30 Mar 2017

One day until launch and new CYF uncertain on staffing

3:49 pm on 30 March 2017

One day before the launch of a new child protection agency, its top social worker cannot say how many more staff are needed.

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Photo: RNZ

Child Youth and Family (CYF) becomes Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Vulnerable Children tomorrow.

The lack of resources has been highlighted in Mastertonwhere last week more social workers were sent after judges raised concerns a backlog of cases was putting families in danger.

But New Zealand's chief Social Worker, Paul Nixon, said the service was still trying to identify which areas were worst off.

Mr Nixon said staff numbers in the Masterton office had dropped from 12 to just four at one point. It was clear there were other offices where social workers were struggling with high caseloads.

"We're still looking at the data now, around the country, but there are certain sites where there's a lot of work in the system, high caseloads, and we need to put more support and services in."

Mr Nixon was not able to say which towns or cities were under most pressure. "We haven't finished the data analysis yet," he said.

Carers 'insufficiently supported'

Meanwhile the newly-appointed Wairarapa regional manager said the handling of the case of Masterton caregivers was inadequate.

Yesterday RNZ reported that a Masterton Family Court judge accused CYF of wanting to "wipe their hands" of four siblings, two who have disabilities, in a bid to save money.

The siblings' great aunt and uncle took custody of the children and had gone to court to try to force the agency to help them. Judge Pat Grace said it was a "concern" that, at the start of the court case, CYF had inferred they may consider removing the children from the couple if the court ruled in the couple's favour.

Regional manager Grant Bennett said the carers were "insufficiently supported" and was not the standard of service he wanted for children and families.

Mr Bennett said he did not know whether staff involved at the time were taking an approach of saving money. "I don't know what people were thinking at the time."

He was focusing on dealing with systemic issues that led to the problems, and to ensure there are adequate resources.

A number of staff had left the Masterton CYF office last year, and it has been difficult to recruit to the rural area.

No-one had lost their job or been asked to move on over the case of the Masterton caregivers.

There were four vacancies of a staff of 12 social workers and recruitment was under way.

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