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Judge slams CYF as staff fail to watch teen criminal.

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on March 18, 2007

By RUTH HILL – Sunday Star Times

As posted on CYFSWATCH NZ

Judge slams CYF as staff fail to watch teen criminal.
Sunday, 18.03.2007, 02:11pm (GMT12)

Sunday, 18 March 2007:: 

Principal Youth Court judge Andrew Becroft has attacked Child Youth and Family after a teen offender committed serious crimes while supposedly being monitored by a social worker he’d never met.

(from http://www.stuff.co.nz –  http://www.stuff.co.nz/ sundaystartimes/3996520a6005.html )

The 16-year-old carried out seven more crimes, including three of assault with a weapon and one of threatening to kill, between June last year and January this year.

Becroft condemned CYF for its “grossly unacceptable” treatment of the boy and gave the Sunday Star-Times permission to publish details of a memo sent to CYF bosses raising his concerns. “Nothing in this file gives me any confidence that anything has changed right at the coalface,” he wrote. “All the concerns are still there. Changes in social workers, lack of contact with young offenders, poor understanding of events, late reports, inadequate reports, real issues hidden under the carpet, conveniently pushed aside with recommendations that virtually amount to a suggestion everything gets concluded today, without ever addressing (the offender’s) real problems.”

The 16-year-old, a member of an Auckland youth gang, has a raft of previous offences dating back to 2004, mainly burglary and wilful damage. He was sentenced to supervision and community work in May last year on nine charges.

But he failed to attend counselling and the order collapsed. His original social worker resigned and the youth told the judge he had never met his new social worker and did not even know his name.

The social worker did not show up in court when scheduled and the judge received his report – ordered in November – only one minute before the young offender was due to appear last month. “I must say that seems to me to be a staggering state of events,” Becroft said.

The unexplained late delivery, breaching all statutory obligations, was “grossly unacceptable” and the “superficial” report did nothing to address the boy’s alcohol, drug and anger problems. The teenager is now in a secure residential facility.

On Friday, Becroft said he supported plans by CYF management to pour more resources into youth justice. “This is basically our last chance to defuse these unexploded human time bombs.”

The boy’s lawyer, Karol Hadlow, said this was not an isolated case. “It’s not uncommon for a young offender to have three or four different social workers.” National’s associate welfare spokeswoman Anne Tolley said youth justice continued to be “the poor relation” within CYF. “It’s been six years since (ex-principal youth court judge) Mick Brown made his original report about the shocking state of youth justice, and it seems nothing has changed.” A State Services Commission report into CYF last February said CYF had failed to give the youth justice review enough priority despite concerns among the judiciary.

The CYF Youth Justice Capability Review, released in June, called for 46 more youth justice social workers – but these positions were advertised only a fortnight ago. CYF deputy chief executive Ray Smith said the agency took Becroft’s complaints seriously. “It disappoints me that obviously we have not met the care requirements for this young man that both he and the Youth Court has the right to expect,” he said.

He said CYF was aware of the need to improve youth justice and he had met with Becroft and Children’s Commissioner Dr Cindy Kiro to identify key areas of change. “As a result, we have committed $12 million to improve the accountability and performance of Youth Justice, including the establishment of 25 multi-disciplinary, dedicated Youth Justice teams aligned to Youth Court service areas throughout New Zealand.”

Child Youth and Family Services Minister Ruth Dyson said she would seek further comment from CYF regarding Becroft’s concerns to see if this was an isolated case or if broader issues needed to be addressed.

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