On ‘The Nation’ – Anne Tolley Revealed





On past occassion, I have been critical of ‘The Nation‘ for not making greater use of facts and data when confronting National ministers. Without cold, hard facts and stats, slippery Ministers like Steven Joyce can find wiggle-room to avoid straight answers and indulge in wild flights of fantasy-spin.

But when the team at ‘The Nation‘ get it right, they do it well, and Ministers are laid bare for the public to see, hear, and assess for themselves.

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

Cases-in-point, the 2 May interview with Corrections Minister, Sam  Lotu-Iiga, and the more recent (26 September) interview with Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley;


The Nation - Interview - Social Development Minister Anne Tolley


Both interviews showed Ministers out of their depths, and grappling with critical problems that apparently have “snuck up” on them – though the rest of the country had long been aware that not all was well in the Land of the Long White Cloud (and possible Red Peak).

Recent “revelations” of massive problems for children in State-care are only confirmation of what many in the sector already knew. According to Tolley’s own speech to the Fostering Kids New Zealand Conference  on 24 September;

By the time children with a care placement who were born in the 12 months to Jun 1991 had reached the age of 21:

Almost 90 per cent were on a benefit.

Over 25 per cent were on a benefit with a child.

Almost 80 per cent did not have NCEA Level 2.

More than 30 per cent had a youth justice referral by the age of 18.

Almost 20 per cent had had a custodial sentence.

Almost 40 per cent had a community sentence.

Overall, six out of every ten children in care are Māori children.


64 per cent of the 61,000 children notified to CYF in 2014 had a previous notification.

In 2013, children who had been removed from home were on average 8 years old and many of these children had been involved with the system since 2 or 3 years of age.


Seven year-old children should not have eight different home placements.

A study of those in care in 2010 showed that 23 per cent of children who exited care and returned to their biological parents were subject to neglect or physical, emotional or sexual re-abuse within 18 months. Ten per cent of those who returned to kin or whānau were re-abused, while re-abuse rates for those who exited into non-kin and non-whānau placements was one per cent.

It has taken seven years for a National minister to come to understand this? Where have they been all this time – playing golf on Planet Key?

But not only has  this government ignored this crisis in supporting young people in State care – but they have been criminally guilty of making matters worse by job cuts and destabilisation by constant re-organisation of  MSD (Ministry of Social Development);


Job cuts for MSD


Then Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, was adamant that there would be more frontline social workers, despite the massive number of redundancies. Her mantra at the time was;

”I can absolutely assure them that the concentration is on frontline staff, on social workers that are working with those people that need it most, and that’s where this Government is putting their priorities.”

Take note that in the “re-structuring”  in 2009, the job cuts included “a team of 18 child abuse education social workers“.  In effect,  skilled professionals working on behalf of children suffering abuse were sacked.

Only the Minister of Finance trying to balance his books, and those who perpetrate child abuse on small bodies, could possibly have been delighted at that announcement.

To deflect criticism from the growing problem of  child poverty and New Zealand’s “under-class” (which, in  October 2011, even Key was forced to admit was rising), Bennett resisted demands to assess just how bad the problem really was;


Combating poverty more important than measuring it - Paula Bennett - MSD


No measurement; no way of telling how bad it is. Very clever, Ms Bennett.

But worse was to come, as National slashed the state sector to make up for revenue lost through two tax cuts and the recessionary effects of the Global Financial Crisis;


MSD restructure lacks transparency


98 MSD staff face the axe - union


This time, the person over-seeing on-going job-losses and re-structuring was the current Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley. This time, the cuts were given a new euphemism; “re-alignment”.

Despite Bennett’s reassurances in June 2009  that there would be a “concentration […] on frontline staff, on social workers that are working with those people that need it most” – six years later the cutting of back-room support staff resulted in inevitable (and predictable) consequences. As Tolley herself was forced to admit on ‘The Nation‘;

“Well, there’s 3000-odd staff, but only 25% of them are actually working with children. And of that 25%, they’re only spending 15% of their time actually with children.”


twitter - msd job cuts - anne tolley - the nation


At that point, Lisa Owen asked Minister Tolley the question;

“So are you telling me that we need more back-room staff to allow those people to get on to the front line and deal with the kids?”

