The record number of children in Child, Youth, and Family (CYF) care shows large problems in the social fabric of New Zealand, the Green Party said today.
The number of children and young people in CYF custody has increased from 5,159 to 5,453, according to new figures released.
“All of our children deserve a fair go. But the record number of kids in CYF care shows we are going the wrong way. CYF is having to pick up the pieces of a society that is really struggling to get by, and our children are suffering as a result,” Green Party social development spokesperson Jan Logie said.
“We like to think Aotearoa is a great place to raise children, but is it a great place to be a child?
“The Government indicated an expected increase of children in care as a result of proposed CYF reforms. It is concerning that, despite notifications to CYF going down, there is still more children in care.
“I hope that more children in CYF care isn't a pre-empting of the Government’s intended law changes at CYF.
“Tamariki Māori need these reforms to work, and throughout the Select Committee process we have repeatedly heard from Māori leaders that the Government needs to go back to the drawing board with their plans for CYFs. Tamariki Māori in care have increased from 3,083 up to 3,354, an increase of 8.1 percent.
“There needs to be public trust in the changes being made. There needs to be partnership with iwi. The community organisations that are key to CYF success need to be on board. The Children’s Commissioner needs to be able to identify and respond to safety concerns. I can’t see that the Minister has done any of this.
“We haven't seen evidence that the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children - Tamariki Oranga has the resources and funding to deal with existing caseloads properly let alone increased numbers of children in care.
“Rather than simply accepting the huge and growing inequality in our society, we need to urgently address it.
“A more divided and unequal society is not good for any of us. New Zealand can, and should, be a place where everyone gets the chances they need to succeed, and where we are all able to work together to create a great country.
“In addition, National has cut 10 youth justice beds since 2014, despite there clearly being a need for more beds.
“It is shameful that New Zealand is now commonly locking children up in police cells because of a lack of beds in CYFs facilities. Police cells are not appropriate places to keep young people. We are treating young people worse than we would an adult,” Ms Logie said