Oranga Tamariki: legislative updates, new reports and new resources
Thu 13 Oct 2022
This news story highlights a number of updates related to Oranga Tamariki including recent and ongoing legislative changes, new reports and new resources.
Oranga Tamariki is looking at changes to the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 and the Residential Care Regulations 1996. These changes will be contained in an amendment Bill called the Oranga Tamariki (Residential Care and Other Matters) Amendment Bill. Oranga Tamariki has published a series of issues papers outlining potential changes. Feedback is being invited on these issues in October, with the first closing date of 14 October 2022.
The Oranga Tamariki Amendment Bill would amend the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 by partially repealing the subsequent-child provisions, repealing a redundant information-sharing provision, and amending technical errors and ambiguities. The Final Report of the Social Services and Community Committee was published in June 2022, recommending the bill be passed.
The Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System Bill and the Children and Young People’s Commission Bill both received Royal Assent in August 2022. Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni said “We’re retaining a Chief Children’s Commissioner, we’ve strengthened the independence of the monitor, and we’ve reduced the review period to three years instead of five." The legislation shifts the responsibility for monitoring Oranga Tamariki to the Independent Children’s Monitor, which will come under the Education Review Office and the Ombudsman, both government agencies.
Advocates, state care survivors, community groups and organisations, and academic experts have criticised this approach and raised concerns that independence of the monitoring and the failure to wait for the Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry to be completed. We highlight some of responses below
- Children’s Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers was interviewed by Te Ao Māori news, E-Tangata printed an excerpt from evidence given by the Office of the Children's Commissioner to the Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry, also see Commissioner Eivers media release Lost opportunity, but a clear mandate remains
- Chief executive Tracie Shipton of VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai, the national advocacy organisation for young people in care, was interviewed by RNZ, Voyce - Whakarongo Mai previously outlined the reasons they oppose the bill and published a media release Oranga Tamariki Oversight Bill Must Go
- Dr Fleur Te Aho (Ngāti Mutunga) and Claire Mason, legal researchers from the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre for Indigenous Peoples and the Law, highlighted in the University of Auckland media release Time to hit pause on flawed Oranga Tamariki Bill, referring to their recently published brief Time to taihoa: the need to pause on the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People’s Commission Bill and give effect to te Tiriti o Waitangi and Indigenous rights (July 2022)
- David King and Jonathan Boston, academics in public policy, published the report Improving a system when young lives are at stake: A Public Policy Analysis of the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People’s Commission Bill (July 2022); see the related media release New Report Says Oranga Tamariki Oversight Bill Risks A ‘Vicious Cycle’ Of Increasing Harm To Children And Young People and listen to an interview with RNZ in Government urged to pause Oranga Tamariki bill
- Marama Davidson, Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence interviewed by Waatea News in the article Oranga Tamariki oversight watered down says Davidson.
Update: VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai has published an additional statement saying "VOYCE supports the oversight legislation being updated to include the recommendations of the Royal Commission’s final report due next year. The legislation also needs to align with the Oranga Tamariki Action Plan, to ensure young people don’t fall through any further systemic gaps."
See further responses and commentary to the legislation in the related media below. The Independent Children's Monitor has provided updates on the expansion of their monitoring role on their website and in previous newsletters. Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has also outlined how his office will respond to the increased monitoring responsibility.
The Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has publicly released the final report from his investigation into the death of Malachi Subecz at the request of his cousin and uncle. In releasing the report, the Chief Ombudsman said Oranga Tamariki failed to take the ‘‘bare minimum’’ action over safety concerns about Malachi Subecz and described Oranga Tamariki’s response as a "litany of failures.” In relation to this case, Oranga Tamariki is reviewing its practice and Dame Karen Poutasi is conducting an independent review looking at the roles and responsibilities of the different agencies involved in Malachi’s care.
Care to Custody: Incarceration Rates Research Report (2022) published by the Abuse in Care - Royal Commission of Inquiry looked at interagency records of more than 30,000 children and young people over five decades. The data shows that between 1950-1999, one out of every three children and young people placed in residential care by the State went on to serve a prison sentence later in life. For Māori children and young people who had been in State residential care over that time, up to 42% went on to receive a prison sentence later in life. The report was tabled during the Inquiry’s State Institutional Response public hearing. See related media below for updates from the State Institutional Response public hearing.
Oranga Tamariki published their annual Safety of Children in Care (2022) report drawing on data from July 2020 to July 2021. The data shows an increase in the number of children experiencing harm while in care.
The Independent Children's Monitor published Experiences of Care in Aotearoa: Agency Compliance with the National Care Standards and Related Matters Regulations – Reporting period 1 July 2020 – 30 June 2021. Media outlet Newsroom highlighted key points from the report in the article Children’s monitor hits milestone in scrutiny of Oranga Tamariki.
How we fail children who offend and what to do about it: ‘A breakdown across the whole system’ – Research and recommendations (2022) was written by Professor Ian Lambie, Dr Jerome Reil, Judge Andrew Becroft and Dr Ruth Allen. This report summarises findings from research that looked at risk and protective factors for children (under age 14 years) who offend in order to improve early identification and intervention. Also see the brief summary of the report.
Oranga Tamariki commissioned six reports drawing on data from the Adolescent Health Research Group’s Youth19 Rangatahi Smart Survey. The reports highlight key findings for young people involved with Oranga Tamariki and number of areas including: Takatāpui and rainbow young people, Identity and cultural connectedness, Housing and home life, Mental and physical health and healthcare access, Community and contexts and Youth Voices. A video recording is available from a webinar featuring researchers from the Adolescent Health Research Group presenting the findings from these reports.
Several agencies and non-government organisations have publicly released their alternative reports to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on Aotearoa New Zealand's progress on children's rights. This includes reports from the Children's Alliance, the Children's Commissioner, and the Backbone Collective.
Te Korimako Legal Education is a Māori initiative to educate and support whānau who come to the attention of Oranga Tamariki and the Family Court. Te Korimako's website has information and videos for whānau to understand how the law relates to tamariki and whānau. It covers the following areas of law Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, Family Violence Act 2018, Care of Children Act 2004, Property (Relationships) Act 1976 and other matters including wills, succession of Māori Land, surrogacy, whāngai and adoption.
The Ministry of Justice has published new resources to help parents, guardians and whānau understand the Family Court and the options available to them when making decisions about the care of their children and tamariki after a separation or change in family situation. This includes brief information sheets on making parenting arrangements, going through the Family Court to work out parenting arrangements, what to expect at Family Court, responding to a notice of application, lawyers working with children, legal advice and support, stopping a child being taken overseas and a parenting Plan Workbook.
The prevention project at the University of Otago | Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo is a project to understand the contexts, resources, and relationships that contribute to the prevention of baby removal in the Aotearoa New Zealand. The project is led by Emily Keddell (Associate Professor, University of Otago, Pākehā), Kerri Cleaver (Lecturer, Social Work, Canterbury University, Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Mamoe) and Luke Fitzmaurice (University of Otago, Victoria University Wellington, Te Aupōuri), with the collaboration of the NGO and social service forum. The prevention project website lists education materials to assist with educating about the range of practices, policies and systems that can reduce the outcome of baby removal. These materials might be helpful to those lecturing in formal academic settings, as well as those running trainings or professional development for social or community workers.
Oranga Tamariki has produced resources to support workers to safely and appropriately share information across the child welfare and protection sector.