Questions on freedom of the child from all forms of violence - Children’s Convention from the United Nations

Please provide information on the following:

Question 16(a)

  1. Measures taken to eradicate the use of violence and abuse against children in all their forms in State care, including the use of restraints and detention, and to conduct background checks and provide adequate training to and monitoring of professionals and staff working with and for children;

Reply to 16(a)

The Professional Practice Group (Oranga Tamariki) monitors the quality of practice delivered by Oranga Tamariki practitioners in their work with children, young people, and their families and whānau. Monitoring activities are designed to assess practice and decisions against legislative requirements and core standards of practice. All front-line sites are required to complete annual self-assessments of key strengths and areas for improvement in practice. Random samples of casework by site-based Practice Leaders are assessed monthly.

The National Care Standards (NCS) and monitoring

Organisations that have legal custody of children or young people under section 396 of the OTA will also be responsible for meeting the NCS. The standards were built around what children and young people told us they need in the care system. The recently established Independent Children’s Monitor (the Monitor) oversees and produces annual reports to the government on adherence to these standards.

The Monitor has released reports on agency compliance with the NCS Regulations from 1 July 2019. Of particular note in the second report, the Monitor found areas for improvement for Oranga Tamariki to ensure that allegations of abuse or harm are better responded to and dealt with.

MSD is leading work to strengthen oversight of the Oranga Tamariki system, which encompasses statutory care of children. This work aims to strengthen system-level advocacy for all New Zealand children and young people (through the Office of the Children’s Commissioner), improve oversight and investigation of complaints (through the Office of the Ombudsman) and to strengthen independent monitoring and assurance of the Oranga Tamariki system (through the Monitor). Cohesive and consistent oversight between the three bodies will improve the rights, interests and wellbeing of children and young people in the Oranga Tamariki system.

Vetting of children’s workers

The Children’s Act 2014 requires vetting of children’s workers.

Oranga Tamariki conduct the following safety checks for children’s workers:

  • confirmation of identity (if not already provided as part of the application process)
  • police check completed through Police (and the Australian Police, if applicable) Licensing and Vetting Service Centre
  • bankruptcy checks
  • a check on their case management database
  • third party checks with any applicable licencing authority and/or professional registration body.

Training programmes

Two compulsory training programmes on the use of restraints and de-escalation techniques are provided to support children’s workers managing safety in State care.

Question 16(b)

  1. Investigations conducted into incidents of violence, including sexual abuse, and abuse against children, including in State care, the prosecutions carried out, the sentences delivered and the protection and redress provided to the children who are victims;

Reply to 16(b)

In State care

Oranga Tamariki and Police have a statutory obligation to investigate incidents of violence and abuse of children and young people, including those in state care. Safety and wellbeing in relation to incidents of violence, abuse and neglect are taken into account through the course of an investigation or assessment.

Claims and complaints

MSD is responsible for responding to claims within the state care system from before 1 April 2017, and Oranga Tamariki is responsible for claims after this date. As at 30 June 2020, a total of 4,173 claims have been received by MSD since the team was established in 2004. Of these, 1,834 claims have been resolved. As part of redress, apologies and payments from MSD so far have totalled over $30 million. Individual payments have ranged from between $1,000 and $90,000, with the most common payment range between $10,000 and $25,000.

MSD is considering how it can provide more meaningful redress response to consultation with claimants in 2018. Wraparound services are being developed by external non-government organisations to act as a coordination point for supports claimants may need (e.g. housing, health services, employment assistance). Further consideration is also being given to initiatives such as providing whānau reconnection support and new options for how a claimant could receive an apology.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-Based Institutions was established in 2018 to investigate why people were taken into care, the abuse that happened, the reasons for, and the effects of the abuse. The Royal Commission is also looking at the way the State and faith-based institutions have dealt with survivors' claims through redress to assess what improvements could be made. The Royal Commission is scheduled to report back in January 2023 after developing recommendations aimed at better protecting children, young people and vulnerable adults in State care and the care of faith-based institutions now, and into the future.

