What is New Zealand doing to meet its obligations under UNCROC?

Work Programme to further enhance compliance with UNCROC

The Government has made substantial progress in enhancing compliance with UNCROC through its cross-government work programme. It has maintained a strong and enduring focus on improving outcomes for vulnerable children and their families, young people at high risk of disengaging from education, training or seeking employment, and young people in conflict with the law.

We have identified three initiatives that will enable us to make further progress in enhancing compliance with UNCROC before May 2015:

  • Options for improving input of children and young people’s views in the formulation of legislation and policies associated with rights under UNCROC. The outcome of this work would be a process that agencies could use to facilitate the input of children and young people’s views, that is, child-friendly, informative, respectful, transparent, safe and sensitive to risk.
  • Investigating raising the age that young people leave care to 18 years. The outcome of this work would help build the evidence base on the benefits of increasing the age of leaving care, to better inform future policy development and decision-making.
  • Options to facilitate consideration of children’s rights in the development of major policy and legislative initiatives, to ensure that New Zealand’s obligations under UNCROC are taken into account. The outcome of this work could be a process to assist agencies to take children’s rights under UNCROC into account at the policy formulation stage of advice to Cabinet on major policy or legislative issues.

UNCROC Child Impact Assessment: Best Practice Guideline

The two guideline tools below are the result of the progression of UNCROC Work Programme items at bullet points one and three, above. We are currently testing these with social sector agencies and would encourage you to use the tools whenever you are developing policy and legislative proposals. Based on your experience using them, please provide us with any feedback or comments you have so we can further improve the material to UNCROC@msd.govt.nz

Where to find the Social Investment Measurement Map and what data is available

While developing policy advice you may find it helpful to use the wide range of data available on the Social Investment Measurement Map. It is a useful tool that has information regarding children that could help you with your analysis. An example of the information available is percentage of children (aged 0 to 5 years), broken down by region that are at risk of being a long term benefit dependent or having a custodial sentence. This data can be found at http://www.treasury.govt.nz/statesector/socialinvestment/data by following the links.

What legislation has been enacted that enhances our compliance with UNCROC?

The following key developments in legislation since the Committee last assessed our UNCROC progress, will improve outcomes for children.

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 places obligations on the Chief Executives of five key agencies to collectively develop a vulnerable children’s plan, setting out how they will work together to achieve the Government’s priorities for vulnerable children. The Act also requires standard screening and vetting of all central government staff and government-funded contractors working with children, and for District Health Boards and school boards, and their contract and funded providers to have child protection policies in place.

The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Vulnerable Children) Amendment Act 2014 makes a number of changes to the primary legislation to improve New Zealand’s response to children who have been harmed and who have come to the attention of Child, Youth and Family. These include:

  • amending the care and protection principles to ensure that all decisions serve the welfare and interests of the child
  • placing a new legal onus on parents with a history of abusing or neglecting their children to demonstrate they are safe to parent in order to have the care or custody of a subsequent child
  • a new special guardianship order to offer increased security for children and their caregivers
  • changes to the Family Group Conference plans and court reports and plans to give parents more clarity about the changes they need to make to meet their child’s care and protection needs
  • better support, including financial assistance, to young people aged 15 to 20 years who have been in state care and are transitioning to independence (this provision is to be introduced at a future date by Order in Council).

Improving outcomes for children, young persons and their families

There is an ongoing programme of work that is improving outcomes for children, young persons and their families and which gives effect to our UNCROC obligations. Key progress areas since we last reported to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee) are set out below.

Protecting vulnerable children

The Childrens Action Plan is all about changing how we work to protect the most vulnerable children in New Zealand.

Children’s Teams are being progressively introduced that bring together frontline practitioners and professionals from non-government organisations, iwi, health, education, welfare and social service agencies to help and support vulnerable children who are not in need of statutory care and protection and whose needs are better met through a non-statutory/community service. Together, the Children’s Team and the family will work towards the best outcome for the child.

Children’s Teams have been established in Rotorua and Whangarei. Eight further teams will be established in other locations in the 2014/15 financial year.

