Annual report 2016 cover

Adapting to transformational change

In April 2016 the Government announced a fundamental transformation of the system for the care and support of vulnerable children and young people, in order to improve long-term life outcomes. Supporting this work has been a key focus for the year. This transformation will lead to significant changes across the social sector and within the Ministry as we manage our dual role of leading and supporting the establishment of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki and the new operating model for the vulnerable children system, while continuing to focus on maintaining delivery of high-quality services to all our clients.

Transforming the care and support system

In April 2015 the Minister for Social Development commissioned an Expert Panel to provide independent, system-wide advice on the best way to provide care and support to vulnerable children in New Zealand. This continued the process of creating a fundamental change in the way New Zealand cares for its most at-risk children that began with the Green and White Papers for Vulnerable Children, leading to the Vulnerable Children Act in 2014 and the creation of multi-agency Children’s Teams, and a work programme to modernise Child, Youth and Family.

The Expert Panel’s final report, Investing in New Zealand’s Children and their Families, sets out a blueprint for a new child-centred system to improve long-term life outcomes for vulnerable children and young people.

In response to the report, the Government commenced a fundamental overhaul of the system for the care and support of vulnerable children and young people. These changes are transformational, involving comprehensive and systemic reforms to significantly enhance the way our most vulnerable children and young people are supported to achieve better life outcomes. They include changes to the way in which sector agencies work together to provide universal and targeted services to those who need them, and make investment decisions.

The size and scale of the planned reforms mean the changes will take four to five years to be fully embedded.

More immediately, the overhaul of the system involves designing and implementing a new child-centred operating model to be led by a new agency, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki as a single point of accountability for vulnerable children and young people.

Developing the new care and support operating model

We have already made significant progress in developing the new operating model, which will incorporate the following key elements:

  • creating a single clear point of accountability and a common purpose across the system
  • creating a child-centred system
  • providing stronger system and organisational leadership and culture change
  • adopting a formal social investment approach to funding and service provision
  • focusing strongly and specifically on improving outcomes for Māori children and young people
  • working with Pacific communities to significantly improve outcomes for Pacific children and young people
  • working with strategic partners and engaging all New Zealanders
  • extending the range of services provided and more effective evidence-based service provision
  • providing funding that follows the child and includes the ability to directly purchase
  • explicitly recognising and seeking to remediate the trauma that this group of children and young people may have suffered.

The new operating model will include five core services: prevention, intensive intervention, care support, youth justice, and transition support.

Our existing core functions that relate to supporting vulnerable children and young people will move to the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki from 1 April 2017[1]. To support the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki to deliver its services from the outset, the Ministry of Social Development will provide foundation staff and resources for implementing the new operating model.

Progressing key reform elements

The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Advocacy, Workforce and Age Settings) Amendment Bill, which was introduced on 1 June 2016, is the first stage of legislative reforms to support the new operating model. The Bill raises the age of care and protection to include 17-year-olds, embeds the views of children and young people in the development of services and policies, establishes a new independent Youth Advocacy Service, and enables a broader range of professionals to perform a wider set of functions.

Proposals for a second amendment Bill are being developed. This is a larger and more complex set of reforms that includes major reforms to the care system, a new legislative framework for young people who have exited the care system through to age 25, an information-sharing framework, and consideration for extending the youth justice jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds.

Other major changes under way include more strategic partnerships with iwi to improve outcomes for Māori children, and more assistance for foster carers.

We began developing an investment approach and actuarial valuation to underpin the system, and are gathering insights on client experience to inform the design of future services and early enhancements.

To provide advice on the cross-agency elements of the transformation programme, the Vulnerable Children’s Board was reconstituted in 2015/2016 with an independent Chair[2]. Once the transformation programme is complete, the Board will provide ongoing advice to Ministers.

Supporting the transition

It is important that both the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki and the Ministry of Social Development are effective and successful from the start. To enable this, we have established a dedicated transformation work programme that focuses on:

  • supporting the transition to, and success of, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, including the design and implementation of the new operating model
  • supporting the smooth transition of functions and staff to the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki
  • refocusing the Ministry of Social Development to maximise our contribution to the Government’s outcomes through our revised role and functions.

Throughout this period we have also continued to focus on delivering excellence and success from our services, including those for the children and young people in our care. This work is described more fully in the section Working differently to better identify, support and protect the most vulnerable children and young people in our society.

Continuing to progress a client-focused, intelligent service delivery approach

Over the past two years we have had a specific focus on a client-centred, intelligent service delivery approach, and on becoming more integrated in the way we work as an organisation. This work has positioned us to be responsive and adaptable to the challenges of change. No matter what our role and functions in the future, we will always need to design and deliver services that make sense from a client’s perspective, and use data, evidence and evaluation to understand where, when and how to invest resources to achieve the best outcomes for individuals and society.

Our Simplification programme is making it easier for clients to interact with us when and how they want to. During the year we rolled out new digital services including MyMSD, which has seen strong uptake. This is allowing us to spend less time on transactional services and more time on intensive support for those who need it.

We have continued to embed and expand a social investment approach across our key services. This is an example of the way we use data and insight to target support more effectively.

Through the Community Investment Strategy, we began to redirect funding towards those community services that demonstrate greatest impact for the most vulnerable people. Through the investment approach we have trialled new interventions to achieve better results for clients with more complex needs and have expanded interventions that have been successful, such as the $3K to Work scheme.

We have also made progress towards developing an investment approach to underpin our work to establish a fair and efficient social housing system. Many of our social housing clients are also clients of the benefit system, and we are working to integrate our housing and welfare valuations to better understand what interventions will help people with work, income and housing needs. Ongoing engagement with the Social Investment Unit will be crucial to expanding this approach across the social sector.

A strong culture is critical to working in an integrated way. Since 2013 we have been actively promoting a culture that supports innovation and collaboration and allows us to make a bigger difference in the lives of our clients. A survey of our staff during the year showed that we have made progress towards establishing the culture we need to support our principles and purpose. This foundation will help us to manage through a period of transformational change, and to continue to focus on delivering high-quality services to New Zealanders.


[1] These functions include statutory care and protection, youth justice services, operational adoption services, the Children’s Action Plan Directorate and Children’s Teams, funding and contracting for vulnerable children’s services, family and sexual violence services relating to child victims or perpetrators, complaint and Grievance Panel services, and policy advice relating to these functions.

[2] Members of the Board include the chief executives of the Ministries of Health, Education, Justice and Social Development, the Department of Corrections, Police and Te Puni Kōkiri, the Chief Executive-designate of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, an independent Māori member, and two other independent members to provide specialist expertise.