Agency Compliance with Regulations 69 and 85 of the Oranga Tamariki (National Care Standards and Related Matters) Regulations
Purpose of the Report
This report provides the Minister for Children and the New Zealand public with an update on the extent to which the four agencies who have care or custody of children are compliant with regulations 69 and 85 (and to the extent that it applies, regulation 86) of the National Care Standards (NCS) Regulations 2018 (Appendix One). The Independent Children’s Monitor’s (the Monitor’s) initial report, completed in December 2019 1, provided a baseline understanding, drawn from data and information from 1 July to 30 September 2019, of compliance with the NCS Regulations. The current report provides an overview of the six-month period from 1 July to 31 December 2019 and uses the information, data and analysis provided by each of the four agencies as follows:
- quarter one (first quarter) from 1 July 2019 to 30 September 2019
- quarter two (second quarter) from 1 October 2019 to 31 December 2019.
The Monitor notes that the data relied upon in this report has been provided by each of the agencies and has not been gathered from other sources.
Background on the Role and Function of the Monitor
The Monitor was established on 1 July 2019. The current role of the Monitor is to focus on agency compliance with the NCS Regulations, which provide standards for those agencies caring for tamariki (children) and rangatahi (young people) in State care. The intended role of the Monitor is to monitor the Oranga Tamariki system. The Oranga Tamariki system 2 is used to describe services provided to tamariki and rangatahi under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, at any stage, from the point of notification until the cessation of post-care transition. The Oranga Tamariki system includes all agencies that provide services to children in the Oranga Tamariki system; for example, health, education and disability services, including non-government organisations (NGOs).
The Monitor carries out its role by monitoring, assessing and providing assurance of the extent and quality of compliance under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 and the associated NCS Regulations.
There are four agencies in New Zealand who currently hold care and custody of tamariki and rangatahi. They are Oranga Tamariki and three Approved Organisations – Open Home Foundation, Dingwall Trust and Barnardos (the agencies).
The Monitor's independent monitoring function is being phased in over time. Phase One started on 1 July 2019 and, as per regulations 69, 85 and 86 of the NCS Regulations, focused on:
- information disclosed to Oranga Tamariki and Approved Organisations passing on concerns in relation to a risk of harm caused by abuse or neglect of a child or young person in care or custody
- the response by Oranga Tamariki or the relevant Approved Organisation to such information
- the provision of information to the Monitor in relation to these matters
- Oranga Tamariki and Approved Organisations' compliance with their self-monitoring obligations, to the extent relevant to the matters above.
2. As defined in the Cabinet Paper 2019 – Clarification of Policy Matters to Support the Oversight of the Oranga Tamariki system and Children’s Commission Legislation Bill, the term ‘Oranga Tamariki system’ is used to describe not only the early intervention, statutory care, protection, youth justice and transitions support systems as outlined in the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, but also other agency services provided to children and young people under the Act (for example health, education and disability services, including by NGOs). It also includes services provided by Children’s Agencies to the core populations of interest to Oranga Tamariki as defined under the Children’s Act 2014, including children who have early risk factors for future involvement in the statutory care, protection and youth justice systems.
The Requirement for the Oranga Tamariki system to Self-monitor
The Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 and NCS Regulations clearly stipulate requirements that must be met for tamariki and rangatahi in care. Regulation 86 requires the chief executive and an approved organisation with tamariki or rangatahi in their care or custody to monitor their own compliance with the NCS Regulations.
The agencies’ self-monitoring systems must be designed to ensure the collection of information that will support the Monitor to fulfil its monitoring role and that those systems provide for continuous improvement and address areas of practice that require improvement. It is also necessary for Oranga Tamariki and the agencies to define the NCS Regulations in order to understand what compliance looks like and how they are measuring it.
It is the Monitor’s role to objectively assess compliance with the delivery of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989. The Monitor is therefore reliant on agencies having the necessary assurance systems and processes in place, as well as the ability to supply the Monitor with information that is necessary for it to carry out its functions.
High-Level Summary Findings
While this report provides an overview of the six-month period from 1 July to 31 December 2019, the high-level summary findings reflect data only from the second quarter, 1 October to 31 December 2019. High-level summary findings for the first quarter are in the Monitor’s initial December 2019 report.
Regulation 69 outlines the duties of each agency in relation to allegations of a risk of harm caused by abuse or neglect of a child or young person in care or custody. Regulation 85 outlines the requirement of each agency to provide data and information to the Monitor about reports of abuse or neglect that the chief executive has received under regulation 69, and how the agency has responded to these. Regulation 86 requires that the agency must monitor its own compliance with the regulations.
