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Appointment of Officers Petition

The Petiton for a bipartisan approach in selecting the Families, Children's Commissioners and Social Worker Registration Board appointments.

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Reason for the Petition:

At the Moment I see a conflict of interest wherein the Minister responsible for Child, Youth and Family (CYF), services also recommends to the Governor General who should be appointed the to the Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB) and Office of the Children's Commissioner's (OCC) which to a point have a part to play in monitoring CYF or their staff, supposedly?

The SWRB and OCC all report to the Current Minister of Social Development, Paula Bennett. To my way of thinking that's a conflict of interest because she can appoint lacklustre people and there is a view some nepotism and cronyism come into play under the current system.

There is a view that some ministers of Social Development, appointed 'safe bets' that are less likely to cause them any trouble. Just imagine if the Children's Commissioner started finding fault with CYF. That would be a headache, for the Minister of Social Development to sort out. Why do that to yourself, when you can get someone in the position, to do the bare minimum and have the appearance of being adequate when performing their duties.

Given New Zealand is in a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system with coalition Governments I think they way people are appointed should also reflect this across the board.

The best way to reflect the new era of parliament having to work more cooperatively together, should include adopting Cross-party/bipartisan approach for all Commissioner's, complaints systems or monitoring type roles that are meant to be neutral from the Government and Minister of that day. This would also provide independence from the Government and Minister of the day. It also means we have a better chance of getting the right/best person for the job if all the parties have input via the Social Services Select Committee.

The people appointed can be called to account via regular reviews to ensure they are doing the best job they can to serve the purpose of their positions rather then the Government or Minister of the day. They can write reports without having to worry about biting the hand that feeds/appoints them, as itís a group decision.

It also means; if the public feel the OCC or SWRB are not performing they can ask the Committee who can and fittingly should be able to raise any serious discrepancy or issues with the persons evolved and if need be, remove and/or replace them to get the best possible people in the positions, to do their jobs.

This way such appointments could be considered more antonymous, independent from the Minister and Government of the day who should have no more or less power then any other member of the Social Services Select committee.

Committees themselves do have rules that govern confidentiality, private sessions (in committee), so if issues arise they can be dealt with there without jeopardizing employment contracts/performance reviews or implications to theirs or others organisations as part of the job.

The reason for choosing a short time of the petition is the fact it's an election Year and there are no minimum or maximum signature numbers needed to this submit it to parliament. It has to be read out and received in the house, regardless I believe?

I realise that what I am proposing has wider implications like needing to review/amend the 2003, Children's Commissioner Act 2003 and the Social Workers Registration Act 2003 and possibly Crown Entities Act 2004, and/or State Sector Act 1988. However that should not be impossible as amendments happen all the time and that's what parliament does.

I want to give you one example of why I think this is overdue and needed. The office of the Children's Commissioner had a major oversight as I will now explain:

The then Minister of Social development, Ruth Dyson said on Thursday 24 August 2006,

"I am advised that all complaints that the department receives are thoroughly investigated" (This is referring to CYF) Ok that sounds great until you get to the second part:

"But currently there is no central database that captures all complaints made to Child, Youth and Family staff"

Now how can all complaints be thoroughly investigated if, no central database ever existed that captures all complaints? So from 1989 and until mid 2010 this went on, why did the OCC not pick up on the issues, as they are meant to have been monitoring CYF all this time? That's 7 years, that this either went unnoticed or challenged as I can't find it mentioned in any of the OCC reports to their Minister that also oversees CYF. How strange? To me, this calls into question the value and quality of the OCC work, to have missed this.

So for 21 years CYF went about their business with no real complaints system and if you think the new one is working any better; dream on and read my webpage, to find out why it might as well not exist!

I have raised this concern with Dr John Angus, current Children's Commissioner, he has acknowledged my point, but not given any kind of view, explanation, admission, denial, or apology on behalf of the past Commissioners. As the current head, for having missed this! It seems that both Minister Bennett and the Governor General don't seem that concerned about getting an answer either from the OCC even as to why, how or how this happened and worse, went on for so long!

The OCC has also hindered and been against the setting up of an independent complaint's authority for CYF. That's just bizarre. Given; it would provide another level of protection for Children and families.

I have raised this and many other issues with the current Children's Commissioner, Dr John Angus, and he has acknowledged what I am suggesting, but; not answered or addressed my view for or against what I am saying, like so many other issues which come into his domain.

I have also written a number of documents pointing out further failings of the OCC you can download from here

Dr John Angus is in my view trying to be evasive and seems unwilling to step on the toes of former Commissioners by taking the responsibility of this major stuff up as anyone in his position should have rightfully done from the beginning.

I have complained to the Governor General the Right Honourable Sir Anand Satyanand, who appointed John Angus to his present role of Children's Commissioner. If I understand the Governor General response correctly, the way it works is the Minister of Social Development, Paula Bennett gives the recommendation of who she wants for the positions and he is obliged to follow her lead. So really its up to Paula Bennett if Dr John Angus stays or goes and the Governor General rubber stamps that. Sorry but I call that tokenism and maybe if the GG is no practical use we should become a republic.

I have written to Prime Minister John Key about this and he seems totally in support of Paula Bennett and her decision to keep Dr John Angus on. Mind you she could replace him and we could be no better if not worse off if that is possible choosing someone cut from the same cloth or ilk as often seems to happen.

Can we trust the Government and Minister of the day to put children and families ahead of their own political ambitions? I think not; as time has proven! We have a families Commission with no real power or resources to do anything much, so can't blame them for that. We have a Social Worker Registration Board, but no mandatory registration to spite the fact even the Human Rights Commission wants it now as you can read here

But I warn you now even with mandatory registration there are still loopholes with the current setup.

These are all decisions and positions I think all of parliament should have a say in not just the Minister or Government of the day. The SWRB and OCC should answer to all of parliament and all parties, should equally have their say. These issues and positions are meant to be independent and autonomous from the Government of the day so lets make that happen in reality for the sake of our Children and families.

While this current impasse continues, systemic abuse goes on with CYF having to much power and very little in the way of checks and balances. Neither John Key and Paula Bennett or Sir Anand Satyanand seem able or willing to do anything tangible to help the situations. The Buck passing has gone on for long enough and we need the OCC to be and do the best it can by our children.

Graeme Axford


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