By 3 News online staff
A "transformational change" is needed at Child, Youth and Family (CYF) because it is failing New Zealand's children, a new interim report says.
An expert panel has recommended a major overhaul of the system including a child-centred system and a new advocacy service to represent the voices of vulnerable children and young people.
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says the case for change is "extremely compelling and concerning".
She is realistic there aren't any quick fixes to the system.
"We need a significant shift in thinking together with a comprehensive plan to be rolled out in the years ahead.
"The whole country has to take ownership of this situation. We cannot say that these children are someone else's problem."
The panel has started its work on a multi-year future operating model for the agency which looks at prioritising the needs of children and will also give advice on early intervention, support for caregivers and raising the age of state care.
They will also look into whether some young people in youth justice residences and care and protection residences can be given more effective support in a community setting, while maintaining public safety.
While the number of new notifications has been falling over the past few years, demand for CYF services had increased because children were re-entering the system on multiple occasions.
Ms Tolley says this means the current system isn't working in early intervention so children don't need CYF services anymore.
"It is also simply heart breaking and completely unacceptable that vulnerable seven year-olds can have eight different home placements," she says.
New Zealand also needs a wider, and high quality pool of caregivers with enough support to help them provide a long-term safe environment where kids can flourish.
A better mix of skills and training for frontline staff is also needed, which would allow them to spend more time on the needs of children rather than paperwork.
Ms Tolley says information will be used as the framework for the overhaul, which will require more targeted additional funding and "reprioritisation" of resources.
Children's Commission Dr Russell Wils says while the report makes "sad reading", it lays out a promising path for change.
"Children in the care and protection system have been let down. But this new report makes an important point: we all have a part to play in improving the outcomes of these children. It is not the responsibility of Child, Youth and Family alone," he says.
"No child should need more than one referral. No child should be abused again, by their parents or while in care. But for this to happen, we all need to do our bit."
Opposition doesn't want privatisation
Opposition parties agree substantial changes need to be made, but are wary of the ways the Government might do it.
Labour's children's spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern is concerned about the question of moving to an investment approach as well as incentives.
"The only incentive should be to get it right by these kids. NGOs certainly have a role to play, but profit and shareholders should never, ever trump the best interest of children," she says.
"Anne Tolley made the right call when she instigated this review. She must now ensure it generates solutions that deliver for our children."
Green Party social development spokeswoman Jan Logie says the report shouldn't be used to include privatisation of the sector.
"Looking after vulnerable children is a core Government service that should not be further outsourced or privatised.
"The private sector is not the answer for CYF," she says.
Ms Tolley has already ruled out a wholesale privatisation, saying there are no plans for further outsourcing.
A feasibility study of an investment approach to improving outcomes for vulnerable children is also being commissioned by MSD on behalf of the panel, and the findings will inform the panel’s December report.