Child protection reform bill passes into law

Image: iStock

Additional legislation from the child protection reforms has passed into law.

The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Bill was divided into two bills which received Royal Assent on 13 July 2017:

Vulnerable Children Amendment Act 2017 which amends the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Legislation Act 2017 which contains the majority of the legislative reforms.

The Beehive press release provides a brief overview of the reforms:

"The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 will be renamed the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, with an accompanying title of the Children’s and Young People’s Well-being Act 1989.

A small number of amendments will take effect following Royal Assent, while the majority will come into force by 1 July 2019.

The legislation:

  • changes the purposes and principles of the Act to better ensure children and young people are at the centre of decision-making, while considering them within the context of their family, whānau, hapū, iwi, and communities.
  • allows young people in care to remain or return to living with a caregiver until the age of 21, with transition support available up to age 25.
  • strengthens information sharing provisions to help keep vulnerable children and young people safe from harm or make arrangements for their well-being.
  • extends the youth justice system to include most 17 year olds (excluding those charged with specified serious offences).
  • enhances the complaints processes."

The bill was supported by National, ACT and United Future. It was not supported by the Labour Party, Māori Party, NZ First Party or Green Party, including due to the removal of the "whānau first" provisions. See the Hansard transcript for full detailed debate during the third reading of the bill in Parliament.

The Ministry of Social Development and Social Services Providers of Aotearoa (SSPA) websites provide information on the legislative reforms.

Related information

On the same day of the final reading in Parliament, a petition with 15,000 signatures and backed by the Human Rights Commission was presented to Parliament calling for a public apology and a full inquiry into state abuse of children in care. It has been suggested that the Government may be softening the decision to not conduct an inquiry, with Stuff News reporting that the Prime Minister said "if there are additional steps that can be taken in addition, that can help them, we're interested in that."

The Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Policy Observatory has published an independent review of the reforms by social work academic Emily Keddell, The Child Youth and Family Review: A Commentary on Prevention (June 2017).

Background information

See the previous NZFVC stories for background information, including media commentary:

Child protection reform bill has second reading, Select Committee reports, July 2017

Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki launched 1 April 2017, April 2017

Minister indicates rethink on Māori children in care; Select Committee hears submissions, March 2017

Closing date extended for submissions on child protection bill; Māori continue to raise concerns, February 2017

Treaty claim lodged on move away from whānau, hapū, iwi placements for children in care, December 2016

Proposal to deprioritise placing Māori children in care with whānau, hapū, iwi criticised, September 2016

Related media

Social workers quit ahead of Oranga Tamariki launch, Radio NZ, 17.08.2017

Call for independent watchdog needed to protect children in care, Radio NZ, 04.08.2017

More than 40 staff quit Te Puna Wai youth justice facility in two years, Stuff, 04.08.2017

From Nia Glassie to Moko Rangitoheriri: Why are we still killing our kids?, NZ Herald, 29.07.2017

Call for children's ministry watchdog as complaints rise, Radio NZ, 26.07.2017

Child protection and why we must understand parent anger too, Radio NZ, 13.07.2017

The mothers project in NZ women's prisons, Radio NZ, 18.07.2017

Ministry of Vulnerable Children addresses failings of CYF, Newshub, 09.07.2017

Oranga Tamariki to be debated in Parliament, Waatea News, 05.07.2017