lack of resources and the ability only to “fight fires” and take urgent action is the root cause for the problem.

But it is critical about the performance of the current system, saying it was “focused on managing immediate risk and containing short-term costs”.

“This focus has come at the expense of the prevention of revictimisation, remediation of harm and supporting long-term outcomes,” the panel says.

An investment approach would “take a lifetime view of costs and benefits and direct effort and capability towards earlier intervention for vulnerable children”.

But the report repeats the myth that societal harm is because of public servants not doing their job properly and not because we have rampant and long term deprivation and poverty in this country.

The panel says the approach would “provide incentives to intervene with the right service as early as practicable with the right children, young people and families, by ensuring that agencies and non-government providers are accountable for achieving improved outcomes which will reduce costs in the longer term”.

The report itself reinforces the belief that current resources are inadequate as can be shown by these passages from the report:

  • the current service does not provide enough regular engagement with children, families or caregivers, or understanding of their needs.
  • Agencies do not prioritise work with vulnerable children ahead of their general accountability for universal services, despite the fact that vulnerable children are harder to reach and have more complex needs.
  • A high proportion of caregivers are in low income households and 42 per cent of the caregiver population are on a current Work & Income benefit.
  • Front-line child protection and youth justice workers need better support, training and a full range of skills to be able to make a lasting difference in the lives of vulnerable children.

So from the report itself there was a lot that progressives could agree with.  And the panel is engaged in ongoing work to prepare “a plan for detailed design and implementation, and the likely cost-envelope and cost-benefits of the proposed changes.”  As far as I am concerned if it costs more to do the job better then so be it.

The Government has chosen to present the findings of the report as evidence of CYF failing as well as bad families.  For instance there is this passage from Anne Tolley’s interview by Lisa Owen on the Nation last weekend:

We’ve put more money into more social workers, because they were overworked and overstretched. What the review panel has found is that now almost two-thirds of those children are now known to CYF already, and they’ve been churning back through the system, so we’ve been creating that extra workload by not dealing with those children well and their families in the first place.

And she is ruling out a significant increase in resources, preempting the work of the review committee and the need to work out what a properly functioning system may look like.

Tolley also regurgitates the myth that there are too many “back room” public servants and not enough working on the front line.  This is a line we hear repeatedly and is clearly a tory reflexive philosophical grunt bereft of actual real world analysis.

Well, what I’ve said is when I’ve been asked, ‘Will social workers lose their jobs?’ We need those social workers. I can’t see that we would need viewer social workers. But actually, the report tells you only about 25 percent of the workforce are actually working directly with children. We’ve got lots of managers and supervisors and people who are filling in forms.

Those forms are filled in because of an increasing demand of data from the Government.  And every form filler that loses their job means that a social worker has to work that much harder to make sure that demands are met.

Tolley was also asked about Carmel Sepuloni’s private member’s bill that would require all social workers to hold a current practising certificate.

[Lisa Owen] Okay. Well, the report indicated you also need better social workers, so Labour’s got a private member’s bill would register all social workers, which means they would be police-checked, they would be professionally-trained. Are you going support that bill?

No, I’m not supporting that bill, and I’ve talked to Carmel. It’s not that I don’t support it. I’ve said to her that her timing is wrong. So I have asked the Social Workers Registration Board to do a review of their Act and to match with the final report that I get from the expert panel. They’re reporting back to me in December. So they are looking exactly at what do we mean by a social worker, what’s the career path. There’s a lot of people who work in the social sector that call themselves social workers, but what should a qualified, registered social worker look like?

It is strange that what appears to be a worth while proposal is not supported because of a timing issue.

Of course this further review is missing the point in so many ways.  The reason why there is such a tremendous need for state resources to handle children in crisis is because child poverty is epidemic.  Back in the 1970s it was almost unheard of in New Zealand.  With mass unemployment in the 1980s it appeared and it ballooned in the 1990s after the mother of all budgets meant that families were expected to exist on 80% of the income needed to address their basic needs.  Labour thought it could solve the situation by full employment which helped but did not solve the problem.  And the issue is now again worsening as the gap between the rich and the poor escalates and housing needs skyrocket.

