Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Better view for Oranga Tamariki future

The Government today introduced key legislation intended to strengthen oversight of Oranga Tamariki.

“The Oversight of the Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People’s Commission Bill will establish a comprehensive, cohesive system to improve outcomes for children and young people, tamariki and rangatahi, across New Zealand,” Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni said.

She said reviews over a number of years had shown the performance of the current care system was not achieving the outcomes for children, young people and families that New Zealanders expect.

The Bill:

  • Establishes the Independent Monitor to assess compliance with the Oranga Tamariki Act and the quality of Oranga Tamariki System service delivery, and assess outcomes for children and young people, families, whānau and iwi in the Oranga Tamariki System;
  • Strengthens independent complaints oversight and investigations related to the Oranga Tamariki System  by the Ombudsman;
  • Strengthens system level advocacy for all New Zealand children and young people by establishing the Children and Young People’s Commission to replace the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, and enhancing its functions and activities;
  • Requires the oversight bodies to demonstrate a practical commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

“We need to improve the delivery of all three key areas of the Oranga Tamariki oversight system: the monitoring function; investigating and resolving complaints; and having strong systemic advocacy for all New Zealand children and young people, including addressing poverty reduction, and championing all children’s wellbeing and rights,” the Minister said.

‘We also need a system that improves outcomes for Māori, who are disproportionately impacted by the Oranga Tamariki System. The Bill places strong emphasis on engaging with Māori, and on effective ways of supporting improved outcomes for tamariki rangatahi and their whānau.”

Minister for Children, Kelvin Davis said the changes were important in strengthening the oversight and monitoring of Oranga Tamariki as the agency headed into a period of significant change.

“The new direction I have set for Oranga Tamariki will see it work in true partnership with the community and step back from the centre of decision making,” he said.

“Along with a Ministerial Advisory Board that will monitor that progress, these changes will ensure there is strong oversight of the wellbeing of children and whanau during that transformation.”

Under the Bill, the Monitor will carry out objective, impartial and evidence-based monitoring of the performance of the Oranga Tamariki System and provide authoritative and trusted evidence to the Government and public.

The Bill empowers the Ombudsman to provide a timely and child-centered complaints and investigation mechanism that is separate from internal Oranga Tamariki processes.

The Bill also replaces the current Commissioner-sole model of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner with a new Children and Young People’s Commission. The Commission will have expanded responsibilities for advocacy, particularly in relation to child participation, children’s rights, and upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The Commission’s role of inquiring generally into any children’s matters will be strengthened by allowing it to require the provision of non-identifying information from agencies to support its systemic inquiries.

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