Early this afternoon SSPA chair Shane Murdoch and I attended the select committee hearing to present the SSPA submission on the the Children, Young Persons and their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Legislation Bill. The Bill proposes the most far-reaching changes to child care and protection since CYF was set up in 1999 so this was a very important submission.
Shane and I began by acknowledging the many positive aspects of the Bill and these are oulined in our submission. But we also expressed our view that significant amendments are needed if we are to achieve a genuinely child-centred system. In the limited time we had with the select committee, we focused on just some of the issues that need to be resolved. We were heartened by the interest shown by MPs and the on-point questions, particularly from Green MP Jan Logie and Labour MP Jacinda Ardern.
Lack of clarity for social workers The core purpose of the CYPF Act is to provide the basis and procedures for state intervention in families. Social workers rely on its purpose and principles when making critical decisions. We are concerned that a lot of complexity has been added to the Act, with less direction about priority or weighting. This creates a lack of clarity for social workers.
The place of whānau, hapū and iwi The Bill downgrades the place of whānau, hapū and iwi in decisions relating to their children through the removal of section 13(2)(g). We understand the wish to avoid children and young people being cycled through multiple care placements – but this is not the answer. We recommended to the select committee that the Bill place a greater focus emphasis on supporting families so children need not be taken into care. And where a child is taken into care, the place of kin care is reinforced and supported.
Information sharing We told the select committee we do not support the information-sharing provisions in clause 38 of the Bill. They could lead to an overly complex system with unfettered demands for information that undermine professional duties of care and confidentiality. This is all the more important given this Bill widens the net of those families who will be subject to state intervention. We urged the select committee to take the advice of the Privacy Commissioner on this matter.
The need to resource change We noted in our presentation the ambitious scale of change that’s being proposed. We should be ambitious for our children and young people – but our ambitions won’t be realised if they are not matched by systems and resources that fully support both the new ministry and the service providers. Previous changes have failed, in part because of inadequate resourcing. We must not make the same mistake again.
Brenda Pilott, SSPA National Manager. 15 March 2017