All four agencies are compliant with regulations 69, 85 and 86 from a policy and procedure perspective.
Barnardos and Dingwall Trust reported that they did not receive any allegations of risk of harm caused by abuse or neglect and therefore testing their compliance with those regulations was not required for this report.
There was one allegation of abuse or neglect about a child in the custody of Open Home Foundation. Based on the information provided, its practice complied with regulations
69 and 85.
Oranga Tamariki reported it received 392 allegations of risk of harm caused by abuse or neglect regarding tamariki and rangatahi in its care or custody. In 136 cases, a decision was made either at the National Contact Centre or a local site that no further assessment was required.
Oranga Tamariki provided information to the Monitor about the 253 allegations with a finding 3 that had been reviewed by the Safety of Children in Care (SoCiC Unit). Regulation 69(2) imposes four duties in relation to allegations of abuse or neglect and Oranga Tamariki was partially compliant overall. It has been successful in ensuring a child’s plan was reviewed
(90 percent compliance) and there was improvement in reviewing caregiver plans and providing support. However, a significant focus and improvement is needed in the timeliness of investigations and assessments and in letting tamariki and rangatahi know about the outcome.
It is acknowledged this is only a three-month period and trends and patterns cannot be drawn. It is also acknowledged that practice change takes time to embed.
3. Findings include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, behavioural/relationship difficulties and ‘not found’.
Continuous Improvement Observations
Each agency was required to provide to the Minister for Children a response on the Monitor’s initial report 4, and they have also reported to the Monitor on their ongoing continuous improvement programmes.
The three areas highlighted in the Monitor’s initial report have been updated and further work has occurred in each agency to focus on tamariki Māori and their own self-monitoring processes.
A key area of focus for the Monitor was the self-monitoring processes at the Oranga Tamariki National Contact Centre and local sites regarding allegations of abuse or neglect of tamariki and rangatahi in care.
When an allegation is made, the National Contact Centre makes an initial assessment using the Decision Response Tool to determine an appropriate response. The decision is then quality checked by a supervisor. The same first line of assurance is used at sites. As the SoCiC Unit only looks at cases for children in care or custody where a finding is confirmed, Oranga Tamariki advised that as of March 2020 it was strengthening its assurance process by reviewing a sample of cases that were resolved at the National Contact Centre or at a site. The Monitor will seek evidence of this for the November 2020 report.
Oranga Tamariki also advised that a weekly report, identifying all tamariki in care or custody who have been the subject of a Report of Concern (notification), is reviewed nationally and regionally to ensure that appropriate action is taken.
In the previous report, it was highlighted that there appeared to be a lack of clarity by some agencies as to what situations may be defined as abuse or neglect. Oranga Tamariki has met with each agency to clarify what constitutes an allegation of abuse or neglect for a child in care or custody.
A further area identified in the initial report was the definition of an outcome for tamariki or rangatahi. The Monitor suggested that this be broadened beyond the outcome of the investigation or assessment. In its response to this point, Oranga Tamariki stated that from
1 July 2019 new “All About Me” plans and “caregiver support” plans provide social workers with a much stronger mechanism to explore tamariki and caregivers’ needs following an incident of harm. Oranga Tamariki has added additional assurance processes to sample these cases to see what supports are put in place over a twelve-month period.
Areas of future focus were highlighted in the previous report. Information and updates have been received from all the agencies to show where work has been completed, is currently underway or will remain as a focus for the November 2020 report. Where appropriate this information has been included in the findings section of the report related directly to one of the questions. Further information in response to those areas is included in Appendix Two.
The Monitor’s third report, an annual report due in November 2020, will use data for the full 12-month period from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020. The Monitor will seek to validate the information and data provided for this period through fieldwork and triangulation activity and expects to provide further comment on the current practice within communities.
This annual report will be the final report based solely on regulations 69 and 85 with the Monitor beginning to monitor the full NCS Regulations from 31 December 2020, with its next report to be completed by December 2021.
Areas of focus for the Monitor’s November 2020 report will include:
- seeking information on assurance processes regarding decision-making at the National Contact Centre and sites
- information from each agency on assurance processes regarding support for tamariki after making an allegation
- detailed assurance information and any action plans as a result of quality practice assurance relating to regulation 69
- case validation and analysis of raw data to further understand compliance with regulation 69
- any specific initiatives that have been implemented to improve compliance, and therefore support better outcomes for tamariki and rangatahi.
