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.