Child protection has taken a massive step backwards today with the Government passing a Bill that will give significant powers to unspecified ‘professionals’ or contract holders, says Labour’s Acting Children’s spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni.
The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Advocacy, Workforce, and Age Settings) Amendment Bill makes several major changes - including raising the age of care and protection.
“Labour fought hard for the age that young people are able to remain in care to be lifted to 18, and it was a change we desperately wanted to support.
“But this Bill also contained a dangerous set of provisions, which allows the Chief Executive to delegate powers that can currently only be performed by qualified CYF social workers. These powers include the ability to investigate child abuse claims, and the statutory removal of children.
“Parliament will have no say over who the powers go to, or how they are being used.
“We consistently asked the Minister to explain to us who she wanted to give these powers to and why. At no stage did she give an example of the kind of professions, or contract holders, she would want to see holding the job of removing children. We’re all still completely in the dark.
“We tried to remove this section of the Bill at committee stage but, unfortunately, were unsuccessful. With these sweeping powers still intact, we had no choice but to vote against the Bill.
“This process needs to be a cautionary tale for the Minister. Her second set of reforms are soon to be tabled. Based on cabinet papers, she intends to remove the long-standing presumption that children who are removed from their parents, where possible, are placed within their wider family, whanau, or iwi.
“We know that children who are able to remain within their wider family, and when that family is well supported, are likely to have much better outcomes. To give up on that approach ignores research and the experience of practitioners, as well as the voice of hapu and iwi. It’s a completely short-sighted move.
“The Minister chose to ignore the strong submissions of people who have dedicated their energy and lives to the protection of children in New Zealand with her first set of reforms. We sincerely hope she doesn’t repeat that mistake in her second Bill,” says Carmel Sepuloni.