And in terms of CYF’s functionality it is all about resources.  A recent story by Anna Leask highlighting that a young girl was held in police custody because of a lack of CYF beds can only be cured by providing more beds, not by blaming social workers.

The Government’s approach is all supply side analysis presuming that current hardship is a result of incompetent bureaucrats and bad families.  If National was actually concerned at the plight that too many children find themselves in it would be addressing the causes, not working out what sort of band aid should be applied and who to blame.

34 comments on “The problem is child poverty not CYF ”

  1. Paul 1

    The National Party have set up a predictable diversion to knock the TPP off the headlines just as Groser is being taken to court to release the text.

    • shorts 1.1

      TPP or whatever other time bomb is set to blow…

      Needless to say any report by rebstock will come back with recommendations that were pre-set, some of which might be beneficial to those in need and others that won’t

      Our social problems including poverty can only be managed by throwing loads of money, time and skilled people at them… any other solution is destined to lead to the same place they started – over stretched services not coping

      • The Chairman 1.1.1

        “Once we have gained the confidence of the people, we’ve got more chance of doing more things” – Lockwood Smith.

        He went on to talk about doing things in government that you could not talk about before an election.

        Setting up independent (but ideologically aligned) panels helps Governments distance themselves from raising the more publicly sensitive issues. Namely, issues they wouldn’t be elected upon.

        Moreover, an independent panel’s recommendations helps give the said recommendations far more weight in the general public’s eye.

        As for solutions, How more money is spent and how skills and time are utilized are also vital to outcomes.

        I have an uncomfortable feeling if more money is recommended, it will largely go to the private sector to help combat the problem, opposed to dealing to one of the main causes of the problem (poverty).

  2. heather 2

    Everything you say is correct, there has never been proper resources to fund CYPS and Child Welfare before it.
    The social workers have struggled against a rising tide of poverty, lack of housing, under or not employment, cheap liqour and a general feeling of hopelessness. This Government should be ashamed and hang their head in shame at the child poverty.
    Families reach the end of what they can cope with and children and women sadly, are the first people that suffer.
    Loss of dignity is a terrible thing to cope with.
    It is a disgrace that our Primie Minister will not recognise poverty and address the issue with compassion.
    But no, he and his cronies still deny that poverty and hopelessness lead to abuse, neglect and family violence, They are unable or do not want to join the dots.
    This Government has stripped community groups from funding, these groups have been trying to fill in the gaps left by under funding from the National government. Now they are running out of money and are unable to continue providing services.
    How many more children will have to die before they join the dots?

  3. Mike the Savage One 3

    We get endless drivel, about CYFS being the problem, while all they are is an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Yes, the real cause may not be CYFS and their admitted failures, the real cause lies somewhere else. But having watched Tolley on The Nation and on Q+A, the blame seems to go simply on CYFS and their staff, underfunded and over administered for years, while the real cause lies with social failure where many parents have not got the means to survive and to care about their kids, even if they honestly want to.

    The damned MSM makes me furious and sick, how they simply perpetuate the mantra that this crap government repeats, and prepares us all for privatisation of more social services. The government we have is criminal in the way they do things, they are hell bent on serving the vested interest private and commercial parties they love, and care a damned shit about the kids and benficiaries in general.

    They do not even conduct proper oversight, and that is intentional:
    http://publicaddress.net/speaker/how-is-government-evaluating-its-welfare/

    FFS, wake up people, we are being taken for a huge ride again, this government is like a damned dictatorship, in cooperation with a complicit media, to propagate all is best dealt with commercialising it.

    Shame on NZ, for being a total sell out nation.

  4. Mike the Savage One 4

    And while I am at it, when does the useless Labour Party expel this Mike Williams from the membership, who openly supports Matthew Hooton of all in a panel discussion?

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/201772367/politics-with-mike-williams-and-matthew-hooton

    I cannot believe where “politics” in this small and isolated little place is heading. It is a damned disgrace what goes on.

  5. Michael 5

    I think we’d help more children if we sacked Paula Rebstock from every taxpayer-funded job she has and spent the money on school breakfasts instead.

