Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills was asked by National Radio last week to respond to Minister Anne Tolley’s proposed CYF modernization project. An even, calm and suitably critical Mr Wills offered himself as an ally for child protection social workers and for the children they work alongside on a daily basis. It is very simply in his words “hard work,” and he couldn’t have agreed more with Nine to Noon interviewer Kathryn Ryan who described the size of social work caseloads as “unfathomable when you consider the complexity of the work.” To have this challenge acknowledged is largely satisfying and affirming for social workers and few would disagree with Dr Wills’ stated support for the application of “big brains” to the task of modernizing our child protection system to better meet the needs of children and young people.
In these media savvy days political pronouncements are almost always focussed on managing media. During elections media management is particularly intense with resources invested in promoting vote winning messages whilst sullying the reputation of others. Once in power, and with a respectable majority assured, governments turn to the business of pushing their real political agenda. Media management between elections includes tactics such as timing political announcements to minimise critical reaction, wrapping politically sensitive policies in good news stories, and using slippery semantics to conceal or make palatable politically controversial policies.
Last Wednesday the Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley announced the formation of an ‘independent expert panel’ to lead a ‘complete overhaul ‘ of Child, Youth and Family. This is the first of a series of posts by social workers who wish to challenge aspects of the panel’s role and composition and call for a much more open process of discussion to influence the way forward.