The (likely) inquiry into abuse in state care: An opportunity for discomfort and reflection

This guest blog post by Eileen Joy (Phd Candidate, University of Auckland) outlines the implications for social workers of an inquiry into state violence against children.

Elizabeth Stanley (2016), in her detailed examination of state violence against children in New Zealand, called it a ‘Road to Hell’ .  Her accounts of how children in our country were treated is horrifying, chilling, and makes for unsettling reading.  Stanley, the Human Rights Commission, tangata whenua, the United Nations, and many others have repeatedly made calls for there to be an inquiry into abuse in state care. The previous National led government resolutely stuck to their belief that the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS) which, from 2008-2015 listened to those individuals who came forward (however only those with claims prior to 1992), and was able to refer people to the relevant Ministry for claims, was enough, and that an inquiry would “achieve very little”.  Such claims have been debunked by victims and the judge who oversaw CLAS, who have both made strong calls for an independent inquiry.

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An independent inquiry is needed: Right here!  Right now!

It is a cliché, of course, to point out that we inevitably repeat the mistakes of the past if we do not understand and learn from them. However, this does not make the sentiment any less true. The story of the abuse of children in the care of the New Zealand state is a case in point. It is a deeply disturbing and still largely hidden history (Stanley, 2015; 2017). There are currently over 700 people with unresolved claims on the books of the Wellington law firm Cooper Law. It is very likely that this figure represents the tip of the iceberg.

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The State of Care report

This guest blog post is by Dr Russell Wills, Children’s Commissioner. Dr Wills introduces his newly published report the ‘State of Care’ and invites readers of the RSW blog to review the report, and to comment.

This week, I released my office’s first public report about Child, Youth and Family. The State of Care report summarises what we learnt from monitoring Child, Youth and Family and engaging directly with children in care between January 2014 and June 2015. I’m proud of the report, and pleased to be able to share it with the public.

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