The Ministry of Social Development is sitting on a ticking time bomb with Child, Youth and Family out of pocket by $56 million despite increased demand for its services, Labour’s Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.
“The new entity that’s replacing CYF is supposed to be in place by the end of March 2017. Its core focus will be on prevention, intensive intervention, care support, youth justice and transition support.
“Yet responses to estimates questions show CYF on the brink of falling into the red. Asked if the budget process identified any cost pressures that were not addressed this year, MSD’s response was a clear ‘yes’.
“By their own admission, ‘funding to provide for ongoing CYF cost pressures associated with policy changes, inflationary pressures on personnel costs and increasing client demand’ has only been partially funded.
“The estimated shortfall, into 2019/20, is a staggering $56.1 million
“Add to that unfunded remuneration costs of $109 million and it's blatantly obvious the Government is not even funding ‘business as usual’ for CYF.
“That is not only reckless, it's dangerous, and reflected in the fact MSD is not filling frontline vacancies, despite the loss of 121 social workers across the country since June 2010.
“Outgoing Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills has already highlighted major concerns with the transition, warning of a need for a practical child-centred plan in the face of this upheaval.
"In light of these latest revelations it’s difficult not to assume his warnings have fallen on deaf ears.
“Anne Tolley sold the CYF restructure as the defining step towards a Ministry for Children. She cannot hide that she has a department on the brink simply by giving it a different name.
“We have children that need support now, and social workers are needed to provide it,” Jacinda Ardern says.