Report: Admin over children at CYF

Last updated 13:57 27/05/2014

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Child Youth and Family (CYF) social workers spend only a quarter of their time speaking with the children they're charged with protecting, a report says.

The Ministry of Social Development today released the findings of the Workload and Casework Review, commissioned last year by chief executive Brendan Boyle, and carried out by the Office of the Chief Social Worker.

It found frontline social workers did not have enough time or resources to manage their caseloads properly.

"Put simply, we've found that some of our social workers have too much on their plates, and this has gotten in the way of the most important part of their work - spending time with children and families," Boyle said.

"Social workers do a very tough job - one of the toughest in the country - and they deserve our support and praise.

The findings from this review will make it easier for them to do what they do best."

The report recommended a full ministry-wide update to better define CYF's operational mandate.

"The current broad understanding of Child, Youth and Family's role in care and protection means it is assessing referrals that either don't warrant statutory intervention, or require a response outside of or in addition to what Child, Youth and Family should provide," the report said.

It also called for an increase to the number of frontline social workers and full IT system replacement.

The review found many sites struggled to cover for absent or seconded social workers. The extra work was often picked up by a supervisor or by colleagues who were already fully laden.

"This means not only does Child, Youth and Family need to change its behaviour, but also any agency coming into contact with children, across both government and non-government sectors, need to rethink their support for vulnerable children," it said.

It was found that on average, social workers spent nearly 50 per cent of their time on documentation, administration, travel and escorting.

Only 25 per cent of their time was spent communicating with children or young people and their families.

Work was already under way to alleviate the pressure on those with caseloads that were deemed unmanageable, Boyle said. A ministry-wide modernisation project would also reduce the amount of time social workers spent on reporting and administration.

"Over the past six years, we've seen a six-fold increase in notifications into Child, Youth and Family, and our social workers have done a tremendous job responding to them," Boyle said.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett last week announced the establishment of children's teams throughout the country, designed to help vulnerable families before they got to a point where CYF should become involved.

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Legislation was also before Parliament to make chief executives of government departments, such as health and education, accountable for children's wellbeing.

Bennett said she welcomed the report, which was "one of the most in-depth pieces of work" she'd seen on the department.

"It means we can have a really honest view about where we're at, where we're going and what we need to do next," she said.

"So I applaud the department and I think that they've done a great job with it."

Bennett confirmed more social workers would be needed, but considerable discussion had to be held first.

"It certainly raises a number of issues for us, and certainly around the recommendations I think that yes, they will need more social workers," she said.

"We just need to make sure that we're getting the right ones for the right caseloads and for the right place. So the chief executive has said he's going to go away and do a bit more work on that."

Bennett said she understood a restructure, which was undertaken at the department in 2009, did not affect the administrative demands placed on social workers.

"It was only a very minor restructure and in fact, what I would argue is we've got far too many in that middle management, and not enough frontline social workers - and this report certainly says it."

- Stuff

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