Oranga Tamariki: how to make a complaint, new reports and related news

Wed 25 Oct 2023

With changes to monitoring and oversight of Oranga Tamariki, new information about how to make a complaint is available for children, young people, and their families and whānau. We also highlight recent reports and the Survivor Experiences Service for survivors of abuse in care.

photo of a boy holding a mobile phone

Information on how to make a complaint about Oranga Tamariki

The Ombudsman has created online information for children, young people and their family and whānau who are thinking about making a complaint about Oranga Tamariki or its care or custody providers. Find the information at nau-mai.nz.

It says that anyone can talk to the Ombudsman's office including children and young people, family members and caregivers, and other adults like teachers. You can talk to the Ombudsman's office about things like:

  • How you are being treated
  • Not being heard
  • A decision being made that you don’t agree with
  • Your pocket money or other allowances
  • Experiences in care
  • Contact with your family or friends
  • Connecting with your culture
  • Moving in or out of care
  • Anything else.

There is information about what happens when you make a complaint, what happens if the Ombudsman investigates and how to contact the Ombudsman. It is free and confidential to contact the Ombudsman. You can call 0800 184 184 or email info@ombudsman.parliament.nz. Also see the Ombudsman's complaint process for children and young people, and for adults.

Children, young people and their families and whānau can also contact Mana Mokopuna – Children and Young People’s Commission or Aroturuki Tamariki | Independent Children’s Monitor for help with complaints. For more information see the guide to getting support and making a complaint in the oranga tamariki system. Children and young people in care can also contact, VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai, for help understanding their rights and expressing their views on any matter. This includes support to resolve issues or make a complaint.

Reports highlight issues in the Oranga Tamariki system

Ombudsman findings from complaints about Oranga Tamariki

In launching the information for children, Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier said “Complaints have grown year on year... . In fact, more than 2,000 of them since 1 July 2019.”

The Chief Ombudsman recently published findings from a complaint from a 19 year old person who came into Oranga Tamariki’s care in 2004, at the age of 4 months. The complaint covered the person's entire time in care including experiences of harm in care, and how Oranga Tamariki had handled complaints of harm experienced by the young person. The Chief Ombudsman found that "Oranga Tamariki had not addressed the young person’s complaint in a reasonable timeframe, nor had it implemented or monitored all of the recommendations that stemmed from the Oranga Tamariki investigation." He recommended Oranga Tamariki provide an apology, financial remedy, and further therapeutic supports to the young person. See more Ombudsman outcomes of complaints related to children in care.

Report on Oranga Tamariki secure residences

The Oranga Tamariki secure residences and a sample of community homes: independent external review report was recently published in September 2023. The report identifies a number of issues, stating:

"...external pressures to fill beds that arise from the lack of placements, when combined with the lack of experienced and skilled staff who apply a consistent model of service delivery, means that time in residence is now being driven by the needs of the system and staff first, with the needs and experience of young people coming second."

The report outlines 8 areas of the residential operating model that require improvement. See the Oranga Tamariki response to the rapid review. The review was commissioned by former Police Commissioner Mike Bush at the request of the Oranga Tamariki Chief Executive, and undertaken by an independent team. The review was in response to allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour by staff at Oranga Tamariki residences.

In announcing the report, Chappie Te Kani, Oranga Tamariki Chief Executive said "I accept the report and its findings in full." He also said a team and a report line had been set up to manage complaints, triage issues and get urgent work underway while the review took place. There have been 46 complaints or allegations involving Oranga Tamariki staff potentially causing harm to young people in care. The complaints ranged from inappropriate language, to more serious physical and sexual assaults. Of the 46 complaints, 28 were referred to Police for investigation. The remainder have been dealt with as employment matters. In addition, he stated that 22 kaimahi have been removed from Oranga Tamariki residences since 1 June 2023 and 3 staff members have been charged by Police for offences under the Crimes Act 1961. Te Kani further outlined leadership changes, the complaints process and actions to address health and safety. He also said:

"Most importantly, I want to acknowledge the rangatahi and tamariki who have been or continue to be cared for in our residences. You deserve the very best of our care and support.

The review reinforces the voices of many rangatahi who have called for change, who have asked to be understood in the context of their whakapapa and who have bravely shared their own experiences so that things can be different."

In response to the review, the Chief Children’s Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers said:

"The review outlines a vision where support and intervention matches the needs of each young person, with an emphasis on prevention, specialised care, therapeutic intervention, and whakapapa.

Mana Mokopuna supports that potential vision. This approach must be underpinned by strong partnerships with Māori, with community organisations, a strengthened workforce and adequate investment.

System change takes time. We see that some positive change is already underway, but this must be built on, with urgency."

See further commentary in the related media below. Find related Aotearoa New Zealand reports on secure residences in our library.

