Judge slams Child, Youth and Family for misleading information - Minister launches review
The government is launching an inquiry into how Child, Youth and Family put a three-year-old girl at risk with its unsubstantiated and unverified reports.
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said it's "really disturbing" she had been consistently given advice that a full review had been done into how CYF told the court the girl's father was violent when it was actually the boyfriend of her drug-taking mother at fault.
"It's always a bit difficult for a minister to interfere when something is before the Family Court but I have to be able to rely on (CYF's) assurances that they've done a full investigation and a full investigation means outside people having a look at what's happened and what's taken place," she said.
Radio New Zealand reported CYF told the court it was the girl's father who was violent but those reports were wrong and Family Court Judge Anthony Walsh described the reports as unsubstantiated and unverified.
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"CYF acknowledged it had provided incorrect information about the father being violent ... Understandably the misleading information distressed the father and compounded his frustration particularly with CYF," he wrote.
The delays meant it took five months for the father to get care of his daughter and he was now suing CYF for $10,000 legal costs plus to pay for therapy for his daughter.
The chief social worker would conduct the full review ordered by Tolley and would speak to a range of people including those who made the decision, gave the advice and the father.
"I was assured on a number of occasions that a full investigation had taken place but from what I can gather it's the same people taking a look at what they've done and saying, yep we've done it ok, the decisions we made were right.
"That's not a full review or independent oversight," she said.
Labour leader Andrew Little said there should be an expectation that "professionals working with families in a stressed and vulnerable situation" make every effort to get it right.
While he acknowledged mistakes can be made, he said, the father of the child had every right to be "aggrieved".
"I want to know the systems in place in MSD are so good and so robust the chances of this ever happening again are pretty remote," he said.
CYF has apologised to the father and said he could ask the Chief Executive's Advisory Panel for a review if he was not happy.
CYF sent a statement saying it would take a close look at its practice, as it always did if the Family Court raised concerns.
Prime Minister Bill English said there was a much higher lever of awareness now, which meant "people are more likely to complain if it's wrong than used to be the case".
More complaints was "healthy" because it meant the agency was more likely to get it right in future, he said.