Government is strengthening independent oversight of the Oranga Tamariki system* through improved advocacy for tamariki and rangatahi, independent complaint avenues, and universal monitoring of the care and protection and youth justice systems.
Three agencies make up this oversight function – the Independent Children’s Monitor, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Ministry of Social Development is leading the process of policy and legislative change needed. The changes will be achieved through a new Act and associated regulations
* The term “Oranga Tamariki system” is used to describe any agency 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.
Why change is needed
On 9 April 2019, the Minister for Social Development, the Hon Carmel Sepuloni announced changes to strengthen Government oversight of the care of New Zealand’s children. Minister 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 are critical to ensuring this system is effective.
The Monitor has a clear purpose of supporting the rights, interests and wellbeing of tamariki (children), rangatahi (young people), their whānau and families, as well as improving public trust and confidence in Aotearoa’s care and protection of children and young people.
The Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) advocates for the interests and wellbeing of all children and young people in Aotearoa. In addition to its advocacy roles, the OCC is also responsible for a number of complaint and monitoring activities. Under the proposed legislation, some of these activities will transfer to the Monitor and the OCC’s advocacy role will be extended to include young people up to the age of 25.
The OCC will continue to hold the monitoring responsibilities for places of detention for children and young people, This monitoring is in accordance with the United Nations Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
In conjunction with the Office of the Ombudsman, the OCC also monitors the Mothers with Babies Units in the Department of Corrections’ Women’s Prisons.
The OCC takes a child-centred approach to engaging with children and young people living in places of detention, which enables them to share their experiences.
You can find out more about OCC’s monitoring responsibilities, as well as information and advice on children’s rights and guidance on dealing with a range of issues, by visiting the OCC website. You can also call the Commission’s Child Rights Advice line on 0800 224 453.
The Ombudsman receives complaints about the State care system, including Oranga Tamariki and other government agencies. In the future, the Ombudsman will also be able to receive complaints about non-government organisations that have custody of children.
The Ombudsman tries to resolve problems people are having with the system, and can investigate and make recommendations if needed. The Ombudsman is independent and not a part of the Government.
If you have been unable to resolve your issues with a government agency, you can make a complaint to the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman also receives complaints from children and young people. If you make a complaint, you can have a support person if you like.
Visit the Ombudsman’s website here for advice or guidance on making a complaint against a government agency or call 0800 802 602.
The Oranga Tamariki (National Care Standards and Related Matters) Regulations 2018 (NCS Regulations) came into force from 1 July 2019. Oranga Tamariki is responsible for administering the Regulations, along with the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
The NCS 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.
These care standards cover six areas:
- assessment, planning and monitoring to support children and young people in care
- support to address children’s and young people’s needs
- caregiver and care placement assessment and support
- supporting children and young people to have a greater voice in their care experience
- supporting children and young people during care transitions
- monitoring and reporting on compliance with the regulations.
The NCS Regulations help ensure greater accountability and improved quality of care, by placing a clear duty on the Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki (or the Chief Executive’s delegates, bodies or organisations approved under the Act) to comply with the regulations.
The decision to strengthen independent oversight of the Oranga Tamariki system was informed by a process of review and consultation undertaken by Sandi Beatie QSO in 2017 and 2018, which involved reviewing existing monitoring and complaints processes and the related supporting Cabinet papers. This work followed the 2015 Expert Advisory Panel report on Modernising Child, Youth and Family.
The key changes as part of the Government’s strengthening of independent oversight of the Oranga Tamariki system include:
- strengthening the advocacy role of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC)
- establishing the Independent Children’s Monitor
- enhancing the Ombudsman’s complaints oversight and investigations function for the Oranga Tamariki system.
MSD will lead the process of policy and legislative change needed to enable these changes. Along with the creation of the new independent monitoring and assurance function (the Independent Children’s Monitor), proposed changes to legislation include:
- repeal of the Children’s Commissioner Act 2003 (and re-establishment of the Commissioner in the new Act, with additional powers and responsibilities)
- minor changes to the Ombudsman Act 1975.
The changes will be achieved through a new Act and associated regulations expected to be passed by Parliament in 2021.
The Ministry of Social Development (the Ministry) is leading the process consulting with other agencies and with Māori on the policy issues and proposed legislation relating to strengthened oversight of the Oranga Tamariki system.
Oranga Tamariki provides most of the services for children and young people that will be subject to the oversight by monitoring and complaints. It must comply with the National Care Standards Regulations against which it, and all other providers, are held accountable.
The Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, and the New Zealand Police, among others all have specific responsibilities for some children and young people in the Oranga Tamariki system. They are working with MSD to ensure these responsibilities are appropriately recognised in the new legislation.
A large number of other government agencies will contribute their expertise, including the State Services Commission (which has a particular interest in governance), Te Puni Kokiri, Te Arawhiti, the Ministry for Pacific People, the Ministry for Women and the Commissioners of Human Rights, Privacy, Health and Disability.
Work that informed the changes
The decision to strengthen independent oversight of the Oranga Tamariki system and create the Monitor was informed by a process of review and consultation undertaken in 2018. Here you can find the reports of Sandi Beatie QSO, who reviewed existing monitoring and complaints processes and the related supporting Cabinet papers.