Blended Family

Strengthening independent oversight of the Oranga Tamariki system

New Zealand is strengthening the independent oversight of children’s issues and the Oranga Tamariki system

What’s changing?

Government is strengthening independent oversight of the Oranga Tamariki system by:

  • strengthening the resourcing of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) to carry out advocacy for New Zealand children and young people
  • appointing the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to establish a stronger independent monitoring function for the Oranga Tamariki system (with the intention to transfer it to the OCC once relevant legislation has passed and a robust function has been established)
  • enhancing the Ombudsman’s complaints oversight and investigations function for the Oranga Tamariki system.

MSD is also leading the process of policy and legislative change needed. The changes will be achieved through a new Act and associated regulations.

Why is this being done?

Announcing the changes on 9 April 2019 the Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni said:

  • change is needed to ensure the wellbeing and interests of children are at the centre of how the state delivers care and support
  • it is crucial that oversight arrangements recognise and respond to Māori, given their significant representation within care, and
  • investment and focus on strong independent oversight of services to children and young people under the Oranga Tamariki Act is critical to ensuring this system is effective.

National Care Standards are also being strengthened

The Oranga Tamariki (National Care Standards and Related Matters) Regulations 2018 (National Care Standards Regulations) were enacted in 2018. Oranga Tamariki is responsible for administering the Regulations, along with the Oranga Tamariki Act.

The National Care Standards Regulations set out the actions or steps that must be taken to help ensure children and young people in care or custody receive an appropriate standard of care that is consistent with the principles in the Oranga Tamariki Act.

They also set out the support that must be provided to caregivers when they have a child or young person in their care. Oranga Tamariki have been preparing for the implementation of these standards, including strengthening their own internal self-monitoring capability.

The independent oversight function will be implemented progressively

Due to the size and complexity of establishing the oversight functions, the enhanced oversight system will take time to build out and the monitoring will be phased in. This enables time to progress the required legislative changes, develop and establish the monitoring function and undertake a high level of engagement.

From 1 July 2019

  • The National Care Standards Regulations will come into force.
  • MSD will be the independent monitor for the purposes of establishing the function and building the National Care Standards Regulations assessment framework. Initial monitoring will be of Regulations 69 – Duties in relation to allegations of abuse or neglect and 85 – Provision of information to independent monitor the National Care Standards Regulations.
  • The OCC will continue their advocacy role based on current resourcing, and its current general monitoring functions, including monitoring policies and practices of Oranga Tamariki.
  • The Ombudsman will begin building an enhanced model for complaints oversight and systemic monitoring and investigation for children in care to complement their existing functions under the Ombudsmen Act, using current resources and powers until funding and new legislation is confirmed.

On or before 31 December 2020

  • All National Care Standards Regulations related to the care of children in the custody of Oranga Tamariki and care providers (including those in Youth Justice) will be monitored by MSD as the independent monitor.

Once the new independent oversight Bill has passed

  • The independent oversight Bill needs to be passed in order to allow for monitoring to expand to enable broader monitoring of the Oranga Tamariki Act and associated regulations by a date yet to be determined. The intention is that this would include the monitoring of all processes and policies of the Oranga Tamariki system, including actions taken by Oranga Tamariki and other agencies that result in children being transferred into the custody of Oranga Tamariki.
  • Cabinet has agreed that the intention, in principle, is that the independent monitoring function will be transferred to the OCC once it has been fully established.

There is a high level of Māori engagement in the development of oversight arrangements

Effective engagement with Māori is critical to ensure that obligations to tamariki are made clear in the legislation and design of the assessment framework. MSD is engaging with a wide range of Māori groups including:

  • Individual engagements – these are people who have mana within their Iwi and the wider Māori and general community and are active in the care sector
  • Engaging with groups with care experience – these are recently-transitioned young people and mature people, some who may have intergenerational care experience
  • Iwi partnership groups
  • MSD Māori Reference Group
  • Oranga Tamariki Maori Design Group
  • Children’s Workforce – Māori Midwives, Māori doctors, educationalists, Social Workers Registration Board
  • National Organisations/Groups – Māori Women’s Welfare League, National Māori Council, Tamaki Collective
  • A Technical group that can be involved in detailed drafting of the Bill and development of the assessment framework

Overseeing this engagement is a Kāhui group who have an important role in supporting MSD to achieve its engagement and collaboration goals as articulated in the Cabinet paper.

Work that informed the changes

The Ministry of Social Development was tasked with testing a number of options and ideas on how existing arrangements could be improved. An Independent Reviewer, Sandi Beatie QSO, significantly informed this process through her review of existing settings.

There is a link to her August 2018 Post Consultation Report below.