Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Child Youth And Family Staff Told They Are The Minister's 'Servants'

Can you imagine receiving this email prior to a visit by your top boss?
"It is not appropriate for staff to pour their hearts and souls out to the minister. "This is a formal visit and she is not your 'friend'. It's a bit like the relationship between a servant and a master, ie the servant knows their place. She should not be presented with the woes of the office, or lack of resources, or anything like that."
This is what the staff of Kaitaia's Child, Youth and Family (CYF) office were allegedly presented with a day before a visit by Paula Bennett the Social Development minister (Ms Bennett is the minister who recently released private details of two single mothers' benefit payments)

It is alleged the instructions were detailed in an email from a manager within CFY and were copied to Annette King, deputy leader of the Labour party.

It makes one wonder how the minister can ever stand a chance of forming an accurate impression of CFYs if the employees are gagged like this. Is restricting information and workplace bullying endemic in NZ workplaces?

Some will remember the long running stoush ACC has been embroiled in over its "bullying culture", excessive workloads and "dictatorial management approach."
Immigration NZ was also criticised by the Auditor General for being a "siloed organisation" where people didn't talk to each other, with "poor management practices". Staff were let down by a "dysfunctional organisation" and didn't feel that it was an "environment in which they can raise concerns further up the chain."

The evidence isn't looking good.

Annette King has her concerns too about CFY too:
"Ms King said there were wider problems of the Government blocking information and communication and said she was frustrated by poor responses to written questions and Official Information Act requests. She had also struggled to get permission to visit CYF offices."
In March Family First issued a press release stating that CYF was "failing miserably" and called for an independent CYF complaints authority:
"Family First NZ says that figures obtained from the Ministry of Social Development under the Official Information Act show that the CYF Complaints Authority is failing its job, that the Ministry has done virtually nothing to make people aware of its existence, and that CYF remains unaccountable.

According to the previous Minister for Social Development and Employment Ruth Dyson in response to our request for information last year, a pitiful $14,000 had been spent on brochures and some posters for distribution around CYF offices to advertise the Complaints Authority, and no additional training has been given to frontline staff in terms of referring clients to the Authority.

And the Ministry of Social Development has informed Family First this week that only three written complaints have been made since the Authority was established in July 2008.

“Family First is being regularly contacted by families who claim to have been unfairly treated by CYF social workers - yet they have no independent body to appeal to,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. “Their only option is a costly court process where CYFS have an unlimited pool of resources to defend its actions, courtesy of the taxpayer.”

“This is grossly unfair when families are being ripped apart, often just based on the subjective judgment of a social worker. The recent response to the CYFSWatch website shows just how deep-seated the concern is.”

“An independent CYF Complaints Authority is in the best interests of the social workers,” says Mr McCoskrie, “as it will provide an independent body to ensure that appropriate policy and procedures have been followed. This will result in public confidence and accountability for actions and decisions by CYF workers.”

“There is a Health and Disability Commissioner, a Police Complaints Authority, even a Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal. We desperately need an independent body to hear complaints about the highly sensitive nature of intervening in families.”

“The Advisory Panel being adopted by the Ministry of Social Development has the inherent flaw of not being independent, and the Chief Executive still has the final decision as to the success of the complaint. This is unacceptable.”

Family First calls on all MP’s, the majority who will have received anecdotal evidence of claims of unfair treatment by CYFS, to support the urgent establishment of an independent CYF Complaint Authority." Link

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