New Zealand Labour Party

CYF report should only be the start of reforms

If the Government is truly determined to protect our most vulnerable children recommendations in a report into Child, Youth and Family need to be backed up with proper resourcing, Labour’s Spokesperson for Children Jacinda Ardern says.

“The independent panel tasked with overhauling our child protection agency has come up with some useful solutions, but they will only succeed if the Government pays more than lip service to early intervention.

“We supported the Government undertaking this work, and there are certainly elements we support. Labour has long advocated for a Children’s Ministry, which is what the new entity talked about in the report should become.

“The recommendation that the age of care be lifted is particularly welcome. Alongside groups like Lifewise and the Dingwall Trust, we have campaigned for this change for years and are delighted the panel has taken that on board.

“However it should have gone hand in hand with raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction. Anne Tolley says only that it will be investigated.

“The proposals contained in the report are long overdue, and the introduction of a youth advocacy service is also welcome.

“The devil, as always, will be in the detail and in whether the funding and resourcing goes to where it’s most needed – early intervention. The last estimate of the cost of child abuse and neglect in New Zealand came in at $2 billion per annum. That is surely evidence of the need to invest early.

“The Government’s response has left plenty of wriggle room. Talk of funding reallocation in the future raises some major flags – taking from other areas, such as health where there is already significant underfunding, is playing with fire.

“Ultimately we need an approach that doesn’t mean children reaching a threshold of harm before someone suddenly shows up on a family’s door step.

"A huge amount of work has gone into this report, and as a party we will continue to offer to work with the Government to reduce child harm. But that will never be achieved by shuffling stretched budgets,” Jacinda Ardern says.