24 Jun 2015

Minister affirms need for CYF overhaul

5:44 pm on 24 June 2015

The Minister of Social Development is once again stressing that Child Youth and Family (CYF) needs a complete overhaul, in the wake of the Kumar case.

Anita and Shivneel Kumar

Anita Kumar, the wife of slain Henderson dairy owner Arun Kumar, and their son Shivneel Kumar outside the High Court in Auckland after the jury reached its verdicts. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

A 14-year-old was yesterday found guilty of the manslaughter of Arun Kumar in his Henderson shop, and a 13-year-old was found not guilty.

National MP, Anne Tolley.

Anne Tolley Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

It emerged during their trial in the High Court at Auckland that drugs, neglect and violence were commonplace in their lives.

The family of one of the boys was referred to Child Youth and Family on 20 occasions - half of those for domestic violence.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said she could not comment specifically as the case was still before the court.

"But what I've said consistently since I became minister, really, is that the system of CYF needs a complete revamp - that's why I have appointed the expert panel to do."

Jan Logie.

Jan Logie Photo: RNZ

Green MP Jan Logie said, at the moment, there was no requirement for the agency to investigate when the police alerted it to family violence.

"We can see from these cases that the safety and wellbeing of the children in those families wasn't given priority and we need to turn that around."

The Labour Party's spokesperson for children, Jacinda Ardern, said there were many opportunities to intervene in the lives of the two boys.

"I think most members of the public hearing that CYF had been notified 20 times about one family, they would expect that they would have done something to try and make an intervention in what was obviously a pretty terrible family situation."

New Zealand First MP Darroch Ball said Child Youth and Family could only do so much with its current funding and resourcing.

"Too many kids are slipping through the cracks and not getting the help they need because Child Youth and Family thresholds are simply too high.

"We need to listen to the chief executives of CYF who say they need funding and resources to prevent these tragedies.

"We need to invest in the prevention of inter-generational neglect and abuse."

Ms Tolley said the Kumar case was one that warranted an internal review by Child Youth and Family.

"I would certainly hope that any case that came before a court where young children are charged with murder would see a review."

Child Youth and Family would not comment except to say that, with regard to the younger boy, who was found not guilty, he and his family circumstances have been subject to intense media scrutiny throughout the trial.

It said any decisions regarding his safety and well-being would not be played out in public.

The 14-year-old boy is yet to be sentenced.