The path to rebuilding trust and confidence in New Zealand’s child protection system has taken another step with the Oranga Tamariki Amendment Bill passing its third reading in Parliament.
The legislation includes a number of changes, most significantly the partial repeal of the subsequent child provisions.
“This was a necessary change to rebuild the faith, trust, and confidence that families, whānau, hapū, iwi and communities need to have when dealing with Oranga Tamariki,” said Minister Kelvin Davis.
“While these provisions were introduced by the previous government with the goal of improving child safety, unfortunately the opposite occurred and the legislation had a negative impact on both the young person and their whānau.”
The subsequent child provisions currently apply where a parent has previously had a child permanently removed from their care or has a murder, manslaughter, or infanticide conviction for the death of a child in their care.
A review found the provisions often resulted in increased trauma and distress to the older child, who was often drawn into court proceedings to establish there was no realistic prospect that they would be returned to their parent’s care.
While issues have been identified with the provisions in relation to parents who have previously had a child permanently removed from their care, those issues do not arise in relation to a parent who has a conviction for the death of a child in their care. For that reason, the retention of provisions in such serious situations will remain, the Minister said.
The partial repeal will also address a continuing breach of the Treaty as noted by the Waitangi Tribunal.
“Social workers do their best to support our most vulnerable children and families every day. To do that, they need to be able to use their skills, experience, and professional knowledge and not be undermined in their work,” Mr Davis said.
“Change is underway at Oranga Tamariki, taking steps such as the partial repeal are important to ensure the agency is moving in the right directions for our children and young people.”
The Bill also fixes up a redundant information sharing provision and tidies up a number of minor technical errors and ambiguities in the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.