The Government has announced major state care reforms and a complete overhaul of Child, Youth and Family to improve the long-term life outcomes for New Zealand’s most vulnerable population. The Minister for Social Development, Hon Anne Tolley, says that the whole system needs to be transformed if we are to give vulnerable children and young people the protection and life opportunities they deserve.
“After making a very clear case for change in its Interim Report, the Expert Panel advising me on the radical overhaul of Child Youth and Family has delivered a final report with a bold set of recommendations for a new child-centred system which the Government is taking action on,” says the Minister.
The package of reforms, which is expected to take up to five years to be fully implemented, will include:
- A new child-centred operating model with a greater focus on harm and trauma prevention and early intervention. It will provide a single point of accountability for the long-term wellbeing of vulnerable children, with the voice of the child represented in planning and strategy.
- A social investment approach using actuarial valuations and evidence of what works will identify the best way of targeting early interventions, to ensure that vulnerable children receive the care and support they need, when they need it.
- Direct purchasing of vital services such as health, education and counselling support to allow funding to follow the child, so that young people can gain immediate access to assistance.
- A stronger focus on reducing the over-representation of Maori young people in the system. Currently, 60 per cent of children in care are Maori. Strategic partnerships will be developed with iwi groups and NGOs.
- Legislation this year raising the age of state care to a young person’s 18th birthday, with transition support being considered up to the age of 25. Cabinet has also agreed to investigate raising the youth justice age to 17.
- Legislation establishing an independent youth advocacy service to ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard in the design of systems and services.
Intensive targeted support for caregivers, including some increased financial assistance and better access to support services. For the first time, National Care Standards will be introduced so that there is a clear expectation for the standard and quality of care in placement homes.
The system will focus on five core services – prevention, intensive intervention, care support services, transition support and a youth justice service aimed at preventing re-offending. Delivery of these services will require a suitably trained workforce, with a requirement for a greater range of specialist skills, to better prevent harm and trauma.
The Report notes that CYF staff, agencies and the Government can’t do this in isolation. Communities need to be engaged and play their part. Work is already under way on attracting and retaining a wider pool of quality caregivers, who will receive increased support to take on such an important role.