Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service?

The Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (the Service) is a body established by the Government to listen to the experiences of and to provide assistance to anyone who has concerns or alleges abuse or neglet whilst in State care. You are invited to particpate in the Service if you have lived in psychiatric hospitals and wards, health camps, child welfare care and special education homes before 1992.

Why has the Service been established?

The Service is largely based on the Confidential Forum for Former In-Patients of Psychiatric Hospitals, established in 2004 to provide an opportunity for former in-patients to speak about their experiences. Given the success of Confidential Forum, the Government decided to extend the listening and assistance services to all forms of residential State care; psychiatric hospitals and wards, health camps, child welfare care and special education homes before 1992.

When was the Service established and how long will it run for?

The Service was established in late 2008 and has been hearing from people who wish to tell of their experiences and concerns to the Panel since early 2009.  It is anticipated that the Service will run for a period of approximately five years.  However, this length of time depends on the number of participants who choose to take part in the Service.  The Service may operate for a lesser or greater period of time depending on demand.

Who is eligible to participate in the Service?

The Service is open to you if: prior to 1992 you were admitted to a psychiatric hospital or ward, or stayed at a health camp, or been a ward of the State, in foster care or in a children's home as a child ordered by child welfare, or lived in a special education boarding school, and if you have concerns about your experiences during care.

Why is the Service only open to those who were in State care before 1992?

This date was considered relevant because it reflects the time by which these sectors had modernised their standards and improved mechanisms to manage complaints.

What are the functions of the Service?

The functions of the Service are
•  to provide the opportunity for participants to talk about your concerns and/or experiences with a panel of suitably qualified people.
•  to help you identify your current needs and get assistance to access services.
•  to enable you to access information held about you by the State, so they can ask questions and seek correction to any of that information.
•  to assist you to come to terms with your experience as far as it is reasonable.

The Service is not intended to determine liability or make legal findings, nor recommend the payment of compensation.

How does the Service operate?

The Service engages a Panel of appropriately qualified individuals who meet with you and hear about your experiences and concerns. Members of the Panel are selected because they are familiar with State care in New Zealand, and have a significant and respected community profile.

The Panel travels around New Zealand to hear peoples concerns.  People are met on a first come first served basis where ever possible to minimise waiting time.  A small skilled team arranges the Panel meetings and administers the Service.  A Facilitator is available to you to provide you with support and advice through the process of the Panel meeting and implement any assistance offered by the Panel.

Your concerns will be heard in a comfortable, confidential and private setting.  Talking with the Panel will provide an opportunity for you to talk about past concerns and help identify current needs for support and assistance.

The panel is normally made up of three panellists but meetings can be held with two panellists if necessary. You may also be permitted to have your story heard by one panellist alone if this is what you would prefer.

What sort of assistance can the Service provide?

During the meeting the Panel will assist you to identify your needs for current assistance and support.  In recognition that talking about painful experiences in the past can be difficult, counselling is available for you should you require it.

If required the Service can assist you to access information held about you by the State, in an environment where you can ask questions and seek correction to the information held.

Other practical assistance such as information about education, employment assistance, advocacy services or liaison with other government agencies may also be offered after the meeting if agreed by the Panel.  A Facilitator will be available to arrange and implement the assistance offered.

Why has Judge Henwood been chosen to Chair the Service?

Judge Carolyn Henwood has been appointed Chair of the Service. Judge Henwood is a member of the New Zealand Parole Board and has over 20 years experience as a District Court and Youth Court Judge. During that time, Judge Henwood has been involved with youth and criminal justice issues, as well as having significant involvement in the arts. Judge Henwood has also been involved in Te Hurihanga, a residential programme aimed at preventing youth re-offending. The mediation and negotiation skills that Judge Henwood has developed throughout her career will be of great assistance to help you talk about your concerns or experience in State care.

Who are the Panel members?

Panel members have been appointed on the basis of their expertise and standing in the community. From time to time the Panel members may change according to their availability.  Biographies of the current pool of Panel members are outlined under About the Panel.

What will happen at the Panel meeting?

The Chair will welcome you, and the Panel will introduce themselves to you and your support people. The Chair will offer you an opportunity for karakia, prayer or other relevant protocol to open the meeting if you would like. After the Chair has opened with some introductory remarks, you are then given an opportunity to talk about their experience in State care and to identify the key concerns that they want the Panel to understand. A Panel meeting can last up to 90 minutes - sometimes you may require less time, or a little more.

As the Panel meeting draws to a close the Chair will summarise the key issues you raised, clarify the type of assistance which you have identified would be useful and assist you to come to terms with your experience and record any other actions required by the Service. The Chair will offer you a further opportunity for karakia, prayer or other relevant protocol to close the meeting if you would like.

The Facilitator will talk to you before the meeting by phone, meet you and your support people on the day of your panel meeting and debrief with you after your meeting. The Facilitator will also ensure that the outcomes of the panel meeting are followed through.

If I participate in the Service will anyone else be able to find out what I have said?

The Service must ensure that processes and systems maintain your complete confidentiality.  Any information given to the Service will not be made public  You will be advised that discussions with the Panel are strictly confidential, unless there are immediate concerns that you intend to hurt yourself or someone else.  Only in that case, you will be informed that the appropriate emergency services will be contacted for your safety.

How much does the Service cost?

There is no cost for you to participate in the Service. The Chair of the Service will determine the location of panel meetings and can arrange for you to get reasonable assistance for actual and reasonable transport costs and with other necessary costs in special circumstances.

Where does the Service hold its Panel meetings?

The Service will be meeting in locations throughout the country to make it as easy as practicable for people to attend in venues close to their own homes. The Panel meetings will be held in an accessible, comfortable and private room in a hotel or motel. The Facilitator will advise you of the date, time and venue for a Panel meeting in your locality.

What is the role of the Facilitator?

The Facilitator can provide advice and support to you when you contact the Service.  You will also be supported by the Facilitator before and after your Panel meeting. The Facilitator does not sit in on the meeting with the Panel, but assists the Panel by informing them of services that can provide you with the assistance and support suggested by the Panel. 

The Facilitator ensures that counselling is available to you if offered it by the Panel and co-ordinates the provision of your agreed assistance.  The Facilitator works directly with organisations to help you access services.  The Facilitator can assist you to take up your concerns directly with a relevant government agency if you wish, and talk with the appropriate staff member identified within that agency.  For example, if you were in the care of the Department of Social Welfare, the Facilitator can assist you to take up your concerns directly with the Ministry of Social Development should you wish.

Can I have a record of my meeting with the Panel?

You can have your meeting with the Panel recorded if you wish.  A digital recorder will be available at the Panel meeting and a CD recording of the proceedings is provided to you after your meeting should you request it.

Can I bring somebody to support me at the meeting with the Panel?

You may bring up to two support people with you to the Panel Meeting.  Support people will not have speaking rights except with the permission of the Panel.  The Chair may agree to allow more support people to accompany you to the Panel meeting if it is appropriate.  Legal representation at the meeting is not permitted.

Will the Service impact on litigation that is already before the Courts?

Litigation is able to continue separately from the work of the Service – no-one's legal rights are affected by attendance at the meeting.

If I participated in the Confidential Forum can I also participate in the Service?

It is possible that if you have attended the Confidential Forum you may be able to attend the Service.  However it will be the Chair of the Service's decision to allow anyone who has previously participated in the Confidential Forum to also participate in this Service.

Who is responsible for administering the Service?

The Department of Internal Affairs will have responsibility for appointing the Panel members and administering the Service. The Service operates as an independent entity.