Red Alert

Archive for the ‘children’ Category

Gifted Awareness Week

Posted by on June 19th, 2013

Our education system should be focused on ensuring that all New Zealanders, no matter where they are from or what their background, have the opportunity to fulfill their potential in life. Inherent in that goal is a recognition that everyone is different, we all learn at different rates and in different ways, and we all have different strengths and challenges.

This week is Gifted Awareness Week. It’s a time when we recognise that failure to extend and challenge really bright kids is just as much of a tragedy as failure to lift the educational achievement of those at the lower end of the educational statistics. Gifted kids who are bored through lack of challenge and stimulation are just as likely to become disengaged from education as those who struggle to keep up.

Last year as part of Gifted Awareness Week I had the chance to visit the Wellington Library and play chess with some fantastic young people. Sadly, funding for the programme that supports them has been withdrawn by the present government. It wasn’t a lot of money in the first place, but that decision speaks volumes about the current government’s priorities.

The current National government are obsessed with ‘standardising’ the education system. They measure the success of the system by whether or not all kids are jumping the same hurdles at the same time. In a ‘standardised’ system, a lot of attention gets focused on those students who are at or just below the standard, while those who are falling a long way behind, and likewise those who are already excelling, often get over-looked.

What we should be doing is treating every child as the unique individual that they are. We should be asking what they’re good at, what they’re struggling with, and how we can best support them to reach their full potential. That will be the focus of the next Labour government.

Cartoons irresponsible and racist

Posted by on May 31st, 2013

 I believe the two cartoons in the Christchurch Press and the Marlborough Express were a clumsy and objectionable attempt to draw attention and raise debate about an important issue.  The approach taken is indefensible and potentially damaging.

 The cartoon depicts two stereotypes.  The first is that those who access food in schools have the financial resources to feed their children but would rather spend the money on gambling, smoking, booze and a lavish life style.  While there may be some people who fall in this category there are many who don’t and who just simply can’t make ends meet either on a low income or on a benefit.  These depictions refuse to accept that. The second is that most of those who fall in this category are brown, overweight and irresponsible.

 Like all stereotypes the depictions malign those parents who access food in schools most of whom the cartoons depict as Māori and Pacific Islanders.  Therefore they are offensive.  The defence that the cartoons depict people of different ethnic background is just plain unbelievable.  The figures are overwhelmingly brown and overweight, gamble, smoke, drink and have a flash lifestyle.

 If the cartoonist’s message was that in New Zealand everyone should be able to feed their children because we are a welfare state, he failed miserably in getting that across.  Rather the cartoons accidentally or deliberately discount the fact that for whatever reason a good number of children live in poverty and they come to school hungry and in no position to take advantage of the education offered.  Any perspective that had an understanding of the needs of children would not depict the programme to feed our hungry children in this way. 

 The alternative surely can’t be to let the children go hungry or take them away from their parents?  Neither option is realistic and shows little appreciation of the real financial pressures on many families who are not in work or who are in poorly paid jobs.

 The second stereotype is even more troubling.  Some would say it incites racial disharmony.  It certainly does not assist positive race relations.  If the cartoons had asked people to take negative action on the parents, who it believes are brown, it would have breached the Human Rights Act for inciting racial disharmony.  As such it would have led to the commencement of the process of mediation and even eventual prosecution.  I accept that it does not reach that threshold.

 The cartoonist does have a responsibility to present issues fairly.  Satire is fine but there is a fine line.  There are many complex issues behind child poverty.  The cartoons should also show an appreciation of the impact of the depictions on minority ethnic groups.  Instead they trivialise these two issues and as such the two papers ought to print a retraction.  The Race Relations Commissioner should also take a much stronger line to discredit this approach and to caution cartonists who periodically stay into this style.

 Dr Rajen Prasad MP



Parliament A Unique Workplace – Can Be Better

Posted by on May 21st, 2013

Have you ever noticed how some women just seem to have it all sorted? I didn’t realise how multi-talented women really were until I became a mum.

Since the birth of my third child I have appreciated my mother even more, admired other mothers tremendously and realised not only do I have a passion to make a difference in the lives of others, I want to be a good mum.

There are a number of conversations you start having by virtue of carrying out ‘mummy’ duties. Breastfeeding in public places can be as political as protesting or standing on the picket-line. Some people frown, or turn away and look a bit embarrassed and others give a reassuring smile as if to say ‘Good on You!’