Tolley’s reply was pure gobbledegook;

“What we need is a system that is designed to look after those children when they first come to our attention, we need good interventions with them and their families, and we need to free up the front-line social workers to do the work they come in every day to do which is to work with children, not a system that’s built on layers and layers of risk management and bureaucracy and administration, which is what we’ve got now.”

The reason it is risable gobbledegook is that after hundreds of job losses – of mostly so-called “back room staff” one assumes – and restructurings, there cannot be too many “layers and layers of risk management and bureaucracy and administration” left in MSD.

Lisa Owen pushed the Minister further;

“…But some evidence that was provided last year was the case-load review, which said that you were 350 social workers short. So can we expect more social workers?”

When the Minister offered vague assurances that “we may well” expect more social workers, Ms Owen was blunt;

“But ‘may well’ is not a definitive answer, is it, Minister? So yes or no? Will we get more?”

Tolley’s response was anything but reassuring;

“I don’t know, because the final system proposal will come to me in December, so I’m not going to pre-empt what the panel’s coming up with. What they’ve done in this interim report is give us the building blocks…”

Listening to the Minister was not only far from reassuring, but left a sense of unease.

Our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, has already said that “outsourcing” to private providers for MSD services is possible;

“Child Youth and Family does outsource to the private sector already some contracts, and I think last year $81 million of business went to private sector contractors, so I can’t get up and say there is no involvement with the private sector, because there already is that.

I don’t think we’re seriously talking about the private sector taking control of all the children, but if there is some small function they could do, maybe, I’d have to see what that is.”

“Some small function”?

What is Key referring to – delivery of afternoon tea and biscuits to CYF staff?

Or, as more likely, would “some small function” involve Serco – already in deep trouble over it’s incompetence over running of Mt Eden prison?

This is a possibility that Tolley herself touted as a possibility on TVNZ’s ‘Q+A‘, as recently as June this year;


Tolley Serco could run social services - MSD - CYF


On 31 August,  CEO of the Association of Social Workers, Lucy Sandford-Reed,was reported on Radio NZ as saying  she believed call-centre operations might be outsourced;

“That really creates an opportunity for further fragmentation of the service delivery and could potentially create the opportunity for failure. And there has been a sense that a organisation like Serco could be looking at picking up those contracts.”

Tolley was adamant on ‘The Nation‘ that there would be no outsourcing of MSD’s front-line services. She told Lisa Owen to her face;

“Look, I- Let’s put it to rest – this is a state responsibility. There’s no talk within Government at all of outsourcing that responsibility.”

However, only two days earlier (24 September), it was reported that Serco had indeed been ‘sniffing’ around CYF facilities in Auckland;

CYF sites visited by Serco – Tolley

Thursday 24 Sep 2015 4:30 p.m.

Serco case managers have visited several Child, Youth and Family facilities in Auckland, Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has confirmed.

She’s previously denied knowledge of such visits, and told Parliament today she had been given incorrect advice by her ministry.

“I apologise for giving an incorrect answer (to previous questions)… I’m disappointed that I got incorrect information,” she said.

Opposition MPs suspect the visits were connected with the possibility of some CYF services being contracted out to Serco.

The question that begs to be asked is; why has National drawn attention to the (supposed) “failings” of CYF/MSD? Why was Tolley so eager to receive a report so scathing of her own department, as she stated in her 27 August press statement;

“I welcome the release of this report, which makes for grim reading for those involved in child protection, and have met with the Commissioner to discuss his findings.”

Usually, this is a government whose ministers are desperate only to present “good news” stories. They are quick to dismiss, minimise, or deride any criticism that does not fit with their “good management” narrative. Blaming the previous Labour government has become the #1 Default position of National ministers.

The only possible rationale why Tolley has commissioned a report into MSD/CYF – where no public or media pressure had demanded one – is that Paula Rebstock’s highly critical findings of MSD/CYF were pre-determined.

