Minister: State May Need Tougher Line on Contraception to Certain Families.
Appearing on TVOne’s Q+A programme this morning [27/9], Social Development minister Anne Tolley would not rule out more
actively trying to limit or prevent births to families which have come to the attention of authorities.
She said while it would be a tough line for the State to take, the panel looking at restructuring Child Youth and
Families (CYF) may come back with strong recommendations along those lines.
“Well, we’ll wait and see what the panel report. I expect that they’ll be saying, ‘We should get much, much faster
contraceptive advice in. We should be offering, you know, tubal ligations, all sorts of things and counselling those
families’,” she said.
She said it was a huge step for the State to take – but that New Zealanders may need to have the conversation about such
The Minister is expecting to receive a final report from her advisory panel in December, with changes to CYF starting
Q+A, 9-10am Sundays on TV ONE and one hour later on TV ONE plus 1. Repeated Sunday evening at 11:35pm. Streamed live at www.tvnz.co.nz
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Q + A
Interviewed by MICHAEL PARKIN
MICHAEL Good morning, Minister. Are there children out there now in the protection of the state that they are failing to
be looked after?
ANNE Well, I think they’re being looked after. The question is what are the outcomes for those children? So when you
look at it, and we’ve got the details from the panel which has reported the outcomes from a particular cohort. 90% of
them ending up on a benefit. 25% of them with a child on a benefit. 80% of them not achieving NCEA Level 2. So the
outcomes for those children are not good, and it’s not good for the state. The state isn’t a good parent.
MICHAEL Yeah. So if the state’s not a good parent, then should it get out of trying to be a parent for these people?
ANNE Well, the reality is that many of these children have been abused in their home life, and they need someone to
step in and look after them and make sure that they do get a better life.
MICHAEL Would that be a profit-making company, then, rather than the state? Is there scope for them to come in and-?
ANNEI don’t think that we want to go anywhere near that, and I have tried to make that very clear. For anyone to step in and
take a child out of their biological family, it can only be the state that does that.
MICHAEL What about social bonds? Is that something you would look at?
ANNE I just don’t think- Look, these are children’s lives we are dealing with. I just don’t think that we should be
experimenting with that. Certainly we contract now for a whole lot of providers. So people like Barnados, the Salvation
Army. There’s a myriad of contracts. About $81 million a year Child, Youth and Family contracts with mainly NGOs for
services. I can’t see that changing. We might want to see some private providers of services. For instance,
psychological services and therapeutic services. That sort of thing.
MICHAEL So what sort of benchmarks would they be working to, then, given they have that private interest?
ANNEIt has to be based on the outcomes for the kids. We’ve got to be looking at getting better results for those kids. They
are traumatised. We want to know that they are safe, and we want to know that they are living better lives.
MICHAEL You are talking about a ground-up overhaul of CYFs here. Does that mean disbanding the brand, doing away with
that agency and starting again with something completely new that nobody’s ever heard of?
ANNEWell, I think what the panel is proposing is that we take the whole system to pieces and we rebuild it based on the
needs of the children.
MICHAEL But is there so much bad blood with CYF? Even that name has so much negativity associated with it. Do we need to
get rid of that?
ANNELook, I don’t know. That will come in the final report that they bring to me in December with the costings. But what I
do know is that this is the first time that we have proposed actually taking the whole system apart and rebuilding it
from the ground up.
MICHAEL You were pretty critical when you spoke to this Fostering Kids conference in the week, and you said, ‘You know
better than most the vagaries of a system that prioritises administration and transaction over the needs of children.’
Are you saying, though, CYF workers, that they don’t put children at the heart of what they’re doing?
ANNE The system doesn’t allow them to do it, and when you talk to those front line social workers, they are as
frustrated as anyone else that they don’t get the opportunity to spend the time with those children. They know they
should be out there keeping a close eye on them, supporting the caregivers, supporting the children. But the system
itself demands over 50% of their time spent in administrative tasks.
MICHAEL That comes from the top down, then, doesn’t it? So are we going to see some senior managers of CYF go as a
result of this?
ANNE Well, I think we’re going to see a change in the management. Well, I certainly- That’s beyond my care. That’s an
operational issue for the chief executive.
MICHAEL But are there senior people there that need to go that are just too old school, they’ve had too long to get this
right and they’ve failed to do so?
ANNE I can’t get involved in the operational aspects of management, but I certainly think - and the report makes it
very clear - that they do need a different mix of skills in management. There’s a lack of strategic overview, there’s a
lack of strategic planning. For instance, there’s no national strategy for attracting and retaining caregivers and
foster parents. That just seems ridiculous.
MICHAEL So you get this panel, and they’ll come back to you in December. What’s going to happen then after they rip
through this agency?