Women share quite openly their experiences of Breastfeeding, when they made the choice to go back to work, how to manage illness when the whole family catches a bug, coping with the pressure of achieving work-life balance. This world of conversation can be as foreign to some people as a different language but it’s a perspective into which I have now been inducted.

The fact remains women who choose to Breastfeeding are doing so because they want their children to have the best possible start in life. And we shouldn’t assume that all  women who bottle feed didn’t try to breast-feed. It’s not easy business persevering with the right latch and getting the timing right, expressing, producing milk like a well run factory. It can be hard and I support every mum who makes the best choices she can to provide a healthy loving environment for bubs.

Returning to work is a decision that causes a whole heap of stress. If I had a dollar for every moment that I questioned myself on this single issue, there would be a tidy sum put away.

I have heard horror stories of women who returned to work with no consideration about their change in circumstances but I must say that they are the exception not the rule. New Zealand has come along way. We can chalk up many gains for women starting with the first country to give women the right to vote. Progressive change towards family friendly workplaces is considered a requirement for the modern labour market, improving productivity, overall job satisfaction and loyalty of employees.

Labour’s introduction of the Paid Parental Leave entitlement for 14 weeks sought to recognise that there is no greater job than that of being a parent. Sue Moroney’s Bill proposing to extend that leave to 26 weeks is a step in the right direction. Sadly though not surprisingly the Government is seeking to Veto the move, the fact that its on the radar of many families around the country will build momentum and it certainly ‘an idea whose time has come’.

Employers in each workplace should be encouraged to consider what level of flexibility is reasonable and achievable according to their circumstances. In Parliament, if you have the privilege of serving as an MP there are some important obligations that must be met to achieve the required outcomes of the role. But we must remember that MPs have working conditions, hours, workplaces and performance indicators that are very unique.

Our job requires a lot of travel, a high level of public interaction,   long hours sitting in Parliament, long meetings, more travel, advocacy and community work, and regular weekend obligations. The performance measures are peculiar consisting of re-election, public visibility, media profile, performance in the House and attendance in Parliament. It’s no wonder that many women get turned off by the whole scene. The whole idea of having children while serving as an MP can be even more daunting.

The short answer is that many women in our Parliament have done this in stoic fashion Ruth Richardson, Whetu Tirikatene and Katherine Rich all had their children while serving as MPs. They for me are examples that it is possible. Politics aside (for a moment) each one made progressive and subtle changes to the Parliamentary environment to accommodate their needs and those serving after them have benefitted.

My call is simple. Consideration of leave provisions for nursing mum MPs during exceptional circumstances where Members are required to sit in the House under urgency. No mum should be required to take their child to their workplace during the evening especially if they have no care provisions. They should be able to have their vote cast in a way that preserves their ability to perform a necessary duty for the role of MP without prejudicing their Party. This is a matter for Parliament to consider.

One small baby step for Parliament would send a signal to all workplaces that working mums are an asset to the workplace not a burden and if they choose to Breastfeed, then that has to be good!

D-Day for diabetics

Posted by on December 1st, 2012

Today the government, through Pharmac, ceases to subsidise the Roche Accu-Check blood glucose meters used by 80% of NZ’s 200,000 diabetics. About 20% of diabetics use the Abbott meters and 0.5% use the Care-Sens meters. But Pharmac has chosen to give the contract for subsidised meters to the people who import the Care-Sens model, Pharmaco. All of them. One supplier. Dangerous and unnecessary. But apparently it will save $10 million!

Pharmaco is running training sessions for pharmacists, doctors and other health professionals on how to use these meters so they can teach their patients and customers how to use the new meters. They are calling them “Meet your Meter”. I am so tempted to call them “Meet your Maker” seminars but that would be too inflammatory.

Diabetics depend on these meters. They are used to identify blood glucose levels so that Type 1 diabetics know how much insulin they need to inject right now and Type 2 diabetics know how many jelly beans to consume right now. Pharmaco tendered for the contract on the basis of a meter which was inferior to the one used by most diabetics, but after an outcry from the diabetics themselves, they upgraded the meter to a comparable one.

Changing over medical devices is a risky business. Changing to a sole supplier is crazy.  They will have no competition to upgrade their product over time or provide good after sales service. Their predecessors did both of those things. Pharmaco is now working in a hostile environment. They had better be careful to get this right. Lives depend on it.