As Chris Trotter wrote in his analysis of Rebstock’s report on 2 April;

“The Rebstocks of this world are spared the close-up consequences of their recommendations. They are experts at reading between the lines of their terms of reference to discover exactly what it is that their commissioning ministers are expecting from them – and delivering it. So it was with Paula Bennett’s welfare review, and so it will be with Anne Tolley’s review of Child Youth and Family (CYF).

Once again in the lead role, Ms Rebstock will not have to work too hard to decode the meaning of Ms Tolley’s comment that: “CYF has drafted its own internal modernisation strategy and while it is a good starting point, it doesn’t go far enough”.”

Without doubt, Rebstock’s eventual (and predictable?) report into MSD/CYF was highly critical of that organisation.

Key has publicly disclosed that he is not averse to privatisation (aka, “outsourcing”) aspects of MSD/CYF’s services.

Despite Tolley’s denials, Serco has shown interest in CYF facilities.

Which leads to the inescapable conclusion that the Rebstock report; the willingness of Ministers to front up to the media to candidly admit to MSD/CYF’s shortcomings; is setting up a Problem demanding a Solution.

That “Solution” is privatisation of services.

Which perhaps is what Tolley was referring to in her 24 September speech;

“While the new operational model is being developed, a feasibility study of an investment approach to improving outcomes for vulnerable children is being commissioned by MSD on behalf of the panel, and the findings will inform the Panel’s December report.”

Investment approach”?

As in business investment.

This explains  Tolley’s rejection of Lisa Owen’s suggestion of paying caregivers more money;

“Well, I think you’ve always got to be very careful that you’re not setting up a professional caregiving regime. And when you talk to people who are fostering, most of them don’t do it for the money.”

Indeed, “people who are fostering, most of them don’t do it for the money” – but it sure helps pay the bills, especially for professional services for some very damaged children.

No wonder Tolley was vague on whether more money or social workers would be provided to MSD/CYF, in her replies to Lisa Owen. This was never about increasing resources to the Ministry or caregivers.

This is about a private enterprise “solution” to a National government “problem”.

The Rebstock Report is simply the means to sell that “solution” to the public and media.

Machiavellian does not begin to cover this mad agenda.





TV3: The Nation – Interview – National’s Chief Strategist Steven Joyce

Beehive.govt.nz: Speech to Fostering Kids New Zealand Conference

Fairfax media: Job cuts for MSD

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

Scoop media: Combating poverty more important than measuring it

Radio NZ: MSD restructure ‘lacks transparency’

Fairfax media: 98 MSD staff face the axe – union

Twitter: Frank Macskasy to The Nation

Radio NZ: Key – More CYF private sector involvement possible

TV3 News: Tolley – Serco could run social services

TV3 News: CYF sites visited by Serco – Tolley

Beehive.govt.nz: Minister welcomes State of Care report


MSD: Redesigning the Welfare State in New Zealand: Problems, Policies and Prospects (1999)

Other Blog posts

The Daily Blog: Fixing CYFs – Paula Rebstock is asked to “rescue” another state agency

The Daily Blog: Why The State Needs To Support Young People Until They’re 21

Previous related blogposts

WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers – *up-date*

Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around

The law as a plaything

Random Thoughts on Random Things #3

John Key’s government – death by two cuts

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

“I don’t know the details of that particular family” – Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

Polls and pundits – A facepalm moment

“The Nation” reveals gobsmacking incompetence by Ministers English and Lotu-Iiga








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  1. +100

    It is an outrage that victimised kids are getting such a raw deal. Especially as any baby killed by abuse in this country is front page news. What about those kids that are ‘rescued’ by CYFS but the outcomes are dire for them with all the ‘state’ help?

    Having talked to a person fostering a child which is not easy, the foster family were paid a pittance which did not cover the child’s needs but apparently the child’s legal bills were over $500,000. It is prioritising everything but the actual CARE of the child.

    Agree with
    Indeed, “people who are fostering, most of them don’t do it for the money” – but it sure helps pay the bills, especially for professional services for some very damaged children.

