Scheme targets CYF kids in need

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 05/11/2012

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A new scheme to assess the needs of children going into state care has found more than half have emotional, behavioural and mental health concerns.

The Government said last year that it would invest more than $15.3 million in "gateway assessments" - a joint project between Child, Youth and Family (CYF) and the health and education ministries.

The programme, which is expected to be rolled out around the country by the end of the year, aims to identify and respond to the health and educational needs of children going into CYF care.

It is open to referrals for those already in care or those identified in a family group conference as potentially benefiting from an assessment.

In Canterbury, about 30 children had been assessed since the programme started in July and all were found to have multiple needs, Christchurch Gateway co-ordinator Linda Stokes said.

Another 457 children were expected to be referred during the next year.

Nationally, about 28 per cent of those who had been assessed needed dental care, 18 per cent had hearing concerns and 15 per cent had problems with speech and language.

Emotional, behavioural and mental health concerns affected more than half of the children and young people. Most referrals were for child ren aged between 6 and 13.

Stokes said many of the children involved had spent limited time at school or had moved around a lot, meaning it was difficult for a teacher or social worker to get information about what their needs were.

"[Gateway] gives them facts on how to move forward with these children," she said.

Canterbury District Health Board child-protection co-ordinator Susan Miles said the assessments, which were done with the permission of parents, would "make a really huge difference" for vulnerable children.

CYF Canterbury senior adviser Kellie Blyth said the programme was working well. "We see the children in care as our very vulnerable children . . . [we] certainly want to improve their access to health and education services, and we see that Gateway's done this for us."

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