Be Careful Who You Quote

Posted by on October 25th, 2012

In a desperate bid to find a reason to oppose my bill to extend paid parental leave to 6 months, Business NZ rolled up to the select committee citing the opinion of Member of the European Parliament as evidence that employers in NZ might stop employing women of “child-bearing” age.

“Absurd legislation such as this closes the door on opportunities for young women and consigns them to a role as second class citizens, trapped at home by stupid legislators,” said the un-named MEP in Business NZs submission.

A quick google search revealed him to be Godfrey Bloom from the UK Independence Party.

Turns out, Godfrey has a lot to say about women.

“No self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age.” For example. Closely followed by:

“I just dont think (women) clean behind the fridge enough” and “I am here to represent Yorkshire women who always have dinner on the table when you get home.”

And Godfrey also has something to say about NZ. Wikipedia reports that he was filmed in 2009, congratulating the French for bombing the Rainbow Warrior.

My advise to Business NZ is simple. Don’t make assertions that denigrate both women and NZ employers and use an MEP of questionable repute to justify your position.

Its a very bad look and the issue deserves better treatment than that.

By The Numbers

Posted by on September 11th, 2012

Yes, I am trying to steal David Clark’s thunder- but I’m not the only one.
A few weeks ago at the Women’s Expo in Tauranga, the National Party had a stall.
They decided they needed a fresh idea – a “hook” to get women interacting with them.
They needed something to get attention, something that would let women know they were on their side.
Problem was, National are out of any new ideas of their own and their current policies are bad for women.

So here’s what they chose to ask the women of Tauranga about :-

“Should Waitangi Day and AnzacDay be Mondayised when they fall on a weekend.”

Expo-goers were asked to put a dot under “Yes or “No” and I have it on good authority that it was a landslide to the Yes vote.

I wonder of the Nats will now reverse their opposition to this excellent Labour Bill after this feedback from the good folk of Tauranga. Or will they continue to ignore them?

Meanwhile, around the corner, the Labour stall was promoting another excellent Labour Billl – my proposal to extend paid parental leave to 6 months which was also enjoying great support.

So, “by the numbers” when it came to great plans for the future embraced by the people of Tauranga:

Labour – 2
National – 0
Women of Tauranga thinking about Labour’s great policy ideas – Heaps!

Lack of PPL Dragging us Down

Posted by on May 10th, 2012

Our lack of paid parental leave is holding us back from being the best place in the world to raise children.
This was confirmed by the “State of the World’s Mothers” report released this week by Save the Children.
Even though we were placed fourth in their 13th annual report, its clear that our low rate of PPL was a key reason we slumped to 19th place when rated on their breastfeeding policy scorecard.
The report shows that 88% of NZ babies were breastfed at some stage, but that by 3 months that fell to just 56% and the data wasnt even available for NZ babies aged 6 months.
It is also of concern that NZ rated just 25th/44 countires on Save the Chidren’s scorecard for children living in developed countries.
I want NZ to be the best place in the world to raise children. Extending paid parental leave is one practical way we can achieve this.

National Government failing Women

Posted by on May 3rd, 2012

Today’s unemployment figures show the female unemployment rate to be 7.1% – the highest it’s been since 1998.
This bad news follows hard on the heels of the Government’s announcement that they will veto extensions to paid parental leave; their mother-bashing proposals under the so-called “welfare reforms” banner and the news that Police will no longer report family violence data in their annual report.
So it’s time to ask a few questions.
Why is Minister of Women’s Affairs, Jo Goodhew, sitting on her hands while her Government fails the women of New Zealand?
Why have two CEO’s resigned from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in the three years that National has been the Government? (MWA CEO Rowena Phair has just announced her resignation this week)
What does National have against women and mothers in particular?
They can’t say they didnt know women were suffering. In March, EEO Commissioner, Dr Judy McGregor warned that the cuts to public service jobs; the disproportionate loss of retail, accommodation and food service jobs in Christchurch and the reliance on construction in Christchurch to lift employment would all lead to increasing unemployment for women.
Women are bearing the brunt of the Government’s inability to pull the economy out of recession.
Not only are women losing jobs, but they bear the brunt of the emerging housing crisis, the fire-at-will bill and short-sighted cuts in early childhood and tertiary education.
And as the economic mismangement puts financial pressure on the family budget, guess who cops it then? Shockingly, sometimes in a physical way.
But of course the Police annual stats will hide that fact and we can all go back to pretending that domestic violence doesnt exist.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Women’s Affairs sits quietly outside of Cabinet and that’s just the way the National Party like it.

