Historic Claims Frequently Asked Questions
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Can I get my personal files?
Yes. You can get a copy of any files that either the Ministry of Social Development or Archives New Zealand holds on you. These will be prepared for you by the Ministry’s Privacy and Official Information team and released under the terms of the Privacy Act (1993), and in some instances under the Official Information Act (1982). You can ask for your files either through the Historic Claims team or through your local branch of Child, Youth and Family (phone 0508 326 459).
If you want to search Archives New Zealand records for any records they may have on you or for old administrative records then you can do so at:
Why are parts of my files blacked out?
You will receive all the information that we hold about you. Information about other people may be blacked out as is required under the Privacy and Official Information Acts. If you have queries or concerns about particular deletions then you can discuss these with a member of the Privacy and Official Information Act team who will be able to provide a more detailed explanation.
We do not remove any information that might be evidence of possible abuse or neglect. We regard it as your legal right to have this information.
What happens after I contact the Historic Claims team?
After your initial contact, a senior social work advisor from the team will contact you to arrange a time to have a detailed discussion about your case. In most cases this will be through a face to face meeting when our advisors are next in your area, or it may be through a phone conversation.
The purpose of that discussion is to give you the opportunity to talk with us about the concerns you have about your time in care and what your expectations of the Ministry are. We will also talk with you about whether there is any help you may need while we look into the matters you have raised with us.
The Ministry has an obligation to protect children and vulnerable members of the community from criminal behaviour. As part of fulfilling this obligation and in supporting the Government’s desire to hold criminal offenders accountable for their actions, the Ministry reports allegations of abuse to the New Zealand Police. For those reasons, if your claim includes allegations of physical or sexual abuse against you that information will be referred to the New Zealand Police National Headquarters. The Police will then decide if they will carry out an investigation of any alleged criminal offending. You may also make your own complaint to the Police if you wish to and we encourage and support you to do so.
Can I have someone with me?
Whether we meet with you or discuss your concerns over the phone, you are welcome to have a support person with you. This could be a partner, counsellor or family member.
Do I need a lawyer?
You do not need a lawyer to make a claim directly to the Historic Claims team but you can engage a lawyer at any time during the process if you wish. If you do get a lawyer then it is likely that any future communication will be with your lawyer rather than directly with you.
How can I trust you?
The senior social work advisors are all Registered Social Workers and members of the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers. They are very experienced social workers who adhere to the Social Work Code of Ethics.
What happens next?
Claims are dealt with in the order in which they come to us. Your case will be allocated to one of the senior social work advisors who will undertake a review into the care you received (called a Case Assessment). This will involve reviewing any of your personal records that are held by the Ministry and possibly records of other people connected to your time in care such as siblings, other foster children, staff records, etc. The advisor may also contact former staff of the Ministry to discuss their recollections.
Once the case assessment has been completed, the senior advisor will arrange to have another detailed conversation with you. Again, this may be at your home location or in some instances over the phone. The advisor will report the findings of their assessment to you in detail. If you haven’t received the care you should have, we will offer an apology and discuss what can be done to put things right.
What support is available for me during the process?
You can contact members of the Historic Claims team during business hours through the toll free number 0508 326 459. If you need extra support then counselling in your home district can be organised.
What will I get from this process?
Most people find the process of sharing their concerns with representatives of the Ministry to be extremely valuable. For example in some cases we are able to answer peoples’ questions about their past, like why they came into State care.
If there has been a failure in your care you will receive an apology from the Ministry of Social Development. You may receive a financial payment if you came to harm because of a failure of State care.
Other forms of assistance and services may also be provided, including counselling or access to education. Some counselling assistance can be made available prior to investigation of the matters you raise.
What happens if I don’t agree with the result?
The feedback session provides you with an opportunity to express your views on the findings of the case assessment. We will do our best to resolve things with you, but if this is not possible then you can complain to the Ombudsman, or you are entitled to get legal advice with a view to filing a legal claim at any time during or after the process.
My child is / was in care, can I come to you?
The Historic Claims team works with people who were in care themselves. We are unable to accept claims from the parents or caregivers of people who were in care.
If you have a child who is currently in Child, Youth and Family care and you have concerns about that, then you can access the Child, Youth and Family Complaints process by either approaching your local CYF office, ringing the toll free number 0508 326 459 or checking their website:
I'm a former staff member, what happens for me during this process?
It is possible that a Senior Social Work Advisor may contact you to discuss your involvement with a former case. Even if you cannot remember specific details it can be very useful for the Advisor to discuss your recollections of general practices in the area where you worked.
If there are specific allegations made against you the Ministry can support independent legal advice for you and also organise counselling assistance.