MSD revising process for responding to claims of historic abuse in state care

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The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is working on improving its process for responding to historic claims related to abuse in state care.

There are increasing numbers of claims being received by MSD and a backlog of claims. In some cases people who have made a claim (claimants) are waiting several years for it to be resolved. Claimants have also raised a number of other issues about the process.

MSD has released two reports commissioned as part of its review:

The first changes MSD is implementing were introduced on 1 November 2018. Other changes will be phased in over the next four years. MSD outlines the changes in brief:

"What will be different straight away?

    • Streamlining the assessment process so where possible we assess claims without investigating fully each of the claimant’s concerns.
    • Being more aware of a claimant’s cultural and personal needs.
    • Improved communication from the Ministry.
    • Resources delivered through various channels that provide clear information about the claims process. These will be prepared with input from claimants.

What will be different over the next few years?

    • Claimants having more choice about how they engage with us, and who they engage with.
    • Improved assistance to claimants when reading and understanding their personal records and why some information may be blocked out.
    • Significant increase in the numbers of Ministry staff working on claims.
    • Improvements around how the Ministry provides information to Oranga Tamariki to help prevent the same mistakes happening today, and sharing this with claimants."

MSD notes:

"Our aim is to put in place a continuous improvement process that enables feedback from claimants to directly feed in to improvements to the assessment process. Some changes may require more time and consideration, while others can be immediately actioned to provide an improved service. The feedback on claimants’ over-riding concern for the improvement of conditions for children currently in care is an example of a change that we can begin to immediately action. Feedback from claimants is currently compiled into a report to Oranga Tamariki to help them with social work practice improvement. We have also in the past held presentations for front line staff of Oranga Tamariki to inform their approach. We will work with Oranga Tamariki to improve these processes and ensure claimants understand how their experiences are helping to improve social work practice."

MSD has also released under the Official Information Act, the MSD Historic Claims Business Process and Guidance (March 2019). In addition MSD has published their Privacy Statement Historic Claims and the Brochure - What happens when I make a claim.

Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of Auckland, Dr Stephen Winter said the announcement was "largely good news for survivors" and the changes welcome. However he noted "they are modest, small revisions rather than a revamp of a seriously flawed process. ... it remains to be seen how significant the proposed changes will be and whether the Royal Commission will view them as sufficient."

For more information, see the MSD work programme on Historic Abuse.

Related news

The MSD work on claims is separate from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-based Institutions Te Kōmihana Karauna mō ngā Tūkino o Mua ki te Hunga i Tiakina e te Kāwanatanga i Tiakina hoki e ngā Whare o te Whakapono.

Archives New Zealand recently issued a General Notice revoking authority to dispose of public records relevant to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-based Institutions.

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni has announced changes to the government oversight of the children’s system including independent oversight for the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 (Children’s and Young People’s Well-being Act 1989).

Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children has published data on the number of children harmed while in the care of Oranga Tamariki.

Related media

The Royal Commission into Abuse in State Care: Where is the Survivor Voice?, Re-Imagining Social Work in Aotearoa New Zealand Blog, 04.05.2019

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