Diabetics unite!

Posted by on March 21st, 2012

Pharmac has signed a provisional contract with an Auckland company to be the sole supplier of new glucose meters for diabetics. About 150,000 people are affected. Problem: no consumer testing – no backlight on the new one which is a bit tough when you are having a hypo event in the middle of the night; not enough memory to record history of blood sugar levels; batteries which conk out under 10C; sole supply out of Korea – the most stable peninsula we know? Tony Ryall is pressuring them to save $10 million through this contract. He ducked answering questions in the House today about this by exiting to comfort his upset mate, Nick Smith. Watch Campbell Live on TV3 tonight for this item.

Eliminating Child Poverty- Labour’s Health Plan

Posted by on November 21st, 2011

Tomorrow night on TV3 there is a documentary about child poverty in New Zealand. I think every New Zealander should see it. It is a very real depiction of how life is for some of our most vulnerable families. The issues raised about child health and well being are ones we all have to take some responsibility for. Stuff has some preview of the content this morning.

More than 100 New Zealand children who died last year would probably have survived had they lived in Japan, Sweden or the Czech Republic, a new documentary shows….Last year, more than 25,000 children were admitted to hospital for respiratory infections. Doctors routinely treat cases of rheumatic fever and scabies – diseases now rare in Europe.

It is for these families that Labour has made eliminating child poverty our number one social policy priority. When it comes to avoidable hospital admissions (for issues like skin infections and respiratory illness) the National government has removed reducing them as a priority health target. This is wrong. They have increased by 5,000 between 2007 and 2010. The reason targeting these admissions is important is not only are they a proxy for how many children are in poverty, they are also an indication of lack of access to primary care as these infections should never get to hospital admission status.

Labour will restore the reduction of avoidable hospital admissions as a priority target. We will also make child health a priority by

  • enrolling all children with a Well Child provider before birth so that we have continuity of care for all babies
  • 24/7 free primary care for all under sixes (and we are funding this, unlike National)
  • enhanced B4School Checks and a mop up service at school for those who don’t get them
  • requiring District Health Boards to adopt child health implementation plans with nationally agreed measurable outcomes and targets that are monitored by the Ministry of Health.
  • developing systems during pregnancy to identify children who are vulnerable, and then ensure that the relevant levels of support are in place to support and optimise parenting.
  • strengthening the Health in Schools Programme, including social workers, starting with low decile schools, with the aim of expanding the programme to higher decile schools as resources allow.
  • 10 year plan to improve access and affordability of dental care, starting with a package of free dental services for pregnant women.

And the rest of the Childrens Policy agenda that we have released. You can find all the details here.

This is an issue that it is already past time to take decisive action. National do not seem prepared to do it, Labour is.

The cost of doing nothing

Posted by on November 8th, 2011

Labour’s Childrens policy is, in my humble and unbiased opinion, an example of the kind of policy proposal that parties should make at election time. Setting a clear goal, and outlining a path to get there. Improving the well-being of our children is a moral and ethical issue more than a policy one as Annette King has said, but we still need a clear pathway to get there. We have provided that. Its rolled out over a period of time because that is the responsible thing to do.

The predictable response from National is that it all costs too much. Well my question is, what is the cost of doing nothing? Earlier this year Every Child Counts estimated that child poverty costs New Zealand $6 billion annually. This includes costs for treating preventable diseases. Hospital admissions for these have grown by 5,000 over the last three years. It includes the costs of managing anti-social behaviour, increased crime, and the loss to the economy of individuals failing to reach their full potential. We can see all of this in our communities every day.

Labour’s plan is focused around a number of key commitments
– lifting the incomes of the most vulnerable families to give their kids a fair go
– making access to primary healthcare more affordable, with 24/7 free care for under sixes
– extending paid parental leave to give parents more time at home with their babies
– restoring funding to ECE to ensure quality and access

To me these are the building blocks of the best possible start in life for all children. Labour has been responsible. We will reduce debt and get back into surplus at the same time as National, keeping our assets, but with some greater borrowing early in the next electoral cycle. That is because we have to invest in our children.