Prosecution and sentencing

Police ensures that prosecutions involving child victims are initiated in accordance with the Solicitor-General Prosecution Guidelines. Under the Guidelines, a prosecution should only be initiated or continued where the prosecutor is satisfied that the there is sufficient admissible evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction, and prosecution is required in the public interest. Public interest considerations in favour of prosecution that might be relevant to alleged offending involving a child victim, include where the victim is vulnerable, where the defendant was in a position of authority or trust and the offending is an abuse of trust of that position, and where the defendant took advantage of a marked difference between the actual or developmental ages of the defendant and the victim. A public interest consideration against prosecution includes whether the defendant is a child or young person.

Although it is well-established in New Zealand that violence against, and neglect of children is an aggravating factor at sentencing, offending against children may be penalised through a range of sentencing outcomes.

Abuse outside of the care system

Oranga Tamariki and Police work collaboratively to respond to alleged or actual incidents of serious child abuse or neglect. Oranga Tamariki and Police will assess all reports of child safety concerns received and:

  • take immediate steps to secure the child’s safety and wellbeing. This is the first and paramount consideration including identifying and seeking support from family members and others who can help
  • intervene to ensure the child’s rights and interests are safeguarded
  • investigate all reports of serious child abuse in a child-centred timeframe, using a multi-agency approach
  • take effective action against offenders so they can be held accountable
  • strive to better understand the needs of victims
  • keep victims and/or their families fully informed during investigations with timely and accurate information as required by section 12 of the Victims’ Rights Act 2002.

Question 16(c)

  1. Availability and use by children of child-friendly reporting channels and physical and psychological recovery and health services, including mental health services;

Reply to 16(c)

Children and young people are welcome to contact Oranga Tamariki to discuss any concerns or complaints they may have. To provide this feedback, they are encouraged to speak with their social worker, or contact the Feedback Team directly using either the online form or via a dedicated phoneline. If a child is in the care of Oranga Tamariki residential services they are able to participate in the grievance process. Oranga Tamariki manages a free-dial telephone number which enables anyone to make a report of concern about a child to support possible intervention.

If the child or young person is not satisfied with the outcome of their complaint, they may seek a review by contacting the Chief Executive’s Advisory Panel or the Office of the Ombudsman.

Work is underway to create a more unified complaints and investigations mechanism for children through the Office of the Chief Ombudsman. This is a part of the ongoing work to strengthen the oversight of the Oranga Tamariki system.

School Based Health Services (SBHS) can be an avenue for students to report issues and receive support in the school system. [1] There is ongoing work improve the quality of SBHS, including better integration with pastoral supports and school counsellors in secondary schools, and integration with other health and wellbeing initiatives by education and health.

Children and whānau who interact with the healthcare system have rights under the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights, outlined in the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994. All healthcare services in New Zealand must have a channel to receive and consider complaints under the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994. Complaints can also be made directly to the Health and Disability Commissioner through their website, through email, in writing, or over the phone. The Health and Disability Commissioner also operates a free nationwide health and disability advocacy service to support children and whānau to make a complaint and to seek a resolution with the healthcare provider.

The Initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission is responsible for three pieces of work:

  • Monitoring and reporting on the Government's system transformation response to He Ara Oranga
  • Developing an outcomes framework for Aotearoa New Zealand's mental health and wellbeing
  • Supporting the establishment of the permanent Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.

TPK commissions Whānau Ora Commissioning Agencies that provide tamariki-friendly services and mental health services as part of their service delivery model. These agencies also provide a reporting channel for children.

Question 16(d)

  1. Development of a comprehensive strategy to combat child abuse, including sexual abuse, and neglect, in all settings, with particular attention paid to Maori and Pasifika children and children with disabilities, and measures to involve children in the development of the strategy;

Reply to 16(d)

One of the CYWS goals is that children are safe and flourishing in their homes. To best support Māori and disabled children, a pillar of the framework for the CYWS is that children and young people are accepted, respected and connected. This has a focus on addressing racism and discrimination, as well as actions to increase sense of belonging and cultural connections. [2]

Read an overview of the Child and Youth Wellbeing strategy

The Government is developing a Joint Venture Strategy to address family and sexual violence in New Zealand. This Strategy aims to develop new ways of working across government, and with iwi and communities, to reduce family violence and sexual violence through an integrated response. It is supported by a Ministerial group comprising the MOJ, MSD, Oranga Tamariki, and TPK.

While the Joint Venture Strategy will provide attention to all groups of people, there is intention for a focus on children – especially those with disabilities, who have a three times higher risk of being exposed to physical and sexual abuse than other children.