The Vulnerable Children Act makes the Chief Executives of five key government agencies jointly accountable for measures to improve the wellbeing of vulnerable children. The Chief Executives are required to produce and report progress on implementing a Vulnerable Children’s Plan. This sets out how the agencies will collectively achieve the Government’s priorities for vulnerable children. The first Vulnerable Children’s Plan is due to be recommended to Ministers by April 2015.

The Vulnerable Children’s Plan will include a new cross-agency approach to improve the outcomes for children in care, and support for children and young people transitioning from care.

Supporting learning

National educational programmes and supporting initiatives are helping parents, whānau, teachers and schools to realise each child’s potential, address problem behaviour, improve children’s wellbeing and increase educational achievement.

Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) and Success For All programmes and initiatives:

  • assist schools to develop and maintain a culture that supports learning and positive behaviour
  • help create safe, inclusive climates that deter bullying
  • help staff and parents build positive relationships that promote and build students’ self-esteem and manage problem behaviour
  • provide targeted intensive wraparound support for students with highly complex and challenging behaviour, social or education needs
  • provide long-term mentoring programmes for students at risk of disengaging from school, to support achievement of education-related goals
  • provide specialised individualised support for learners most in need.

The Youth Guarantee provides foundation education to achieve NCEA Level 2 or equivalent to enable young people to transition to further education and participate in the workforce. Youth Guarantee provides fees-free tertiary places for eligible domestic students aged 16 to 19 years.

Youth Guarantee initiatives such as Secondary-Tertiary Programmes (including Trades Academies), Service Academies provide learners with new opportunities to engage in higher education and vocational training.

Improving health outcomes of disadvantaged groups

Some children, particularly Māori and Pacific children and those living in high deprivation areas, experience poorer health outcomes than other children in New Zealand. Significant work is underway seeking to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable children.

Universal child health services are a key approach to improving outcomes and reducing vulnerability. The Well Child / Tamariki Ora programme is New Zealand’s central universal child health service, comprising a series of health assessments and support services for children and their families from birth to five years. It also includes health promotion activities and is an important gateway for parents to access primary and specialist health care, education and social services.

There has been some success from national initiatives, such as a focus on increasing immunisation rates for all children, which has led to significant improvements in immunisation rates for all New Zealand children. In particular, Māori children now have immunisation rates equal to, or better than, the New Zealand European child immunisation rates in more than half of the country’s district health boards.

In addition to universal services, there are targeted initiatives aimed at children and families experiencing higher needs. An example is the Auckland Wide Healthy Homes Initiative, which is systematically identifying children living in the Auckland area who are at risk of developing rheumatic fever and offering a package of housing-related interventions (such as insulation and curtains to reduce functional household crowding) to lessen the risk of children developing rheumatic fever.

Whānau Ora approach

Whānau Ora is an inclusive interagency approach to providing health and social services to build the capacity of all New Zealand families in need. It empowers whānau as a whole rather than focusing separately on individual family members and their problems.

Some whānau will want to come up with their own ways of improving their lives and may want to work on this with a hapū, iwi or a non-government organisation.

Other whānau will want to seek help from specialist Whānau Ora providers who will offer wrap-around services tailored to their needs. Whānau will have a practitioner or ‘navigator’ to work with them to identify their needs, develop a plan to address those needs and broker their access to a range of health and social services.

Law and order

The Youth Crime Action Plan 2013-2023 (YCAP), the Youth Policing Plan 2012-2015 and The Turning of the Tide recognise the importance of working with and alongside families, communities, government agencies and non-government organisations to prevent offending and victimisation.

The plans are evidence-based, adopt a prevention first approach that focuses on drawing children and young people away from criminal pathways, and provide intervention and accountability strategies that reduce the likelihood of reoffending.

YCAP is based on three overarching strategies that will help reduce youth crime over the next decade:

  • Partnering with communities to improve the way government agencies engage with and support communities to prevent offending and reoffending. Intervening early and diverting young offenders from crime is essential for ensuring that they do not fall into an ongoing life of crime.
  • Reducing escalation which aims to ensure children and young people are dealt with at the lowest appropriate level of the youth justice system.
  • Early and sustainable exits that seek to provide young people who offend with the best type of intervention at the right time. The youth justice system should hold young people accountable for their offending, while providing opportunities to help them get back on track and lead fruitful lives.

These strategies have a key role in delivering the Government’s Better Public Services target of reducing youth crime overall.

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