My other question for National is, if it is to expensive to do this, which children are they prepared to see left behind? I am not prepared to see that. As Annette said yesterday quoting Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel

We cannot waste our precious children
Not another one
Not another day
Its long past time for us to act on their behalf

Free 24/7 healthcare for under-sixes + other stuff

Posted by on November 7th, 2011

Check out Labour’s policy for children here.

Filed under: children

Putting Kids First

Posted by on September 17th, 2011

This week I had the privilege of announcing Labour’s plan to lift achievement in primary schools – or more accurately, years 1-8. We called it “Reaching for the Stars – Whakamaua Nga Whetu” and it spells out the way forward from the debacle that is National’s national standards.

Our policy ensures that parents get plain language information they require on their child’s achievement, progress and next learning steps without schools having the flawed national standards imposed on them. Labour will require schools to use recognised assessment tools and teacher judgement to assess children against the celebrated NZ Curriculum. Simple really – no major drama.

Meanwhile, the Government has resorted to having the Ministry write national standard targets for the non-compliant schools. So much for self-managing schools! As we speak, those school boards are now being threatened with the sack if they return those charters to the Ministry with the words “under duress” on them. This Government seems determined to go to war with the education sector, rather than work with them to get good outcomes. As Labour’s policy shows, its all so unnecessary.

It is telling that Mrs Tolley hasnt been able to work out how to attack our policy. She started off with ” the policy is written by the unions,” but then changed tack later on to say it was a “watered down version of national standards.” Of course, neither is true – but the contradiction in her statements demonstrates how Crosby Textor are struggling to find the attack line on our policy. Which all adds up to it being just more great policy from Labour.

I prefer for our educators and school boards to be focused on providing excellent education for our children, than going to war with the Ministry of Education. Labour’s policy lets them get on with the job, while making sure parents are kept in the loop too. After all, we know that our kids’ education thrives when parents and teachers work in partnership.

There is more to health than a league table

Posted by on August 29th, 2011

The conventional wisdom is that Tony Ryall is making a good fist of the Health portfolio. Now that I am up close in the area I can say that he keeps a tight rein on matters health, and is managing the portfolio effectively. But there is a big difference between managing the politics of health and actually doing what is right for the long term health outcomes of New Zealanders.

The best evidence of that is the release today of the Child Health Monitor Report. It shows, among other things, that in the last two years there have been an additional 5 000 avoidable hospital admissions for things like respiratory illness and skin infections. The authors of the report note that the cost of going to the doctor, especially after hours is a factor in whether children are getting the healthcare they need, along with a range factors associated with child poverty.

I am not saying all of this is down to the Health policy of the current government. But the focus on the narrow range of health targets set by the Minister means that child health is not the priority it should be. The Minister has narrowed the health targets in such a way as to scratch the itches of waiting lists and time spent in ED, but it is at the expense of early intervention and public health programmes. District Health Boards have responded by pursuing the Minister’s targets, spending on public health has been slashed ($124 million in the last Budget) and funding for primary care has failed to keep up with inflation.

Just managing the Health portfolio is not enough. I actually think it is irresponsible to avoid the long term investments that will lead to long term health benefits in favour of things that are designed to fit on a coloured chart and make the Minister look good.

Labour, through Annette King, has already outlined our Agenda for Children that will put children’s well being at the centre of our social policy. More details will be announced in the election, but from a health policy point of view public health and affordable and accessible primary care must be a priority.

Another Key con: or pretending to do something when you really aren’t

Posted by on August 28th, 2011

Lesley Soper is the Labour candidate for Invercargill

Read with fascination the Southland Times Report (Aug 15, p.2) on John Key’s  great National Party Conference announcement of the start of welfare system overhaul.   16 & 17 year-olds first it seems.      They won’t complain too much, and rednecks will think they deserve a bit of ‘nanny state’ overseeing.    Food Stamps don’t equal opportunity or jobs BUT IT WILL LOOK AS IF WE ARE DOING SOMETHING, WHICH WILL HELP DISGUISE OUR UTTER FAILURE TO DO ANYTHING TO DEAL WITH THE WORSE NZ YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT SINCE THE GREAT DEPRESSION.

Food Stamps can also be the thin edge of the wedge, & extended to others when we ‘have a Mandate’.