    See under neoliberalism, people can’t actually be paid properly for work they do (especially care or social work) but businesses like SERCO – the sky is the limit for tax payers money and it doesn’t matter if they do a bad job, charge a fortune and people die like in the prisons under their care.

    • Great comment.

      You’re right that people who provide essential services, such as foster parents, rest home workers, support workers for people with disabilities, etc., are not valued. This is in stark contrast to business people, farmers, private companies, private schools, etc., which are regularly given taxpayer funding. They therefore are the country’s biggest beneficiaries, yet the National Government and their supporters scapegoat vulnerable people on benefits, such as the unemployed, disabled people, those with mental illnesses and elderly people.

      John Key remains popular because he and his National cronies appeal to the spite and self-satisfaction of those who view themselves as “middle New Zealand”. People like that never change their outlook unless something impacts directly on them. When it does, they are at the front of the queue, demanding taxpayer funded support.

      It is unconscionable that Serco could end up providing services to the most vulnerable children in New Zealand. Serco enabled and encouraged brutality in Mt Eden Prison, and hid these incidents, to falsify their statistics to make outcomes look good. Serco functions much like Key – like an obnoxious, cheating, malicious 12-year-old.

      By the way, it’s obvious that Key sycophants are desperately downvoting comments that reveal the true behaviour, character and stunted moral development of this National Government and their supporters.

  2. So tired of all this double speak to avoid issues , national is treating children like an expence instead of assets which they would be if cared for properly.
    Mr Key forgets all NZ children are registered at NZ inc on the American stock exchange,so hes neglecting his assets,like he neglects his responsibilities to NZ.
    Does Mr Key not realise if he changes his loyalties from the elite to the NZ people he would leave a huge and wonderful legacy.
    Its not to late Mr Key,you may get money and a grand title but the real legacy would be doing the job you were airlifted in to do,not what the lifters wanted but what NZ needs.
    Mr Key it must be hard to be disliked by so many people,you could change that,stop the TPP, look after the children. Redeem yourself, it would be much appreciated but not really expected given your own ideas on the subject but we live in hope.

    • Love it –
      Mr Key forgets all NZ children are registered at NZ inc on the American stock exchange,so hes neglecting his assets,like he neglects his responsibilities to NZ.

      Now there’s a business opportunity they haven’t thought of!

      BTW apparently the student loan debt was registered on the books as an ASSET to the country. Makes you sick.

    • If they treated children like assets they would probably sell them along with what remains of our other state assets.

    • Elle, these kids aren’t an asset – they’re a liability.

      No amount of CYPS workers standing at the bottom of this cliff will solve the problem of child abuse that the structure of our welfare system has helped create.

      Our taxes have helped breed a criminal underclass and it’s high time we tackled the problem at it’s root cause rather than adding bureaucrats to catch these kids once the damage has already been done.

      Once Were Warriors: It’s a documentary

        • Frank, my solutions are strong disincentives for people to have children they don’t have the capacity to support.

          These could be a range of initiatives including:

          A ‘no-baby bonus’ for DPB mums?

          A requirement for long contraception as part of terms for accepting DPB?

          Abortion or adoption for babies of beneficiary mothers who have a record of child neglect?

          Rejigging of ‘working for families’ to discourage the production of large, low income families.

          Other creative ideas – other ideas welcome!

      • Andrewo ALL children are born assets, its people you who judge without ever experiencing the life they live that cause problems.

        I spoke to Dame Whina Cooper years ago,a most beautiful soul,who had more sense in her little finger than ever John Key has or ever had. Dame Whina said “the governments give benefits
        to moari families to keep them dependant ,they have done the maori no favours,they have in a lot of cases learned dependence,
        It starts with families in the beginning,then their children and grandchildren follow the tradition of welfare as a way of life.
        Part of the reason governments pay welfare is guilt over the way maori have been cheated,now some maori have an expectation the government will support them forever.
        The governments caused the dependancy,they need to fix it in a democratic way by treating the dependants with dignity not contempt.”
        Dame Whinas words are more true today than ever.

