1 Apr 2016

Children's Action Teams 'overworked'

2:09 pm on 1 April 2016

A flagship project to help at-risk children could be stymied by a lack of resources, front-line social workers are warning.

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(file photo) Photo: 123RF

Children's Action Teams, which provide wrap-around support for families, have been rolled out to ten regions so far as part of the government's implementation of the new Vulnerable Children Act.

Ngaio Gillies from the Kirikiriroa Family Services Trust, which provides four of the six frontline social workers on the Hamilton action team said her four staff were "overworked" and struggling with big caseloads.

Extra funding could help, she said, but what was needed most was buy-in from other agencies and more people to do the work.

"When the children's team was first mooted people were quite open to the idea and then it was shared with us that there would be no extra funding.

"And then some of my own colleagues became resistant to it."

Ms Gillies said more money was always useful but the key to the programme's success would be "a new way of working".

National Children's Director Sue Mackwell, who coordinates the scheme nationwide, said there were sufficient resources and a "huge commitment" from all agencies to make it work.

But she admitted a culture of "patch protection" still persisted in some places.

"We're asking them to work in a different way, to share information, put the child at the centre - not what they want to deliver, but what the child needs.

"And that takes a little bit of time for people to understand that that's going to mean that they change the way they do things."

Ms Mackwell said so far 264 lead professionals have been trained and new people were joining the teams all the time.

Ultimately there would be 20 teams nationwide looking after about 20,000 children, she said.

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