Under this new Policy schools will have to tell authorities when 16 and 17 year-olds leave during the year, and the young people  will be attached to a “responsible adult”.

Quotes from the PM included :  “the first problem that has to be addressed is finding out who the disengaged young people are … we simply don’t know, because we lose track of them when they leave school. … that has to change … and for the first time we will be able to find out who they are, what their circumstances are, what problems they had …”.

But Wait!   The photographic memory clicks in from my years as an MP.   This has to be nonsense.    Didn’t I make more than one visit to a great Youth Transition Service ‘Work’n it Out’ which operates a Call Centre and extended services from Invercargill  [readers will know from my earlier blog on proposed IRD cuts in Invercargill that we run excellent ‘virtual’ operations down here];  and operates under an MSD Contract?     Yes, I did, and it still exists.     Been operating for more than 5 years.     Reports performance and outcomes to MSD every month.   You can look it up online at   The Social Development Minister & PM could read the reports.   They probably have, but perhaps have ‘forgotten’.

What does this service do?   [and what has it been doing for more than 5 years?]   Well, strangely enough it has been working with 50 Secondary Schools from Timaru South to track every school-leaver at any point through the year, from  ages 16-20.  There are also some self or family referrals, and referrals from other govt departments, but by & large this is a major project to track and assist school-leavers with the rest of their lives.   And it has been working incredibly well!

We are not talking small numbers here.   This is thousands of young people added to the database every year.    They are systematically contacted by the callcentre; they are asked about their plans for further education, training or employment.   They are offered support and assistance, often on a one-to-one customised support basis.  They are tracked from that first call or contact on a regular basis till age 20.     Few of them are non-contactable; very few reject the contact.

Report Data is comprehensive.    We know who these young people are; where they have come from; where they have gone or are going; which industries they are working in; how many are in which other forms of education and training courses; how many return to school; how many head into apprenticeships, full-or-part-time work.

So if this is all already happening, on a large scale, covering quarter of the country geographically [& there are other Youth Transition Services too], and in areas where there are National MP’s [including English, Roy &  Dean], and data exists;  why the announcement of a  ‘First Ever New Policy’;  ‘Never Before Tried’ ; ‘Revolutionary First’ as a  ‘Key Plank’ of the National Party Conference?

Could it be that some Political Spin was required to distract from the failure of the National Government to actually address Youth Unemployment and to create jobs?   Could it be a ‘Key Con’ to pretend to be doing something to distract from actual cuts National has made to apprenticeships and skills training?   Could it be a ‘Big Vision’ like ‘The Cycleway’ or the Budget ‘promise’ of 170,000 jobs  –  with absolutely no substance?    Could it be sheer ignorance of what is already in place?    Or could it be that no-one in Auckland pays any attention to successful initiatives in  Invercargill unless they involve Shadbolt or snow?     Take your pick.

Another ‘Key Con’ when what is really needed is a real economic plan that means young people get real jobs.   Remember the statistic  –  when National came in there were roughly 200 under 24 year-olds who had been on UEB for more than a year.   The number now?

The essentials

Posted by on August 1st, 2011

I’ve spent a good part of today thinking about how important quality of life is vs the material things.

I went (with Pete Hodgson and David Clark) to visit the Mosgiel Abilities Resource Centre, in Dunedin, and it reminded me what’s most important about life.

The quality of the interactions. The opportunities you have. The enduring friendships you build. And the memories you are left with.

Whether it’s your old dad, disabled family members, the people around us who are struggling.

And then there’s our kids.

All parents want their kids to experience life to the full & have good values. More than they want them to have the latest stuff.

Why can’t we adults translate those hopes for our kids into the way we lead our lives?

And why, as Annette has asked today, can’t we all work together on some of these things?

CYF frontline cuts widen

Posted by on July 27th, 2011
Dr David Clark is the Labour candidate for Dunedin North
 I have received further detail of significant cuts to Child, Youth and Family services across Otago and Southland.

The information corroborates my original sources and confirms that cuts are occurring to child care and protection services in more South Island communities than previously thought.

New sources tell me that in Dunedin one frontline supervisor position has been halved and two social worker positions have been cut, plus one family group conference co-ordinator, one administrator and one social work resource assistant position.

That is a total of five and half positions in Dunedin alone delivering or supporting frontline services in our region.