        • No argument from me on that point!

          Welfare has proven to be a hand-out not a hand-up for many.

          What do you suggest we do?

      • No Andrew, “Once were Warriors” is not a documentary. It’s a condemnation of New Right policies which created the subhuman conditions that allowed an underbelly class in NZ to flourish. It is the fallout from your neo-lib reforms which cast entire families aside like used tissue paper.

        The irony is that we’ve had a growth of impoverished families in this country since 1984.

        “Trickle down”? Like hell.

  3. If Tolley does not want to set up “a professional caregiving regime”, then I can feel reassured that that mean she will not outsource care of CYF kids to Serco, who are of course, “a professional caregiving regime.”
    And the grim dystopian future of a privatised everything leaving a trail of broken, spewed out humanity, with faceless corporations pocketing billions as they provide social “services” with minimal accountability that I can see lurching towards me over the distant horizon is but a fig of my imagination.

    • Its not Anne Tolley at fault its Paula Rebstock pushing the privatisation agenda, and she was brought in by Key to do it,Goldman Sachs oversees it ,nuff said.Follow the money.

  4. In case nzs don’t get the cartoon with David Cameron and the house.
    The Big Issue is a magazine sold on the streets by the unemployed. The big houses in question are the one in places like upmarket Chelsea
    were given to new immigrants from Africa and places like it.
    One family with 10 children a grandmother, uncle etc.The mother of the children was the main breadwinner for all of them including the adults none of whom work. The income is from benefits from children and dependants. the house rent was over thousand pounds a week, government says it was the only house with enough space to house the family.
    Meanwhile big families of British people live in cramped places,no Chelsea house for them.
    While those living in the house have an excellent lifestyle thanks to British taxes of which they havnt contributed a cent,the unemployed Big issue sellers just look on in disgust,and other families suffer.
    Any wonder Jeremy Corbyn did so well.

  5. A comment I made to Stuff suggesting that the government got the report it wanted by putting Paula Rebstock in charge of compiling it, never got past their censor so wasn’t published. I wonder why????!!!!

    • @ BRIAN F – don’t fret. Despite still sending comments to both Stuff and NZH on various issues, I haven’t had anything published since very early in the year! But to date, have never been advised I am banned from commenting.

      I guess it’s called the “silent” treatment, while not having the guts to tell certain non conformist posters their posts are not welcome!

      Thank goodness for TDB.

      • There is something “wrong” with their comments section – one day I posted something and checked the “e-mail me with any follow-up” box. I reloaded and reloaded the page to see if any further comments came up and nothing did. Then I started getting email with comments relating to my comment so obviously someone was seeing it. IIRC I then swapped browsers and got a really different view of what comments had been made. (I commented about it, IIRC, on The Standard at the time – 6 to 9 months ago.)

        Now I think they have taken away that box that allowed people to ask for follow-ups. The last few times I have looked to check it after commenting, I couldn’t find it.

        I have a suspicion that they are massaging the comments which would be ok-ish if there are just too many to get a decent load time but I sorta suspect they are being massaged to suit the viewer’s perceived preferences (based on the way a fresh browser with very few cookies showed very different comments).

  6. Key is still the most preferred PM, National rating at around 47-48% and he donates his salary to charity. Still the most popular PM in NZ history.

    A big percentage of NZers and the media love and adore him. The State House Boy made good.

    • On the bus the other day, two man were openly saying to each other “I don’t trust that John Key”. Even though I live in a red electorate this is the first time I have heard anyone being comfortable enough to say this kind of thing out loud – they had the expectation that anyone else hearing them would agree rather than argue the toss.

      I think the tide had turned in the populace. It hasn’t turned in the media yet because TVNZ are under the govt thumb and mediaworks don’t want to miss out on some more corporate welfare.

      • I was at work the other day and heard [Eddie, for someone who is “new” here, you’ve made a rapid start to making comments that verge on trolling. First and last warning. I have also trashed some of your submitted comments which add very little to the debate. Remember, you are a guest here. Do not assume you have an automatic right to post whatever you feel like. – ScarletMod] stories eh?

