Submissions open on bill to partially repeal Oranga Tamariki subsequent-child provisions

Fri 04 Feb 2022

The Parliamentary Social Services and Community Committee is calling for submissions on the Oranga Tamariki Amendment Bill.

The bill would amend the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 by partially repealing the subsequent-child provisions. It would also repeal a redundant information-sharing provision and amend technical errors and ambiguities.

The closing date for submissions on the Oranga Tamariki Amendment Bill is 20 February 2022.

Currently under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, a subsequent child is defined as any child, born or unborn, who has a parent who has been convicted of the murder, manslaughter, or infanticide of a child or young person (section 18B(1)(a)) or who has had a previous child or young person removed from their care and there is no realistic possibility that they will be returned to that person’s care (section 18B(1)(b)). Currently, if Oranga Tamariki receives a Report of Concern about a subsequent child, then the subsequent-child provisions apply. These provisions require Oranga Tamariki to either apply to the family court for a care and protection order, or to apply for confirmation that a child is safe to remain with their parents.

According to the call for submissions from the select committee, the Oranga Tamariki Amendment Bill would:

"...partially repeal the subsequent-child provisions. The bill proposes that the subsequent-child provisions would no longer apply to people who have had children or young people previously removed from their care. The subsequent-child provisions would continue to apply to persons convicted under the Crimes Act 1961 of the murder, manslaughter, or infanticide of a child or young person who was in the person’s care or custody at the time of the child’s or young person’s death."

The Explanatory note for the amendment bill states:

"The subsequent-child provisions, which came into effect on 30 June 2016, were intended to introduce an automatic, mandatory response to ensure greater oversight over the safety of subsequent children. However, a first principles review of the provisions in 2019 found that they were not operating in a way that promoted the best interests of children, nor as originally intended."

In addition, the bill would repeal section 66D of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989. This section provides that a child welfare and protection agency may use information relating to a child or young person to produce, link, or analyse datasets of information and produce combined datasets.

In giving evidence to the Waitangi Tribunal as part of the Tribunal's He Pāharakeke, He Rito Whakakīkīnga Whāruarua | Oranga Tamariki Urgent Inquiry (WAI 2915), former Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft described the subsequent-child provisions as a "pernicious, misguided and entirely counterproductive provision that should be consigned to the dustbin of history forthwith”, ultimately concluding that the provisions "constituted 'organisational racism'." 

When discussing the proposed changes, Minister for Children Kelvin Davis acknowledged that the provisions were in breach of the Treaty. He also noted that they "placed social workers in a difficult situation as they undermined the ability of social workers to work meaningfully with whānau, with hapū, with iwi, and with communities."

Submissions are due by 20 February 2022.

This bill is different than the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People's Commission Bill. Submissions on this bill closed on 26 January 2022 which proposed changes to the monitoring and oversight of Oranga Tamariki, including changes to the Office of the Children's Commissioner. For more information, see our news story below.

Update: The Oranga Tamariki Amendment Bill passed its third reading in Parliament on 13 December 2022. It received Royal assent on 16 December 2022, and  comes into force the day after receiving Royal assent.

Related news

In December 2021, the government released the report He Purapura Ora, he Māra Tipu - From Redress to Puretumu Torowhānui. The report from the Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry makes 95 recommendations. From the executive summary the report is:

"about the struggle of many survivors of abuse in care to restore their lives, regain their mana and hold previous and current government of the day, State and faith-based institutions to account for the abuse survivors suffered. It’s about the failures of those institutions to respond to the needs of survivors. This report also looks to the future, to what ‘redress’ should be available to survivors of abuse in care – that is, what is needed to put right the deep harm that has been done to individuals, their whānau and communities through abuse in care."

It is available in English, Te Reo Māori, Easy read and a NZSL video of the executive summary.

In releasing the report, the government announced that work will start on developing a new, independent, survivor-focused redress system stating that "A new redress system will be developed to help implement the recommendations made by the Royal Commission, alongside those who have been affected, their representatives and communities." Work is expected to start on designing the redress system in 2022 with final decisions to be made by Cabinet in mid-2023.

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Image: Ron Lach from Pexels

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