ANNE So then I have to take that through Cabinet early next year. I’ve asked them. There will be significant
legislative changes that we’ll have to put through the house, and then what I’m looking at- So that’s the end, the
panel’s responsibility finished. What I’m looking at then to make sure that the changes- Because in the previous
restructuring, not all the recommendations have been put in place. So I think we need probably a newly constituted panel
independent to oversee those changes, and I will be talking to Cabinet about that. I’ve already talked to Paula Rebstock
MICHAELAnd is that going to be enough to save the children who are in the system at the moment? Or do we have to accept some of
them are going to come out of this the wrong way?
ANNE No, we are making changes. I’ve said this is a multi-year programme. They will be prioritising some of the parts
of the system in order to get better oversight of what’s happened-
MICHAEL And so how quickly can we get to a point where children in the system now will be better off than they are
ANNE I think, from the system’s sake, I’ve said we’re not going to do a patch-up job to react to a crisis, which is
the history of CYF. We are going to do this properly, but there are some things that we can do, and we have already
started implementing far more monitoring of what happens to children rather than waiting for a renotification.
MICHAEL But it will be years rather than months before these-
ANNEIt will be years, unfortunately. So we’ve got to do the best that we can for the children that are in the system now,
and we’ve got to have a system that makes sure that we intervene earlier and more effectively in children’s lives. So
what the panel’s report showed us is that a great deal of the work and the increase in emotional abuse has almost been
caused by the system itself. They come to our attention at age 2 or 3. We churn them through the system until they’re
about 8 or 9, and by that time, they are severely traumatised
MICHAEL So the 23% that get re-abused when they go back to their parents, the 10% that go back to a family member get
re-abused. It’s a lot less when they’re not going back to whanau, isn’t it? How much of a difference is there?
ANNE So, it’s 1%. The 2010 report showed 1% with completely non kin.
MICHAEL So is it time to stop them going back to families?
ANNEWell, I think the good thing is that about 75% of them don’t get re-abused when they go back to family.
MICHAEL But compared to 1%, it’s a bit of a no-brainer, then, isn’t it?
ANNESo we do have to look at whose agendas- I think we have to have that discussion about who comes first. For me, I’m
absolutely on the side of the child. Their needs have to come first.
MICHAEL So would you stop them going with families? Would you send them into more residential facilities?
ANNE No, I don’t think we want to do that. What we want are more New Zealanders stepping forward to say, ‘We are happy to
work with these children, take them into our homes.’ The children say themselves they want that first placement to be
the best placement. We want our links with our family. Too many of these children are Maori. Many of them want to
maintain their links. They want to have their whakapapa recognised.
MICHAEL But they’ve failed to do that.
ANNE But that’s not necessarily living with their families.
MICHAEL You talk about early intervention a lot here. Isn’t obviously the most early form of intervention stopping some
people from having children or having more children?
ANNE Well, that’s very difficult for the state to do. I certainly think we should be providing more family planning,
more contraceptive advice to some of the families that we know who are- I mean, I know of cases that CYF have taken the
sixth and seventh baby from. The question I’ve asked is, ‘So what advice now is going into that parent?’
MICHAELHow could you stop them from having baby three and four, because you know that they are going to fail at it.
ANNE Yes, yes, that’s exactly right.
MICHAEL If you were really tough about these things, that’s what you’d do, though, isn’t it?
ANNE Well, we’ll wait and see what the recommendations are. That’s a conversation that New Zealanders, perhaps, need
MICHAELCould that be the result of this?
ANNE Well, that’s a big step when the state starts telling people- you know, deciding that, ‘You can have another
child, and you can’t.’ And that’s a huge step for the state to take.
MICHAELBut you’re not ruling that out being part of the next report that comes to you?
ANNE Well, we’ll wait and see what the panel report. I expect that they’ll be saying, ‘We should get much, much
faster contraceptive advice in. We should be offering, you know, tubal ligations, all sorts of things and counselling
MICHAEL A lot of the children that go into care are going into families – 42% are on a benefit.
MICHAEL Is it time to stop that practice as well? Should people on benefits not be able to take in these kids, or should
there be some sort of means testing around that system?
ANNE I think- I don’t think means test. I mean in some cases, it’s unfortunate if the family are on a benefit. I
think too many are going in to homes-
MICHAEL So we should just stop beneficiaries from taking part?
ANNENo, I think that’s a step too far, but I think we should be very careful when we place a child into a family that’s
already under financial stress. It’s very hard to manage on a benefit. And the outcomes for the kids that we know in
homes of long-term beneficiaries are not great either, so we’re, sort of, compounding the problem. We do need more New
Zealanders to step up and open their homes, and we saw an outpouring. New Zealanders are very generous people. We saw
that outpouring over the Syrian refuges, but we’ve got children here that, you know, need some loving homes, and they
need other people in New Zealand communities to take some responsibility for them.
MICHAEL Minister, we’ll have to leave it there. We’ll talk to you in December, no doubt. Thank you very much for your
ANNEThank you, Michael.