  6. Detrie 6

    My neighbour worked on the front line of CYF for over ten years in south auckland. He loved the job and was good at it. His own workload and expectations was typical for his office, being 2-3x higher than the internal guidelines for max number of cases staff can work on at one time. And, there was no room for errors, least it caused a review, which then just added further to the workload and the massive backlog. After ten years it all took its toll physically and emotionally and he reluctantly left last year.

    It was mentioned in that TV interview over the weekend of a shortage of 300+ staff for CYF across NZ and has been this way for many years. The needed funding to expand frontline resources was never made available. This minor fact was brushed aside by the minister as not important. My neighbour who worked there, disagrees.

    But, CYF is still the ambulance and as long as current staff are always in reactive mode putting out fires, instead of have the resources to look deeper, nothing will change.

  7. The Chairman 7

    Good thread, good points, good comments thus far.

  8. the pigman 8

    You hear the word “business case” being bandied about in reference to managing vulnerable children. The semiotics (“investment approach”) tell you all you need to know about the shit that’s coming.

    Bonus points to those who picked up on Tolley’s eugenics dog whistling over the weekend and quiet backtrack today.

    • I didn’t see anything from Tolley about eugenics, but “eugenics” is lazy, bullshit shorthand for “I don’t have an argument so I’m going with just like the nazis!“, so it could have been anything.

      • The Chairman 8.1.1

        Tolley acknowledged it would be a “huge step” for the state to start telling people that they could not have another child, but said it was “a conversation that New Zealanders, perhaps, need to have”.

        Tolley did not rule out limiting or preventing some families from having another child.

        http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/72451962/state-may-try-to-stop-some-families-having-more-children

        Tolley’s suggestion that state forced sterilization is a discussion the country may need to have indicated she believes their could be legitimate merit in the notion (state forced sterilization).

        Within 24 hours and once public disdain became clear, she quickly retreated from that position.

        • the pigman 8.1.1.1

          Thank you the chairman. You’re right, Psycho Milt, when Tolley starts dog-whistling to state enforced sterilisation of a particular demographic, there’s absolutely no valid comparison to be made. I think it’s people like you, who stand on the sidelines shouting “oh no, you’re Godwinning it!”, as if politicians would never behave like that again, who are the lazy ones.

        • Psycho Milt 8.1.1.2

          Exactly. Nat MPs like to raise this one every now and then as a dog-whistle to their talkback radio constituency. They’re well aware most of the country would be as dubious about trusting the state to sterilise people as they are about trusting the state to execute people, and it doesn’t get any traction. That alone makes the cries of “Eugenics!” ridiculous.

          But it’s even more ridiculous than that. Even if a suicidally-reckless Nat government were to try and implement this, their wildest redneck-appealing anti-waster pronouncements don’t go further than dealing with people who would have their kids taken from them immediately by CYF anyway, which is a very small number of people not large enough to dignify with the term “demographic.” Calling something like that “eugenics” is like calling that trellis you put up “civil engineering.”

          • The Chairman 8.1.1.2.1

            The issue does get raised from time to time, but its more a testing of the waters.

            Support for these things (the death penalty, state forced sterilization) can change over time.

            The cries of eugenics is merely calling it for what it is.

            Step by step is how it would be done. It would start with those having had kids removed, then to those charged with child abuse. Which is a rather wide term. Some consider smoking around kids as abuse. Others consider overweight kids as being abused. Therefore, it wouldn’t take long before coverage would be expanded.

            Legislative change coming into effect next year would see the onus placed on parents to prove they were fit to keep their children, if they already had a child abuse conviction.

            Additionally, there is talk of policing child abuse through predictive algorithms and on the balance of probability. No doubt leading to increasing the numbers being charged.

            • Psycho Milt 8.1.1.2.1.1

              Ah, I see. I hadn’t realised there was a top secret dastardly government plot to implement eugenics, one that’s so secret no-one knows about it except particularly astute observers such as yourself, and one that involves the somewhat counter-intuitive approach of allowing abusive parents to have children but then removing the children and having them raised by others.

