Government announces changes to oversight for children in care system

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Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni has announced changes to government oversight of the children’s system (particularly children in state care).

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) began the review of the oversight of the children's system in 2017 and carried out targeted consultation in 2018.

The new system is intended to strengthen three areas:

  • System-level advocacy for all New Zealand children and young people
  • Oversight and investigation of complaints of matters related to application of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 (Children’s and Young People’s Well-being Act 1989) (the Act) and/or children in the care or custody of the State
  • Independent monitoring and assurance of the operations and obligations delivered under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 (Children’s and Young People’s Well-being Act 1989) and associated regulations.
The system-level advocacy function will be continued as currently defined in the Children’s Commissioner Act 2003.
 
In terms of the independent monitoring function, Carmel Sepuloni said:

"Given the scale and scope of Oranga Tamariki’s new [National Care] Standards, the monitoring function that will be required will be a steep shift in size and complexity and will be a significant change for the sector.

The Ministry of Social Development will be tasked with establishing and operating the new regulatory monitor function with the intention to transfer to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner once it is running effectively. 

The Ministry of Social Development will work with the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, and engage with Māori and other key stakeholders to build a new monitoring framework for monitoring services to children under the Oranga Tamariki Act."

MSD is to work with Te Puni Kōkiri and Te Arawhiti, in line with the Māori Crown relations Engagement Framework and Guidelines, to "ensure appropriate Māori and iwi engagement during the establishment of the monitoring function, and to support improvement of MSD’s te ao Māori capability."

In terms of the complaints oversight and investigation function, Carmel Sepuloni said:

"Under the new arrangements, The Ombudsman has been tasked with providing an enhanced complaints oversight and investigations function relating to the Oranga Tamariki system given their expertise in this area."

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier welcomed the announcement, saying:

"Under this proposal, I can work quickly to respond to complaints, as well as identifying and resolving emerging issues. I can launch an investigation at any stage. Oranga Tamariki will need to tell me about any serious issue or if it receives any significant complaints."

The government's changes will require legislation to be introduced. The proposed legislation, provisionally titled the Independent Oversight (Oranga Tamariki and Children’s Issues) Bill, will bring together in one place the respective roles, responsibilities and powers of oversight bodies assigned the three primary oversight functions.

Further information is available on the Oranga Tamariki website, on the Ministry of Social Development website and in the Cabinet Minute of Decision.

Update: The State Services Commission has released four Aide-Memoires related to strengthening independent oversight of the children's system.

The New Zealand Māori Council recently called for a Māori children's commissioner to be appointed (see further in media list below).

Background information

Documents from the review of the independent oversight of the care of children are available on the MSD website. This includes the Cabinet paper outlining the proposals, reports summarising the consultation process and a report by independent reviewer Sandi Beatie QSO.

The National Care Standards (NCS) were approved in 2018 and will come into effect on 1 July 2019. 

For more information see our previous NZFVC news stories:

Cabinet paper and consultation on independent oversight of child care and protection system

National standards regulations for children in care approved

MSD developing national care standards

Related media

Concern for Māori children needs to be system wide, Waatea News, 12.04.2019

Māori need structural role in children's system, Waatea News, 10.04.2019

Calls for a Māori Children's Commissioner to give voice and advocacy tamariki, Radio NZ, 08.04.2019

Māori Council crack down on State Care system, Māori Television, 05.04.2019

20 years on from one of NZ's worst child abuse cases: 'Nothing's changed', NZ Herald, 05.04.2019

Young Māori over-represented in state care and detention, Radio NZ, 04.04.2019

Call for independent Māori children's commissioner over 'unconscionable' rates of abuse in state care, NZ Herald, 04.04.2019

Kids in care data a sign of failure, Waatea News, 03.04.2019

Oranga Tamariki - Some Food for Thought, Re-Imagining Social Work in Aotearoa New Zealand: Ian Hyslop, 01.04.2019