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 tamariki (children) and rangatahi (young people)
- appointing the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to establish a stronger independent monitoring function for the Oranga Tamariki system – the Independent Children’s Monitor. The intention is to transfer the Monitor to the OCC once relevant legislation has passed and a robust function is established.
- enhancing the New Zealand Ombudsman’s complaints oversight and investigations function for the Oranga Tamariki system.
MSD is leading the process of policy and legislative change needed. The changes will be achieved through a new Act and associated regulations.
The Oranga Tamariki system
The term “Oranga Tamariki system” is used to describe any agency services provided to children and young people 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.
National Care Standards Regulations 2018
Strengthening the standard of care for New Zealand’s children
The Oranga Tamariki (National Care Standards and Related Matters) Regulations 2018 (National Care Standards Regulations) came into force from 1 July 2019. Oranga Tamariki is responsible for administering the Regulations, along with the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
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 has been preparing for the implementation of these standards, including strengthening their own internal self-monitoring capability.
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 National Care Standards Regulations are intended to 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.
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 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.
Who is involved
The Ministry of Social Development 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.
The Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) will have an expanded role and responsibilities under the proposed legislation (for example, its advocacy role will be extended to include young people up to the age of 25).
The Ombudsman will have enhanced complaints oversight and investigation responsibilities. It will design and implement an expansion of that role, working with MSD and OCC to ensure it integrates with enhanced advocacy and monitoring.
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 Justice, 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.