Aroturuki Tamariki | Independent Children’s Monitor's first thematic review report

Aroturuki Tamariki | Independent Children’s Monitor published a report looking at the experiences and practices for children and young people cared for at home while in State custody in August 2023. The report found that despite an increased focus by Oranga Tamariki on returning children and young people home, policies, practices and sufficient support are not yet in place. Read the full report, Returning Home From Care: An in-depth look at the experiences and practices surrounding tamariki and rangatahi cared for at home while in State custody (2023). Oranga Tamariki responded to the 6 issues identified in the report.

Background: Oranga Tamariki oversight and monitoring

Significant changes to Oranga Tamariki monitoring and oversight came into effect in mid-2023 as a result of the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System Act 2022 and Children and Young People's Commission Act 2022.

Mana Mokopuna – Children and Young People’s Commission launched in July 2023 welcoming 6 new Children's Commissioners: Judge Frances Eivers is the Chief Children’s Commissioner and Chair of the board along with new Children's Commissioners Dr Claire Achmad, Donna Matahaere-Atariki, Dr Julie Wharewera-Mika, Josiah Tualamali’i and Ronelle Baker. Mana Mokopuna – the Children and Young People’s Commission is an independent advocate for all 1.2 million mokopuna aged under 18 in Aotearoa and care-experienced mokopuna aged up to 25. It replaces the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, previously established in 1989. Mana Mokopuna also monitors places where mokopuna are held in detention.

Aroturuki Tamariki | Independent Children’s Monitor continues to monitor the performance of the Oranga Tamariki system, including compliance, quality of practice and outcomes.

The Ombudsman handles complaints about Oranga Tamariki and its care or custody providers. The Ombudsman also investigates and monitors serious and significant issues.

For more information see the Cabinet papers on the Children and Young People’s Commission Organisational Model and the Cabinet papers that give effect to the oversight.

Related news - service for survivors of abuse in care

The Survivor Experiences Service started in July 2023. It provides a safe, supportive, confidential place for survivors of abuse in State, faith-based, or other forms of care to share their experiences. It is also open to hearing the experiences of whānau. Through the Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry, survivors expressed need for a service to share their experiences, between the closure of the Royal Commission and the time when a new redress system is established. The Survivor Experiences Service will run through to the introduction of the redress system, which is being led by the Crown Response to the Abuse in Care Inquiry.

Related media

‘New Chief Children’s Commissioner dedicated to making real change’, Mana Mokopuna – Children and Young People’s Commission, Voxy, 01.11.2023

New Chief Children's Commissioner: Claire Achmad, RNZ, 11.01.2023

Oranga Tamariki acted ‘unreasonably’ during girl’s 18 years in care - Ombudsman, The Press, 14.10.2023

Children's Commissioner on Oranga Tamariki report: 'They deserve to be safe', RNZ, 22.09.2023

Oranga Tamariki review: Agency refers 28 complaints over staff conduct to police, RNZ, 21.09.2023

Oranga Tamariki review: Nearly two dozen residence staff removed and three charged since issues raised in June, NZ Herald, 21.09.2023

'I want to know when I can be back with my mum,' youth asks investigators of damning OT review, Stuff, 21.09.2023

Oranga Tamariki dumping kids back home, Waatea News, 10.08.2023 (listen to the full interview with Arran Jones on Waatea News)

Tamariki at high risk of harm once released from state care - report [in Te Reo Māori], Te Karere TVNZ, 09.08.2023

Improvements urged for tamariki returning to parents while in state care - report, RNZ, 09.08.2023

Community visits to monitor welfare of children in care soon to begin, RNZ, 19.07.2023

Whakapapa connection trounces Oranga Tamariki lock-ups, Waatea News, 11.07.2023

The kids are shouting from the rooftops – it’s time for youth justice residences to go, The Spinoff, 11.07.2023

Lady Tureiti Moxon: By Māori for Māori is the only solution for Māori, Te Ao Māori News, 08.07.2023

Punishment won’t fix OT woes, Waatea News, 06.07.2023

Urgent action needed to improve safety in justice facilities, union says, RNZ, 05.07.2023

Retribution call for rangatahi shows lack of compassion, Waatea News, 05.07.2023

Monitoring Oranga Tamariki big test of new office, RNZ, 04.07.2023

Government strengthens advocacy for all children with new Commission, Beehive media release, 01.07.2023

The last days of NZ's Children's Commissioner, RNZ, 24.06.2023

New monitor promises to be vigilant over Oranga Tamariki, RNZ, 23.06.2023

Commissioner calls for shut down of state youth facilities, RNZ, 22.06.2023

Oranga Tamariki: Sexual misconduct allegations show independent watchdog crucial - experts, RNZ, 22.06.2023

Oranga Tamariki youth residences should be shut down: Children's Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers, Stuff, 22.06.2023

Second Oranga Tamariki sexual misconduct allegation discovered during surprise visit, Stuff, 21.06.2023

New Oranga Tamariki investigation a time to make once in a generation change, Mana Mokopuna media release, 21.06.2023

Image: Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

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