Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lucia Government contemplating open-ended plan to combat child abuse that could be changed without legislation

I've just been reading the Government's Green Paper on child abuse and had to stop and post on this doozy of a section that I just found on page 16. This is all about an action plan for helping vulnerable children (ie those likely to get abused). The idea is to legislate a "plan", but not the details of the plan. That way the details can be changed at any time without legislation. Here's the exact bit from the document.

The New Zealand Government could make changes to legislation that would:

• Set out the requirements for a Vulnerable Children’s Action Plan
• Set out the purpose and goals of having such a Plan
• Create cross-agency accountability for implementing the Plan by, for example, allocating responsibility
for it to a group of government chief executives
• Specifically recognise the needs of tangata whenua tamariki and include a process for a partnership
with iwi, hapu - and other Ma-ori organisations to address those needs
• Mandate regular reporting on progress
• Make specific policy changes (such as requirements for sharing information about vulnerable children)
• Make changes to practice (such as any necessary workforce regulation).

The Plan itself might not be included in legislation because its actions and targets will need to change as progress is made or new evidence becomes available. The legislation could contain a requirement that a Plan be developed, and that this Plan would be publicly available at all times and would contain actions, targets and timelines. Legislation could also clearly determine what must be in the Plan to ensure a longterm commitment.

Everyone will be interested in knowing the difference the Plan is making for vulnerable children. Legislation can set out processes for accountability that are transparent. It can require monitoring and reporting of progress against the Plan so that, as a nation, we know how that progress is being made.

It could do this through existing Government reporting processes. In addition, it could require a report to be tabled in Parliament so that it could be examined, for example, at a Select Committee. Or legislation could mandate monitoring of national progress on the Plan by a crown agency such as the Children’s Commissioner.

I'm flabbergasted. How could a government even contemplate such open-ended legislation? What type of people do they have working in the government right now? It would allow for anything to be inserted into the plan without legislation being necessary, thus bypassing Parliament completely.

Or am I wrong and I'm just freaking out over nothing?

Related link: Green Paper for Vulnerable Childre

2 comment(s):

KG said...

"Wrong?" I doubt it. My default position is to always be deeply suspicious of any politician or bureaucrat's plans to meddle in our lives. As soon as I see the words transparency and accountability I know they intend neither.
Even more, promises that the plan will not be used against (insert group here) are so much hogwash. Remember the anti-smacking legislation that wasn't going to be used against good parents?
My 2c worth.

Lucia Maria said...

Thanks, KG.

When I look at these things, I'm like you, totally suspicious of what it's true intent is, or thinking that politicians are so useless that they'll bungle their way through just to make it look like they're doing something. With this, it seems to be a combination of both.

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