Parliament expected to raise age of state care to 18, by year's end

Social Development Minister has introduced the first piece of legislation in relation to a major overhaul of CYF.
KEVIN STENT / FAIRFAX NZ

Social Development Minister has introduced the first piece of legislation in relation to a major overhaul of CYF.

Legislation to raise the age of state care to 18 has been introduced to Parliament, and a replacement for embattled state carer Child, Youth and Family is to be in place by March. 

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has set in motion the first stage of major reforms to overhaul CYF, with the introduction of a new bill that will also give a legal voice to children in decisions made about their own care.

The Children, Young Persons and Their Families (Advocacy, Workforce, and Age Settings) Amendment Bill will also establish an independent Youth Advocacy Service and widen the net of professionals who can work with certain children. 

The plan to overhaul CYF stems from two reports from a high-powered panel, appointed by Tolley last year, to investigate every facet of the state care system. 

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The panel, led by senior civil servant Dame Paula Rebstock, called for wholesale changes to the way the Government looks after New Zealand's most vulnerable. 

That included a brand new agency to replace CYF, and a law change to allow vulnerable children to remain in care until they are at least 18, with the option to remain fully in care until they are 21.

CYF children will also be able to choose whether they keep support services until they are 25. Currently they lose all support they day they turn 17.

But legislation introduced on Wednesday, only focused on raising the minimum age. Tolley said work was still being carried out to legislate for support beyond that. 

The Government was also still considering raising the youth justice age to 18, to match. According to the Ministry of Social Development, advice on that was due back by the end of June. 

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"Budget 2016 invested $347.8 million for care and protection, including $200 million to support the transformation of the system to one which supports the long-term well-being of vulnerable young people all the way through to adulthood," said Tolley.

"The government is determined to make a difference in the lives of young people who come into contact with state care."

Many of the panel's recommendations were still under consideration by the Government. That included forming a separate Ministry of Children and establish "standards of care" for carers and foster parents. 

Later this year, the Ministry was also expected to report back to Cabinet the results of a review of funding for the Office of the Children's Commissioner, who received no additional funds in the latest budget. 

The Commissioner's funding has been frozen at $2.1m for the past 

 - Stuff

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