TPK provided a Māori perspective to the Joint Venture Strategy. This includes support to the interim group set up to represent the Māori-Crown partnership and the provision of expert Māori views and experiences of family harm in the development of the Strategy.

In addition to the above strategies, MBIE’s Child Protection Policy articulates its commitment to ensuring the wellbeing and safety of children and young people receiving services from MBIE or from organisations funded or contracted by MBIE. In doing so, MBIE recognises a genuine and significant opportunity to identify the abuse and neglect of children that might otherwise be undetected.

Question 16(e)

  1. Carrying out of a study on the extent, causes and nature of violence against children;

Reply to 16(e)

The Safety of Children in Care unit (Oranga Tamariki) was established in 2018 to implement a new measurement approach to consider all abuse experienced by children and young people in care, regardless of where the abuse occurred or who caused the harm. Reports are released quarterly, with accompanying bi-annual and annual reports.

The Oranga Tamariki Evidence Centre also carries out a range of diverse research associated with violence against children. Recently published examples include:

  • methamphetamine and care
  • factors associated with disparities experienced by tamariki Māori.

TPK also supports the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse to undertake research on family harm and acts as a key disseminator of kaupapa [3] Māori research on this matter. TPK has also commissioned several pieces of research on the extent, causes, and nature of violence against whānau Māori and their tamariki.

Question 16(f)

  1. Establishment of a national database on all cases of violence, including sexual abuse, against children in all settings;

Reply to 16(f)

All findings of harm are reviewed by Safety of Children in Care unit, and the data and associated information is held by the unit in a National database.

The National Intelligence Application provides a national database of all cases of violence against children recorded by Police. [4]

The Joint Venture work programme includes data and analytics around the elimination of family violence and sexual violence.

Question 14(g)

  1. Results of the children’s action plan under the Vulnerable Children Act, 2014, the violence intervention programme and the National Child Protection Alert System in preventing and addressing child abuse and neglect, as well as any other policies and programmes to combat child abuse and neglect;

Reply to 16(g)

The Children’s Action Plan is now called the Oranga Tamariki Action Plan (OTAP), which is currently under development.

Under the Children’s Act 2014, the action plan must set out the steps that chief executives of children’s agencies will take to work together to achieve wellbeing outcomes set by the CYWS for children and young people of interest to Oranga Tamariki.

The Action Plan cohort includes children and young people who are at risk of being involved with, are already involved with, or have been involved with our care and protection and youth justice systems.

Police are a key contributor towards supporting violence intervention in relation to the OTAP. As a member of the Family Violence Sexual Violence Joint Venture, Police’s primary area of focus is crisis response through Whāngaia Ngā Pā Harakeke and the Integrated Safety Response sites.

Question 16(h)

  1. Allocation of sufficient human, technical and financial resources to front-line services to respond appropriately to cases of child abuse.

Reply to 16(h)

The Government has committed to strengthening specialist family violence and sexual violence services in its recent budget allocations:

The Government invested an additional $1.1 billion over four years for Oranga Tamariki to deliver on system transformation in the care and protection and youth justice systems in Budget 2019. This included additional investment to meet new legislative requirements, such as the NCS and establish new support services with adequate resourcing. $40.8 million was provided for sexual violence services.

Police is committed to ensuring the right capacity and capability across frontline services to respond to, and prevent, cases of child abuse. In the six-year period from 2017/2018 to 2022/2023, Police has funded an additional 1,800 constabulary officers. Of those 1,800, more than 300 officers sit within Youth Specialist and Serious Crime frontline responder groups across the country (including dedicated Child Protection and Adult Sexual Assault Teams).

All new Police recruits undertake dedicated training on child and family harm, including how to manage cases involving children and how to provide referrals to support services for children who have been harmed (or who are at risk of being harmed). Refresher training to all constabulary employees is provided to ensure continuous improvement in the delivery of policing services. The centralised Child Protection Team maintains oversight of all activity through monitoring workflows, supporting prioritisation and escalating risk.

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  1. More detail in reply to paragraph 22(b) of the list of issues. Return to text
  2. For further information on how children and young people were involved in the development of the CYWS, please refer to the reply to paragraph 5(b). Return to text
  3. Defined as principles and ideas which act as a base or foundation for action. Return to text
  4. The Government notes that not all cases come to Police attention and therefore is unable to fully disaggregate cases which take place in State care. Return to text