Ministry for Children - Oranga Tamariki: Waitangi Tribunal to conduct urgent inquiry; internal practice review findings released
Tue 19 Nov 2019
Following ongoing attention on Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children, the Waitangi Tribunal will conduct an urgent inquiry into the policies and practices of Oranga Tamariki. In addition, the Ministry for Children has released the findings from its internal practice review.
Following ongoing attention on Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children, the Waitangi Tribunal will conduct an urgent inquiry into the policies and practices of Oranga Tamariki.
In addition, the Ministry for Children has released the findings from its internal practice review .
Waitangi Tribunal urgent inquiry
Waitangi Tribunal Chairperson Chief Judge Wilson Isaac has confirmed a Waitangi Tribunal urgent inquiry will be conducted into the policies and practices of Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children. In his decision on 25 October 2019, Judge Isaac wrote:
"I conclude that there are sufficient grounds for an urgent inquiry into a specific contemporary issue concerning a risk of significant and irreversible prejudice to Māori arising from current Oranga Tamariki policy and practice. That issue, which is not fully addressed in the other independent inquiries under way, can be stated as follows:
(a) Having regard to the rising and disproportionately high number of tamariki Māori taken into state care under the auspices of Oranga Tamariki, is Crown legislation, policy and practice inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty and the Crown’s Treaty duties to Māori? If so,
(b) What changes to Crown legislation, policy and practice are required to ensure Treaty compliance? "
"The inquiry will be limited to the issue of the disproportionately high and rising number of tamariki Māori being taken into state custody and will not extend, except for purposes of context and evidence of prejudice, to methods of uplifting children, cases of abuse in care, standards of care, historical grievances and the Ministry and Oranga Tamariki remedy processes, all of which are being addressed in other independent inquiries."
The inquiry will relate primarily to the following Waitangi Tribunal applications:
- Wai 2823, Jean Te Huia on behalf of all whānau who have been prejudicially affected by the practices, decisions and actions of Oranga Tamariki, on 18 June 2019
- Wai 2891, Dr Rawiri Waretini-Karena, Dr Jane Alison Green and Kerri Nuku on behalf of themselves, their whānau, hapū and iwi, and all Māori, on 2 July 2019
Judge Isaac had also considered a number of other applications for urgent inquiries related to the experiences of Māori children placed in state care. However he concluded that applications related to historic abuse in state care did not meet the criteria for urgency while the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care is taking place.
Judge Isaac also noted that broader issues beyond the current practices of Oranga Tamariki that were raised in related claims on abuse in state care would be heard in future kaupapa inquiries, including the Social Services and Social Development inquiry and the Mana Wāhine inquiry.
For more information search the Waitangi Tribunal website using the Wai number noted above.
Oranga Tamariki internal review and immediate changes
Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children has completed its internal review of the case highlighted by Newsroom's coverage of the attempted uplift of a Māori newborn baby from a Hawke's Bay hospital. Oranga Tamariki released the report saying "mistakes were made" and announcing changes to Oranga Tamariki practice that would take effect immediately. In a media release, Oranga Tamariki stated:
"Undertaken by the Chief Social Worker, with independent oversight from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and a representative of Ngāti Kahungunu, the Review found that although safety concerns for the baby meant Oranga Tamariki did the right thing to get involved, mistakes were made in how it worked with the family and other partners.
The Review found the Ministry didn’t try hard enough to build good relationships with whānau members or to explore options to place the baby with wider family, and the systems in place to check decisions didn’t work as intended.
Additionally, too much reliance was placed on historical information about the whānau and not enough effort was made to understand their current situation."
Oranga Tamariki stated that the following changes would be made immediately:
"Unless there is a clear need for action to protect a child from immediate and imminent danger, all interim custody order applications will be made ‘on notice’ to ensure the family is given the opportunity to have their say before a judge makes a final decision.
When staff need to act faster to keep a child safe, every Section 78 ‘without notice’ application will go through additional checks with a Regional Legal Manager, a Site Manager and a Practice Leader all signing off.
Additional investment will be made into staff training nationwide and greater supervision for Family Group Conferences
Our practise leaders on every site will look at all reports of concern for unborn and newborn babies and check that we put the right planning and assessment around vulnerable mothers at the earliest opportunity.
In Hastings, more resources and training will be provided to staff and a new Regional Supervisor appointed."
The Practice Review (2019) report sets out specific recommendations.
You can also watch the video of Oranga Tamariki Chief Executive Gráinne Moss announcing the findings and responding to questions.
Many people have responded to the findings including Children’s Minister Tracey Martin, Matthew Tukaki of the New Zealand Māori Council, Whānau Ora Commissioning Chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft and Te Rūnanga ā Iwi o Ngāpuhi CEO Lorraine Toki. See the related media below for further commentary.
Newsroom recently reported that the parents involved in the case are also having their first child returned to their care.
The Ministry for Children has published Specialist Māori Roles – Evidence Synthesis (2019). This seeks to assess the implementation of specialist Māori roles through the Enhancing Tamariki and Whānau Participation in Decision-Making programme.
Other reviews and inquiries
Other ongoing processes examining the policies and practices of Oranga Tamariki include:
- National Māori Inquiry into Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children led by Whānau Ora
- Thematic review by Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft
- Investigation by Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier.
For more information on these reviews and other actions from community groups and advocates, see our previous article Oranga Tamariki uplift practices: media, advocacy, reviews.
Lights on Oranga Tamariki, Press Release: Ngati Hine Health Trust, Scoop, 06.12.2019 (also see Northland Maori Commissioning Collective emerges, Press Release: Ngati Hine Health Trust, Scoop, 21.11.2019)