        • Work is different because it’s a private space and people tend to have a feel for what they can say to each other.

          On the bus, people don’t have a feel for what other people are thinking so they only say contentious things if they think everyone else is thinking pretty much like them anyway. Noone wants to get smacked on the nose.

          Yes, it’s an N=1 anecdote but a tide turning starts with N=1.

    • Of course he can donate his salary to ‘charity’ (is the Natz a charity or maybe the taxpayers union?) because his 2 and 6 salary is nothing compared to the millions being siphoned off via ‘blind trusts’ and cronies and donations to the National party via his actions as PM.

    • It is a lie, perpetuated by National, their supporters and complicit, fawning, mainstream media, that Key donates his salary to charity. No one corrects this fallacy.

      This is yet another example of how Key and his supporters have stunted moral development, and find it acceptable to lie and cheat, whether by overt lying or by omission.

    • …and he donates his salary to charity.

      I think you’re repeating an urban myth there, Jack. There has never been any evidence to support that rumour.

      Still the most popular PM in NZ history

      His popularity has fallen considerably, Jack, from 55.8% in October 2009, to 39.5% in the latest TV3-Reid Research poll – a fall of 16.3 percentage points.

      So his “popularity” is waning.




      • That’s meaningless Frank. The popularity of PM’s always falls with the passage of time. But if you compare Key’s relative popularity with both Helen Clarks at the same time of her leadership, and of other would be PM’s, there is daylight between them. Key is enormously popular. I know you lefties don’t understand it, but it is just plain silly to deny it.

        • Key is enormously popular. I know you lefties don’t understand it, but it is just plain silly to deny it.

          Of course it’s silly to deny it, Amos.

          Which is why I never said it in the first place and you’re arguing a point I never made.

          The comment I actually made was,

          “His popularity has fallen considerably, Jack, from 55.8% in October 2009, to 39.5% in the latest TV3-Reid Research poll – a fall of 16.3 percentage points.

          So his “popularity” is waning.”

          Which is true. It is waning. by 16.3 percentage points since October 2009.

          Are you going to be silly and deny that?

          • [Amos, please stick to the issue of this blogpost. Do not engage in side-issues that have nothing to do with the post. That is what the Daily Blog Open Mic is for. – ScarletMod]

        • Yes he is enormously popular. Nobody is denying it. It is unheard of in recent history. Seddon was premier for 12 years I think. But there is a detectable change in the wind, and I think even you would have to acknowledge that. But more to the point; is it a fact that Key donates his salary to charity? How do we know?

        • We’re not talking about Helen Clark. We’re talking about the current PM, John Key.

          Key is popular, but so was Stalin. What’s your point, Amos??

    • @ Jack Ramaka – “Still donates his money to charity.” That’s what FJK stated when he first became PM. He said he will give a proportion of his salary to charity during his first term of office.

      However nothing has been proven or established as to how much or what charity benefited, or even if he did donate at all. It’s all BS, to boost his over inflated, very flawed ego!

    • Key himself dosnt believe the polls especially if it disagrees with one of his ideas, ie the flag. If you believe the poll that says Key is still the most popular pm with a vote of 47% you live on planet Key and are one of the people who accept what National want unwary people to believe ,he lies so much and controls certain polls.
      Read the comments page in Herald ,most are anti Key,and that’s the Herald loving Key of whom most paid “journalists” praise even his lies.

  7. Very well done, Frank, I hope the useless rest of the MSM reads this post. Most are not doing their jobs, and spend endless time on side issues and superficial news for the consumerist middle class.

    Ann Tolley did at least admit that “it is hard to survive on a benefit”. What an admission, but we can expect little action to have them increase benefits and better resource CYFS and the rest of MSD.

    The PM and his Finance Minister tell the rest where things will go, Tolley is just a loyal follower, who will do as she gets told, and continue misinforming the public and presenting endless spin about all the hard work they do. I call her Ms BS.

Comments are closed.