Artwork painted by a young woman (aged 17) with experience of the youth justice system, and her social worker.

Investing in Children Programme

Background

An Expert Advisory Panel was established in April 2015, to review the current care and protection system. This meant not simply focusing on Child, Youth and Family, as many reviews had done in the past, but looking at all of the system players, including other agencies, private sector, NGOs, and community groups.

The Panel proposed an ambitious and substantial reform programme that will significantly extend the range of services provided to vulnerable children and young people, and take a proactive and life outcomes-focused approach to meeting their needs.

Investing in Children Programme: Transformational change

In response to the recommendations of the Expert Panel’s Final Report, the Government agreed that a bold and urgent overhaul of the care and protection and youth justice systems was required.

The Investing in Children Programme, formed in April 2016, is tasked with leading the fundamental shift required to achieve better outcomes for vulnerable children. This includes developing a system which prioritises the earliest opportunity for a stable and loving family, and enables all children to feel a sense of identity, belonging and connection.

The reform programme takes a cross-sector, social investment approach, and draws on the experience and expertise of professionals, communities, caregivers, young people and families.

This is a long-term transformation programme over four to five years. An aspirational roadmap has been developed that sets out the key changes for children and young people, families and whānau, caregiving families, staff, partners and providers over the next four years.

The future - a child-centred system

The operating model for our new system for vulnerable children will be underpinned by six foundation building blocks:

  • A child-centred system
  • High aspirations for Māori children
  • An investment approach
  • Strategic partnerships
  • A professional practice framework
  • Engaging all New Zealanders

Legislation reform

Making major and far-reaching changes to the care and protection and youth justice system also requires similar changes to the legislative framework to enable the new operating model to work effectively.

Ministers agreed to two phases of legislative change in the Cabinet papers that accompanied the Final Report.

Phase one: Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Advocacy, Workforce, and Age Settings) Amendment Act 2016

This Act was passed in December 2016 and took effect from 1 April 2017. Key changes iinclude:

  • raising the age of care and protection to include 17-year-olds
  • supporting children and young people to express their views and ensuring that these are taken into account at an individual level and in the development of service and policy
  • supporting children and young people to participate
  • enabling a broader range of professionals to perform a wider set of functions.

Find out more about the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Advocacy, Workforce, and Age Settings) Amendment Bill

Phase two: Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Legislation Act 2017

This Act came into effect on 13 July 2017. It provides the foundations for the system by:

  • ensuring an effective and accountable child-centred system
  • improving outcomes for Māori
  • sharing information to better respond to vulnerable children and young people

The Act also supports the operation of the new Ministry’s five core services to:

  • target early investment in the lives of children and families
  • respond to concerns
  • help children and young people develop life-long relationships with caregiving families
  • help children and young people to lead crime free lives
  • help young people transition to independence.

Find out more about the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Legislation Act

Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki

The Investing in Children Programme is developing the strategies, framework, mechanics, policies, and procedures required for the operating model of the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, which came into operation on 1 April 2017.

The new Ministry:

  • signals a whole of sector approach
  • provides a single point of accountability
  • has a broader remit, including prevention as a core area of focus.

At the heart of our new system are vulnerable children or young people. We will take a broader view to include children who are at significant risk of harm now or into the future. This may be as a consequence of their family environment, and/or their own complex needs, and include young people who have offended or may offend in the future. The new Ministry focuses on five core services which will be intergrated horizontally and vertically, rather than operating in silos. These include:

  • Prevention services
  • Intensive Intervention services
  • Care Support services
  • Youth Justice services
  • Transition Support services.

The inaugural CE is Gráinne Moss, who began her role on 5 Sept 2016.

Find out more about the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki.

Designing the new service and practice model

The programme will progress the end-to-end design of the new Ministry’s five core services and associated practices.

While full design and delivery of these services will occur over four years, service and practice model design activity in year one will focus on the following four areas:

  • blueprint for the end-to-end design of five core services
  • blueprint for system and agency practice frameworks
  • delivery of transition support services
  • early enhancement initiatives in year one.

Connection and Advocacy Service

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai connection and advocacy service

The new system puts the needs of children and young people at its heart. To do that, it needs to enable their voices to be heard and influence decisions that are made about them, as individuals and as a group. They need empowerment to use their voice, and connection with others with similar experiences.

This is what the establishment of VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai, an independent connection and advocacy service is all about - giving children and young people in care a voice and a community to belong to. The name VOYCE - Whakarongo Mai stands for ‘Voice of the Young and Care Experienced - Listen to me’, and represents the need for children and young people in care to be heard and their voices kept at the centre of all decisions made about them.

The service became operational on 1 April 2017, however there will be a phased implementation over four years to establish the service, build capacity and provide a platform for longer term development and innovation strategy. It's expected that by 2019/2020 the service will have an established profile with a national centre in Auckland, and regional hubs throughout the country.

Designing the service

The Vulnerable Children’s Board endorsed a proposed approach for the service, put together in partnership with care experienced children and young people, four philanthropic funders (The Tindall Foundation, Foundation North, Todd Foundation and Vodafone Foundation), Government through the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, and NGOs such as Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services and Dingwall Trust. This partnership is continuing to support the next phase of service design and development.

Young people are involved in all aspects of the design and development of the service. They've highlighted the importance of connectedness for tamariki and rangatahi in care. That’s why the ‘youth advocacy service’ proposed in the EAP report has been expanded to ensure children and young people in care have not just a voice, but also a community to belong to.

Connection events have been introduced as a way of getting young people's involved in service design, while giving them access to new experience, and opportunities to build positive relationships with others in care. The events are run in partnership with NGOs and will continue to be a core function of the new service once it’s established.