              • The Chairman

                It was merely an example of what is currently taking place coupled with its logical progression.

                It’s no secret,Tolley publicly floated the notion.

                Public disdain soon became apparent and she retreated to what she considers to be a safer position.

                The approach should be focusing on the causes of child abuse and why some struggle to raise a child, thus reducing the need to remove children.

                Removing children is evidence of failing to turn families around – and removed children also don’t fair too well. Hence, the call to overhaul the system.

          • the pigman 8.1.1.2.2

            Actually, a restriction on breeding/procreation with the aim of altering the composition of the genetic stock that comprises a population is eugenics, Psycho Milt.

            But you’d rather have a screech about people trivialising the Holocaust, right?

            • Psycho Milt 8.1.1.2.2.1

              A government that put a restriction on breeding/procreation for a few chronic child abusers with the intent of altering the composition of the breeding stock or a population the size of NZ’s would be a very silly government. Alteration at the population level requires significant numbers and a lot of time.

              Still, you must be livid that successive governments have arranged things so the educated middle class is discouraged from having more than one or two children while wasters are encouraged to add children to a benefit to maintain their income stream – it’s eugenics, I tells ya!

              • the pigman

                “educated middle class is discouraged from having more than one or two children while wasters are encouraged to add children to a benefit to maintain their income stream”

                Citation needed. I know you won’t waste your time though because you’ve gone full derp and are now just t*olling. But these incentives that are, for some inexplicable reason, “educated-middle-class-disincentivising”, are addressed in parallel threads.

                “wasters” – charming.

                • Funny how you can instantly see just how obnoxious and stupid this “eugenics!” stuff is when I frame it like that, isn’t it? Consider the possibility that it might be just as “full derp” and t*olling when you frame it your way.

      • the pigman 8.1.2

        You must be furious at Danyl and everyone else calling it for what it is then: https://dimpost.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/clickbait-government/

  9. texmex 9

    I was a senior social worker for twenty years the problem lies deep in the nz culture there will be no change until kiwis admit that they are very racist and extremely violent society the children will continue to die and no amount of money or government reports will stop it,

    • Bill 9.1

      There is the violence and the poverty and the racism etc, but the ‘War Against Children’ began a few decades ago….

  10. Rosemary McDonald 10

    No poverty here….

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11520406

    “Seizures at the age of 18 months put him in hospital. Both parents had been drinking when they arrived – there was “little confidence in parents’ ability to care especially if Benjamin turns out to have medical needs”, a social worker wrote.

    Benjamin would be diagnosed with high needs, and that was before autism emerged. A social worker recorded that his mother was found to be repeatedly drunk during the hospital stay – there was “no guarantee of baby’s safety if he was returned to parents’ care”.

    Money appears to have not been an issue. Benjamin’s maternal grandfather owned the house in which they lived and “funded” the continued presence of his father. There was even talk of hiring a nanny to get around his mother’s drunkenness and father’s inability to care for both.”

    and so on.

    Read it and weep.

    • The Chairman 10.1

      Alcohol was clearly a factor in this one. So was the father’s inability (lacking the life skills) to care for both, compounded by a disintegrating, physically abusive relationship.

      Severely stretched resources, miscommunication, coupled with high staffing turnover negatively impacting outcomes were also factors.

      Although poverty generally plays a leading role (and can add or be an underlining factor to a number of the pressures above) it’s not the sole contributing factor that requires addressing.

      • Rosemary McDonald 10.1.1

        EVERYBODY (sorry to shout) involved with this child failed him.

        Add him to the ever lengthening list.

        He will probably never trust anyone ever again.

  11. Heartbleeding Liberal 11

    This is really confusing, why is an economist involved at all, let alone being the head of the review?

  12. ZTesh 12

    This is a simplistic, naive and very unsophisticated opinion, written by someone, who I expect, lives in a very sheltered bubble.

    If poverty was a causative factor in child abuse, then child abuse would be absolutely rampant in the poorest nations on earth, such as the slums of India or Asia and virtually non-existent in wealthy Western nations with social security that ensures even the poorest members of society are comparatively wealthy with slum dwellers and the like. Only the opposite is true.

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