1 Sep 2015

CYF private sector moves worry social work expert

11:03 am on 1 September 2015

An expert in social work is warning that any move to shift Child, Youth and Family services to the private sector could endanger Māori tamariki.

Prime Minister John Key said significant change was needed in Child, Youth and Family (CYF), and he was not ruling out some of its responsibilities being shifted to the private sector.

Mr Key said the agency would undergo a structural overhaul following a review by senior public servant Paula Rebstock.

Associate Professor Nicola Atwool.

Associate Professor Nicola Atwool. Photo: SUPPLIED

But Nicola Atwool, an associate professor at the University of Otago, said any privatisation was risky.

"From a Māori perspective the risks are enormous. Unless all the Māori children were to be channelled into a service that was developed in partnership with iwi they risk being lost in systems where their whānau, hapū, iwi connections will not be maintained.

"I would be very worried about further alienation."

Ms Atwool's social work expertise includes being employed at Child Youth and Family for nearly 20 years, principal advisor in the Office of the Children's Commissioner for six years and working as part of an independent panel that reviewed CYF's caseload in 2014.

She said privatising and contracting out aspects of CYF would risk multiplying the problems that already existed.

"You've got more providers of service, how are you going to monitor those? The risk of children falling through the gaps is quite high.

"Māori are over-presented as CYF clients, more than half the children in care are Māori, if you were to look at the contracting out of care, that potentially increases the risk of them not being in culturally appropriate placements."