Faces of Innocents: Planned 'Ministry for Vulnerable Children' labelled "stigmatising" and "cripplingly disappointing"
A planned 'Ministry for Vulnerable Children' has been criticised as "stigmatising" and labelled "cripplingly disappointing". Katie Kenny reports for the Faces of Innocents series.
A week into his new role as Children's Commissioner, Andrew Becroft described the mooted name for CYF's replacement "cripplingly disappointing".
Child Youth and Family (CYF) is being shut down and will be completely replaced by a new agency by April next year.
While "Ministry for Vulnerable Children" is expected to be the new name for the department, this has not been finalised by Cabinet.
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"I understand no decision has been made but regarding the name mentioned [Ministry for Vulnerable Children] ... the response from me and the office and indeed most of the sector that I've spoken to is entirely negative," Becroft said.
"That name's been greeted with great disappointment."
Although the department would be dealing with "the most challenging and problematic" it would be counterproductive to stigmatise them as "vulnerable".
"Surely it would be better to have a name that is more visionary and hopeful and positive that doesn't talk about the problem now but looks forward to the future.
"A name that spoke clearly of the transformation that will take place."
Labour's spokeswoman on children Jacinda Ardern, who has called for a Ministry for Children, said labelling kids "vulnerable" was "stigmatising".
"This latest move continues to narrow the parameters further for those who need support, and risks letting children fall through the gap," Ardern said.
"Surely the reason for replacing CYF was that things needed to be done differently. This already suggests the overhaul is not going to be as bold as it could be."
Police Deputy Commissioner Viv Rickard previously spent two years at the Ministry of Social Development, including nine months as CYF deputy chief executive.
Rickard said the new agency represented "a rare opportunity to change the way we do things for the better of children".
"I've been in police for most of my life and our primary strategy is prevention first," Rickard said.
"Part of what I brought to MSD is, actually, we need to get in earlier, not just when it's at crisis point. Particularly between ages 0-5, that's where the key investment must be."
Despite its failings, CYF copped an unfair amount of blame, Rickard said.
"If you walk in the shoes of some of those social workers ... they're holding complicated cases, working long hours, and often not getting acknowledgement for that. You can't keep jumping on them when things go wrong."
While the number of social workers was unlikely to fall in the new agency, "the way we're structured and set up to support the new model will change".
"There will be some people who have to apply for roles but invariably the vast majority of good people, if they care about preventing harm and looking after children and are passionate and professional, there will be a role for them in the new agency, I'm sure."
It was up to all New Zealanders to get involved in the issue, he said.
"The first thing I would like us to do is look in the mirror and ask, 'What can I do better to keep the children in my family, my wider family, safe?' ...
"Don't turn up at a child's tangi and cry about it, turn up before that and actually help bring up the child and keep them safe."