Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Children’s Monitor to become standalone agency

The Independent Children’s Monitor (Te Mana Whakamaru Tamariki Motuhake), which is currently located within the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), will become its own departmental agency within Government.

“Following the recommendations of several reviews, Cabinet agreed in 2019 to build a significantly expanded independent monitor for children in care,” Minister Carmel Sepuloni said today.

“The Monitor was set up within MSD while it developed the capability to take on expanded monitoring. The Monitor will now be set up as a new departmental agency and will be responsible for monitoring the Oranga Tamariki system.

“This agency will be hosted by the Education Review Office (ERO), and be led by its own Chief Executive who will be a Statutory Officer.  We expect there to be natural synergies in the work both, it and ERO, carry out to support monitoring.”

She said the Children’s Commissioner would continue to monitor places where children and young people are detained under the Crimes of Torture Act (1989), and fulfil its other wide-ranging statutory obligations. These include advocating for the interests and rights and young people, and ensuring their views and voices are heard and acted on.

“The Government had planned for the Office of the Children’s Commissioner to host the Monitor however, after weighing a number of factors we have decided to establish a new departmental agency.”

“It is important the Office of the Children’s Commissioner remains a vocal and independent advocate for New Zealand’s children. The organisation, which monitors the Oranga Tamariki system and reports on its performance, needs to provide evidence and data on the performance to Government and the wider public.  After looking into each of the roles required, we believe both organisations need to be independent of each other. 

“The Government has also agreed to additional provisions to help ensure the Monitor’s Statutory Officer can be responsive to Ministerial requests for advice while maintaining the trust and confidence of the public. Ministers will therefore not be able to stop or prevent the Monitor from undertaking monitoring activities. 

“This will provide a safeguard to ensure the Monitor’s work cannot be disrupted.  However, the Minister responsible for monitoring will be able to positively request the Statutory Officer undertake additional monitoring activities in line with the Monitor’s role as a trusted advisor to Ministers.”

A Māori Advisory Group will be established and the Statutory Officer must have regard to the views of this Group, the Minister said.

“This will help ensure the Monitor meaningfully and effectively engages with Māori.”

“The changes agreed by Cabinet will ensure both the Independent Children’s Monitor and Office of the Children’s Commissioner can play vital roles in ensuring our most vulnerable tamariki and rangatahi have a voice and that the Oranga Tamariki system is monitored and continues to improve how it delivers its support for children,” Ms Sepuloni said.”

The Office of the Ombudsman will have responsibility for investigating complaints about the care of children, which will support trust and confidence in the management of complaints.

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