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CYF to be radically overhauled

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 6/04/2016
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The age of state care will be raised to 18 and the government is considering offering transitional support to vulnerable young people up until the age of 25 as part of a complete overhaul of Child, Youth and Family.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has announced a raft of reforms to the state's child protection agency in response to the final report from the expert panel charged with coming up with a new system.

"The whole system needs to be transformed if we are to give these young people the protection and life opportunities they deserve," Ms Tolley said in Wellington on Thursday.

Cabinet has already agreed to the major reforms and Ms Tolley wants the new system in place by the end of March next year.

The new CYF model will be "completely child-centred" and focus on five core services: prevention, intensive intervention, care support services, transition support and a youth justice service aimed at preventing reoffending.

"Instead of simply reacting to a crisis, it will focus on harm prevention and ensuring these young people go on to lead successful lives," Ms Tolley said.

The age of state care will be raised from 17 to 18, with proposed legislation to go before parliament this year.

The government will then look at options to provide transitional support for those who need it up until the age of 25.

"We cannot give up on these young people so soon. Because of early trauma they often need a bit more time to catch up with education and social development," Ms Tolley said.

"If they need some kind of support to go on to lead successful lives then we need to look at how that could be provided."

The expert panel's damning interim report, released in September last year, said CYF was failing to provide vulnerable children with the support they needed.

Ms Tolley set up the expert review panel, chaired by high-profile public servant Paula Rebstock, in April last year.

Since 1988 various reviews have led to 14 restructures of the agency.

THE SORRY STATE OF CHILDREN IN STATE CARE

* 64 per cent of the 61,000 children notified to CYF in 2014 had previously come to CYF's attention

* Average age of children placed with a care family is 7 to 8 years old. They have already had an average of 7-8 care placements by this stage

* A study found that by the age of 21, of the children who had been in care who were born in the 12 months to June 1991: almost 90 per cent are on a benefit, about 25 per cent are on a benefit with a child, almost 80 per cent don't have NCEA Level 2, more than 30 per cent have had a youth justice referral by age 18, almost 20 per cent have served prison time, almost 40 per cent have had a community sentence

* Fewer than 25 per cent of CYF staff work directly with children in need of care and protection

* Fewer than 1 per cent of staff have a dedicated professional support role, e.g. psychologists and therapists

KEY PARTS OF THE CYF OVERHAUL

* A completely new operating model for Child, Youth and Family to be in place by the end of March 2017

* New model will be child-centred, with a greater focus on harm and trauma prevention and early intervention - rather than responding to crises

* Children will have a greater say in decisions being made about them

* Age of state care to be raised to 18, government to consider options for providing support to the age of 25

* Independent youth advocacy service to be created

* New model developed to identify the best way of targeting early interventions so vulnerable children receive the care and support they need, when they need it

* Funding will follow the child - will ensure they get access to health, education, trauma and counselling support quickly

* Focus on reducing number of Maori young people in the system - currently running at 60 per cent * Greater support for caregivers

* Contingency fund to be allocated in Budget 2016 - exact cost of reforms yet to be confirmed and will be funded in Budget 2017

* 81 recommendations from expert review panel

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