In Otago, two social worker positions and one supervisor position have been cut affecting services in Oamaru, Alexandra, Gore and Balclutha. In Invercargill, at least two social workers and one supervisor position have been cut.

These are reductions in essential services. Services that provide the opportunity for a young person to turn their life around, for a family in distress to get the support they need, for a child in harm’s way to get the care and protection they deserve.

These cuts clearly indicate that frontline social work in Otago and Southland is being hollowed out while National repeatedly claims to be improving public services and moving resources to the frontline.

Is the Minister for Social Development aware that, contrary to the Government’s stated commitment to putting more workers on the frontline, the reverse is happening, that frontline staff are being cut at Child, Youth and Family?

Is the Minister aware that Child, Youth and Family’s head office is claiming: ‘There are no staffing cuts to the organisation. No cuts are being made. No staff member is losing their job’*?

In light of the new detail on reductions in Otago and Southland services, I have lodged a further Official Information Request to get past the smokescreen from head office to the truth of the situation – that deep cuts are being made to already stretched services in the South.

I would be the first to congratulate the Minister if the staffing cuts reflected a significant reduction in the number of children and families needing protection and support. Regrettably, that would be a naive assumption.

Child, Youth and Family is that vital line between hope and despair, between giving a child refuge from neglect and abuse and turning our back on the plight of the defenceless. 

 * Source: CYF manager of public affairs Bernadine MacKenzie, quoted in Otago Daily Times on 21 July 2011.

Dunedin cuts – CYF spindoctors stretch truth

Posted by on July 26th, 2011

Dr David Clark is the Labour candidate for Dunedin North

My previous posts about the cuts to frontline child protection services in Dunedin have attracted a response.  Unfortunately the response is clearly the work of CYF’s spindoctors.

I am saddened to see CYF dodge questions regarding front line job-cuts in Dunedin.  The CYF spokesperson describes Otago and Southland as having “more social workers per caseload” than other areas, and talks about deciding whether vacated positions will be filled – according to workload in the region.

This is classic doublespeak.  As positions are vacated in Otago and Southland, they are not being replaced; a straight shooter would call this job-cuts.  Frontline positions are being axed. Vulnerable children are at risk.

Tragically, need for CYF services is in high demand.  Our stagnant economy has put increased pressure on Dunedin families.  Can CYF confirm they have as many front line staff in Dunedin now as they had a year ago?  Or better still, provide credible evidence that our most vulnerable children are no longer at risk?  Of course they can’t.  This makes me angry.  Under National’s direction, CYF are spending money on spindoctors.  That money should be spent on staff at the coal-face.

Cuts make lie of National’s promise not to cut front line services.

Posted by on July 20th, 2011

Apologies to David Clark, labour’s candidate for Dunedin North. I accidently posted this under my name not his. Clare

Cuts of up to 30 front line staff at Child, Youth and Family make a lie of National’s promise not to cut front line services.

Our community, our children deserve better. We cannot stand by and let these cuts occur.

In April, Bill English said National was ‘committed to moving resources from the back office to the frontline so we can deliver improved public services to taxpayers with little or no new money over the next few years’. *


  • How is reducing the number of frontline social workers in Dunedin “moving resources to the frontline”?
  • How is making highly trained social workers redundant who support and protect our most vulnerable children going to “deliver improved public services to taxpayers”?

The Government needs to honour its promise to retain front line services. All New Zealanders should demand that the Government reverse this appalling decision.

* [Source: Minister of Finance press release, “Room for savings in state sector back office” dated 13 April 2011]

Children at risk as Government axes frontline CYF staff

Posted by on July 20th, 2011

David Clark is the Labour candidate for Dunedin North

National is about to axe front line staff at Child, Youth and Family. Up to 30 front line jobs are to be cut from Child, Youth and Family services nationwide.

Dunedin is losing four of those positions, two frontline social workers and two front line supervisors. Cuts are also being made to Child, Youth and Family in Invercargill and on the West Coast.

Child, Youth and Family do remarkable work on behalf of the whole community to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to give families the support they need to care for their children. They provide safe, loving homes for children who need that care and they work with young people to turn their lives around.

The timing of these cuts could not be worse, as the cost of living and unemployment increases. There is growing pressure on families. These cuts are an abdication of our collective responsibility to care and protect our most vulnerable citizens, to help those who cannot speak for themselves.

The Government must reverse this appalling decision.