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"We're not giving up yet.''
That is the message from Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan who will meet South Otago social services agencies this morning to discuss what steps could still be taken to save Roxburgh children's village.
Despite the facility for vulnerable children being officially closed by operator Stand Children's Services last Tuesday, Mr Cadogan said local stakeholders would not
Assurances from Oranga Tamariki that other agencies would be ``picking up the slack'' caused by the closure did not stand up to closer inspection, he said.
That meant he and others protesting the closure had a ``moral responsibility'' to do whatever they could to help the area's ``most vulnerable'' children.
``Oranga Tamariki have said to us `there are 520 other agencies we fund around New Zealand who can pick up the slack with these kids.' We've talked to our local agencies and there are, in fact, four - none of whom have the capabilities to address the additional volume and type of caseload in the provenly effective ways Roxburgh has until now.''
Locally, those agencies were NZ Police, Women's Refuge, Anglican Family Care and the Salvation Army.
He said Roxburgh village had provided short-term intervention care for about 220 children aged 5 to 12 last year, and an additional 85 were on waiting lists.
The facility was important because it offered a means for social service agencies to step into ``complex'' family situations before they escalated into longer-term issues for all concerned.
``With the loss of Roxburgh, our local agencies are saying they've lost their ability to save the day in many of these cases. Well, if Wellington isn't going to step up and take responsibility, we'll do it ourselves and stick up for our most vulnerable residents.''
Minister for Children Tracey Martin last week began the first of 14 regional hui, with officials talking to children's services contractors about improved services.
A hui for lower South Island providers, expected to touch upon the Roxburgh closure, will be held in Balclutha on Friday.