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Social service agencies wary of sharing CYFS workload

By Simon Collins NZ Herald

Some social service agencies say they will refuse to “prostitute” themselves by taking part in a plan to farm out possibly around half the children notified to Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS).

The controversial plan, due to go before the new Parliament, is designed to help CYFS cope with an increase in notifications of suspected child abuse and neglect in the wake of recent high-profile tragedies.

Some agencies welcomed the plan at a conference in Auckland of the Association of Child and Family Support and Community Services.

But the director of Catholic Family Support Services in Hamilton, Carole Fleming, said she was “frightened” to see agencies accepting CYFS cases just because they needed the money.

“At a hui of the providers in Wellington in July, the overriding agenda people had was solely money,” she said. “Our organisation made a conscious decision not to pick it up. We declined to contract. The term ‘prostituting ourselves’ was applied.

“We were being asked to undertake assessments, but our strengths are in support, and it seemed strange to us that money was being made available to provide assessments and investigations.”

Quentin Jukes of the Warkworth agency Homebuilders said his group would also refuse to do CYFS assessments because it believed in working alongside families as equals, not threatening to take children away from them as CYFS did.

He noted that a CYFS speaker at the conference had confirmed that private sector companies, as well as non-profit agencies, would be eligible to take on CYFS investigations.

“We are seeing the opening of the door to privatisation,” he said.

“My prediction is that in two years’ time, as demand management gets going and there is a real shortage of workers in our sector, people are going to be leaving CYFS and setting up private companies and coming back in and doing that work.”

CYFS chief executive Paula Tyler denied reports that 60 per cent of notifications would be farmed out to community agencies under the new plan.