Update on the Establishment Activities of the Independent Children’s Monitor
Development of the Outcomes Framework
The Outcomes Framework (the Framework) represents the Monitor’s perspective of what matters for tamariki, rangatahi and whānau in the Oranga Tamariki system, now and into the future. It will initially be used to measure outcomes for tamariki and rangatahi in relation to the delivery of the NCS Regulations. The Framework provides:
- assurance that tamariki and rangatahi in the care and custody of the State are being appropriately cared for in line with the NCS Regulations
- an indication that positive outcomes for tamariki, rangatahi and whānau wellbeing are being achieved.
The Monitor has taken an outcomes-based approach and holistic te ao Māori lens towards the development of the Framework. It draws on the Government’s six wellbeing outcomes from the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy and incorporates key dimensions from the Whānau Ora Outcomes Framework and the Oranga Tamariki Outcomes Framework.
The development of the Framework has also been informed by the Monitor’s recent series of regional hui with Māori communities, as well as Māori and child-youth centred models including:
- UNICEF’s Te Hiringa Tamariki report: A well-being model for tamariki Māori
- Te Puni Kōkiri’s Rangatahi Suicide Prevention Fund
- Tā Mason Durie’s Te Whare Tapa Whā model of health
- Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s Mana Mokopuna Approach
The Framework is strengths-based, taking a positive youth development approach. It is focused towards building on the strengths of Māori and incorporates notions of responsibility and reciprocity to help ensure tamariki, rangatahi and whānau are active participants. It is whānau-centred and reflective of the diverse realities of Māori. The Framework is designed to be inclusive and encompasses the diversity of culture and ethnicity of all participants in the Oranga Tamariki system.
It includes six outcomes, each with principles setting out a high-level definition and indicators that track towards wellbeing. A set of measures is in development for each outcome focused initially on measures to monitor the NCS Regulations.
The Outcomes Framework is available on the Monitor’s website.
The Monitor hosted 19 regional community hui between 22 January and 16 March 2020. The hui were to introduce the Monitor, as well as share decisions already taken by Government and work completed so far. The hui were also designed to understand how those who work in the sector and those who come into contact with the Oranga Tamariki system would like to engage in the development of the Monitor’s functions in the future. A focus of the hui was to provide a greater understanding of the role of the Monitor, Office of the Children’s Commissioner and Office of the Ombudsman, and how they are strengthening independent oversight of the Oranga Tamariki system.
More than 500 people attended the hui, including providers of services, Māori-focused organisations, government agencies and children’s professionals, to understand more about the Monitor’s role. Over 140 participants expressed an interest in being involved in future workshops. A survey was sent to these participants in late May to understand more about them and the areas they are interested in assisting the Monitor to develop. Follow-up engagement with interested participants is now underway through webinars, and small group engagements with visits to occur over the coming months.
Information from the hui is available on the Monitor’s website 5.
Developing the Assessment Approach
The Monitor is developing its Assessment Approach, which is the overarching framework the Monitor will use to fulfil its monitoring functions and includes the:
- assessment matrix – which uses the outcomes and key system elements against which key agencies will be monitored to inform the various reporting products required of the Monitor
- assessment plan – developed for a specific reporting activity outlining the information, self-monitoring and assurance and data required from the relevant agency/ies and the engagement anticipated, including who will be visited and for what purpose
- monitoring programme – the schedule of monitoring and locations/communities the Monitor expects to cover within a given time period
- ethics framework – including interim guidelines for engaging with tamariki and rangatahi, whānau and caregivers, as well as associated information management and privacy codes and requirements.
The Assessment Approach and associated tools, policies, practices and processes required to support the Approach will encompass:
- all stakeholder lenses (for example tamariki and rangatahi, family and whānau, whānau and non-whānau caregivers, care providers, iwi and Māori organisations and other government and community agencies), as well as
- the Monitor’s reporting activities – the Approach is being built to accommodate the requirements under the proposed new legislation.
The Monitor has been working with the four agencies who have custody of children in care, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and other key sector groups and interested agencies to develop the Approach to ensure it will appropriately allow for and capture their experiences and perspectives and those of their clients. This development work is on-going, and its success also relies heavily on working with Māori communities. The Monitor is being supported by the Kāhui, its Māori Advisory Group 6.