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Lawyers: CYF needs more staff

By Beckie Wilson

[email protected]

Staff shortages at Child, Youth and Family (CYF), Masterton, are impacting on the ability to help some of the community’s most vulnerable members, according to a family court lawyer.

The office currently has three social worker vacancies, with the agency’s deputy chief executive saying they hoped to be up to full staff “in a few weeks”.

But Masterton lawyer Jessie Hunt, who represents about 50 children – 70 per cent being CYF cases – says at least 11 social workers have left the office since last October, “some of whom were in management positions”.

Ms Hunt said children were being put at risk because “there are just not enough social workers to be meeting the need”.

“Of those social workers who have left, very few of their files have been reallocated, so those files are just sitting there with no one looking at them.”

She also claimed that communication with CYF staff was extremely difficult.

In Wairarapa, there were 69 approved caregivers in September last year.

Seventy children and young people were in out-of-home placements during that time, according to CYF figures.

CYF deputy chief executive Murray Edridge said the service was working through a recruitment process and as of last week had three social worker vacancies.

As of the end of January this year, the Masterton office had a total of 10 social work staff.

“We have been actively recruiting social workers in Masterton and expect to be at full capacity in a few weeks.

“We are putting in additional supports to manage the workload and induction of new staff.”

Mr Edridge expected “high standards and timeliness from our staff and we aim to achieve this across the country”.

Ms Hunt said the system was letting the most vulnerable children in our society down.

“In the meantime, I’m sitting here thinking there are children I represent that I think are in real danger and the body that is there to protect them to go and intervene is not doing anything.”

A case study

A Masterton family waited 11 months for an application to be approved for the care of three young children. Last March, a family decision was made for Peter and Liz Hing to place the three children (not their own) in the care of Mrs Hing’s uncle, Kauwi Peneha.

Mr Peneha’s application was lodged with CYF’s Masterton office the same month.

Over several months each time Mrs Hing contacted the office on Mr Peneha’s behalf, she was told the application was incomplete, “but everything had been provided to them”, she said.

Four months later Mr and Mrs Hing, who already have 11 children, were given the three children to look after while Mr Peneha was away working.

“The whole reason I took them for that week [in July] was because I didn’t want them passed from house to house,” Mrs Hing said.
However, the three children ended up in their care for about six months, as they were approved temporary CYF caregivers.
“The thing they have cited to me is that they’re understaffed.

“The other thing is that obviously, they had a burgeoning case load, but at the end of the day those things can’t be acceptable when you’re dealing with at-risk children.”

Mr Peneha’s caregiver application was approved in early February.


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