Oranga Tamariki has been described as unfit for its purpose and in need of transformative change by the panel appointed to be the eyes and ears of the Minister for Children on the agency.
Watch Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis and Advisory Board Chairman Matthew Tukaki:
The government created the advisory group in January to help reform Oranga Tamariki, as part of its response to widespread criticism of the ministry’s policy of removing vulnerable children from their families.
The expert panel released its report and three general recommendations this morning, which the government accepted.
Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis said the recommendations would lead to a major shift in decision-making and encourage communities to work with Oranga Tamariki to protect children.
“We know Oranga Tamariki has not lived up to its name,” said Davis. “I asked for this job and I knew the challenges I would face and that those challenges are real. But I also knew that although difficult, this mahi was perhaps the most important I will ever do.”
“You will see the change.”
The group, consisting of Matthew Tukaki, Dame Naida Glavish, Shannon Pakura and Sir Mark Solomon, focused on Oranga Tamariki’s relationships with families, whānau, hapu, iwi and Māori, his professional social work practices and his organizational culture.
In its report, the group described Oranga Tamariki as not being visionary and lacking in strategic direction.
Chairman of the Board, Matthew Tukaki, said Oranga Tamariki must relentlessly focus on improving outcomes for tamariki and their whānau and “enabling those who are able to deliver that outcome as efficiently as possible. to rise to the challenge “.
This goal needs to be clearly articulated, Tukaki said, because Oranga Tamariki’s approach to helping vulnerable youth has always been responsive.
The board concludes that the ministry is taking this approach because the Crown has “taken the lead role in supporting tamariki and whānau without really knowing how to be effective in this area.”
The Crown has also undermined the role of the hapū and iwi in ruling their own communities, according to the report.
Communities, hapū and iwi told the advisory group that it was their role to protect their people and Oranga Tamariki allowed them to do so.
The advisory board agrees with this view, the report says, and considers “early support and response as an important means of improving the outcomes of care and protection of tamariki and their whānau, and also to reduce the need for state intervention “.
Tukaki said there was an opportunity to draw a land in the sand in a journey that spanned several decades.
“This is an opportunity that should not be lost on us as individuals, communities and also as a nation.”
Tukaki said coming into contact with the current system of care and protection, even if only briefly, can strengthen and cause further damage to the already vulnerable and injured tamariki and whānau.
“We have to keep remembering that if we don’t change the system, if we don’t change Oranga Tamariki, we are failing our most vulnerable children and of course we are the adults who created this mess. These children have nothing. hurt., they’re just kids who want to be loved, who want to feel protected and safe, who deserve to be happy. They depend on us and we can’t let them. “
Davis said that if a child is to be raised, he wants it to be done in a respectful manner, to limit the trauma to families and babies and that everything is done up to that point to ensure the safety of the baby and the child. whānau.
“Because once we use that power, once we take that action, the trauma cannot be undone. I want us to use it only when absolutely necessary and not because things get a little bit. difficult. “
“The system is down, but many people who work inside the system are not,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we don’t want children in government care at all.”
The group made three general recommendations.
The first is for Oranga Tamariki to engage with Maori collectives and communities over the next three months to better understand their ideas for change and the resources they would need.
The group notes that many of Oranga Tamariki’s existing services may be provided by Maori groups over time, which they believe would allow social workers in the ministry to respond to emergencies.
“We believe that Oranga Tamariki needs continued help and guidance to support its transition to providing the most effective public care and protection system possible, but we strongly believe that Oranga Tamariki is not the ultimate point.
“The ultimate point must be to prevent damage from happening in the first place; we think it is obvious that Maori collectives and communities are best placed to do this work.”
The second overarching recommendation is that the government clarify the purpose of Oranga Tamariki, including who he exists to serve.
He wants the Office of the Chief Social Worker to be re-established, the training of supervisors and practice leaders to be a priority, a workforce development plan to be created and national and regional offices to be better. aligned.
It is clear that social workers in Oranga Tamariki are under significant pressure, the group said.
This is compounded by a lack of strong leadership and development and weak professional structures and systems, they added.
“Oranga Tamariki lacks strategic direction and is not visionary. He is self-centered and constantly seeks answers on his own.”
The agency’s systems are weak, disconnected and inadequate, the advisory group said.
“It is an agency that is vulnerable to the headwinds that it inevitably encounters over time.”
The final recommendation is that a National Oranga Tamariki Governance Council be established to oversee the changes.
The government accepted all of the council’s recommendations and developed an action plan to ensure their implementation.
An independent governance board will also be set up to ensure that progress remains on track.
He also issued clear guidelines to Oranga Tamariki: increases, or orders without notice, should only be used as a last resort.
Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis said “the new direction for Oranga Tamariki has been set.”
He said the time for discussions and the time for criticism were over. “I’m going to be a bit of a bulldozer and behind me I have Lady Naida Glavish. We just have to force these changes.”
“I want Oranga Tamariki to be the facilitator who allows regions to decide what is right for their particular area. To empower communities and Maori to help children and their families in a way that works for them. . “
There will always be a role for the state in protecting vulnerable children, but the state has been at the center of the approach so far, Davis said.
“This has undermined the ability of communities to ensure the well-being of children and their whānau. Our people often know what is best and must be empowered to make these decisions at the local level.”
While some children still need to be in care, all other community and whānau options should be exhausted first, Davis said.
“That’s why I got into politics, to make a difference for the Maori.” He says that’s what you do as a Maori politician. “People often say that you just can’t change the system and I just beg you to disagree with that. For 180 years the Maori have been on the wrong side of everything, it’s time to change things . “