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Dangerous environment supports Commissioner’s report

An OIA revealing more than 600 dangerous incidents at a CYFs run youth justice facility in Christchurch, Te Puna Wai o Tuhinapo, is proof of last month’s damning report by the Children’s Commissioner, but also shows that Ministers have known about these issues for years, Labour’s Justice and Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Arden says.

"Information obtained by Labour reveals hundreds of incidents, including serious assaults, drug use, and self-harm at Te Puna Wai in the last year.

"The latest documents show MSD initiated two short term plans to try and deal with the problem. However after a major incident at the residence last October, a meeting with the Chief Social Worker was requested to discuss concerns, including staff numbers and the stability of the leadership team.

"Te Puna Wai is home to roughly 22-30 young people, with a ratio of one staff member to every 2.5 to 3 residents. In the past two years it has had 16 temporary staff, and five residence managers.

"This was one of the major issues that was highlighted by the Children Commissioner in his report, stating that ‘sites and residences also reported issues with retention of staff. Staff seemed to be moving on for two main reasons: they gain experience at a CYF site and then go elsewhere in the sector, or they get burnt out and leave due to the stressful nature of the work.’

"Lack of training was also highlighted in reports on Te Puna Wai. The Children’s Commissioner highlighted the danger in his report stating that ‘having poorly trained care staff in residences can increase risk for both young people and staff.’

"This should have been a red flag to the Minister long before the Children’s Commissioner issued his report – particularly given the high proportion of complaints that young people were making about the facility that were found to be justified, and the indications that staff were under strain.

"While the Commissioner’s report adds welcome transparency to CYFS, how many more residences have had such massive red flags that the Minister knew about," says Jacinda Ardern.