Government agencies responding to Te Riri o te Rangi James Whakaruru report

  • Steve Maharey
Social Development and Employment

Government agencies have implemented the recommendations made by the Commissioner for Children in his report on the death of Te Riri o te Rangi James Whakaruru, Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said today.

Mr Maharey today issued the report to government of the Chief Executives Group, chaired by Ministry of Social Policy Chief Executive, Dame Margaret Bazley, which was convened to action the recommendations of the Commissioner for Children, along with a table showing progress as at December 2000 (see attached). The report shows that work is completed or underway on most recommendations and that the Police, and the Ministry of Health, are also undertaking action not included in the recommendations, but supportive of them.

“Te Riri o te Rangi was a child who is sadly missed by his whanau and whose potential is now lost forever.

"His death was a tragic incident which brought to light significant gaps between a number of government agencies and other organisations. In line with the Commissioner's recommendations, the agencies highlighted in his report have changed or are putting in place practices to ensure they will respond appropriately to children at risk in the future.

"The Cabinet has now considered a summary of the work to December 2000 to action the recommendations. Of the 59 recommendations addressed in the report, 46 have either been completed or are well advanced, work on 6 others is due to start soon, and a further 7 have been superseded by related work.

"New initiatives include:
a series of reporting protocols to share information about suspected abuse and potential abusers with those responsible for looking after children;
better training for health professionals to spot the signs of abuse and how suspected abuse should be reported; and,
updated instructions to Child, Youth and Family, Police and Corrections staff about how they are to deal with child abuse issues.

"The Government is determined that state agencies will do all they can to protect children and that they work closely with non-government providers to share best practice," Steve Maharey said.

Mr Maharey said the Cabinet had asked Dame Margaret to review further progress how the remaining recommendations were being implemented twice this year and to report back to it, if necessary, in the event of any problems being experienced.

Summary of key developments

The rights of the child

The Government has agreed on a work programme to address issues of concern to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, and is developing a Children’s Policy and Research Agenda to provide a framework for government policy development and research relating to Government.

The Ministries of Justice and Social Policy are reviewing the Guardianship Act, and released a public discussion paper. A summary and analysis of submissions is being prepared for the Government.

Interagency collaboration and sharing of information

Key protocols have been developed between agencies to help ensure their collaboration. These are protocols between:

* Child, Youth and Family and Corrections, on the sharing of information on release of child abuse offenders from prison.
* Child, Youth and Family and General Practitioners, for the recognition and reporting of child abuse.
* Child, Youth and Family and Courts, on information sharing.
* Courts and Corrections, on expectations for reports and referrals and requests for information from the Family Court.
* Child, Youth and Family and Plunket, focusing on a protocol focusing on a positive co-operative working relationship between the two agencies to maximise the protection of children at risk. This is to include the issue of notifications by Well Child Providers to Child, Youth and Family where there are previously known risk factors and where the Well Child Provider is unable to establish or maintain contact with the child.

Discussions are continuing between Police and the Department of Corrections and Courts to establish access to the Law Enforcement System in relation to the records of offenders who are respondents to Protection Orders.

Local compliance with national policies and protocols

Developments include the Chief Social Worker of Child, Youth and Family formally reminding staff of their obligations in assessment and referral of all notifications of abuse or neglect of children; Correction’s provision of training for all Probation Officers in adherence to the Community Probation Service manual procedure, and of systems to monitor this; and the Commissioner for Police formally reminding staff to assess and report to Child, Youth and Family and/or the Family Court instances of breach of bail conditions that impact on the safety of a child.

Commitment to Treaty of Waitangi

All agencies have now outlined their strategies for affirmation of the Treaty of Waitangi by ensuring the involvement of whanau, hapu and iwi, supporting “by Maori for Maori” initiatives, and encouraging active involvement of Maori in whanau focused strategies.

Recognition and reporting of child abuse and neglect

Developments towards this include the Ministry of Health securing funding for implementing the Family Violence Guidelines for the Health sector, which include training in recognition and reporting of child abuse and neglect, and Healthcare Hawkes Bay’s development of its policy for core principles and key procedures in the management of child protection, to include training on recognition and reporting of child abuse and neglect.

Assessment of risk factors and need for intervention

In particular, attention is being given to this in Healthcare Hawkes Bay’s policy for management of child protection, and in Plunket’s revision of its policy on assessment of risk and abuse. The implementation of the Family Violence Guidelines for the Health sector, for which funding has now been secured as outlined above, will also advance this.

Development of information bases

The Ministry of Health has produced a final draft of the Child Health Information Strategy, and has implemented a demonstration project for this. The New Zealand Public Health and Disability Bill includes provision for a Mortality Review Committee, and the Ministry of Health is to discuss its implementation in the New Year with Child Health and other relevant sectors.

Requirement and resourcing for Well Child Care Providers to engage in inter-agency and community meetings

The funding framework for Well Child providers, and mechanisms to facilitate their attendance at interagency meetings, are under review. A new funding framework for Well Child services, which has been developed in joint work with Maori, Pacific and mainstream Well Child providers (including Plunket and General Practitioners) and the College of Midwives, is almost completed.

Recommendations to be actioned during 2001

A few recommendations have not yet been actioned, but are to be implemented in the new year. These are recommendations 8.3.3, on the review of inter-agency protocols for reporting child abuse and neglect; 8.3.10 and 8.7.3, on the review of the national Child Abuse Team/Serious Abuse Team protocols, to be undertaken by Child, Youth and Family and by Police; and 8.4.5, on research on the effectiveness of Counsel in the Family Court.

In some cases, recommendations have been superseded by other developments:

Recommendation 8.3.9, for auditing current intake practices at the Hastings Office of Child, Youth and Family. Intake practice and processes across the country are being significantly altered by the development of the CYF national Call Centre. Related work is however under way to address practice issues at the Hastings Office.

Recommendations 8.8.4 and 8.10.1, for a review of maternity services with the aim of clarifying lead maternity carers. A review on this was undertaken in 1999, and has indicated that the previous clarification of lead maternity carers had been successful.

Recommendation 8.10.2 (b), for the initiation of training for midwives in recognition and reporting of child abuse and neglect and domestic violence. The College of Midwives has been running workshops on these topics nationally for the last five years. Midwives are also to be one of the groups with whom the Ministry of Health is to work in implementing the Family Violence Guidelines for health sector providers.

In other cases, agencies have undertaken action to fulfil the intent of recommendations where the process recommended in the report does not seem appropriate to achieve the aim. The recommendations included in the report which come into this category are as follows:

Recommendation 8.4.4, directed to Courts, for further research on the role of Counsel for Child in cases of Child Protection. Comprehensive research on the Counsel’s role was however undertaken in 1998, and guidelines emerging from this are now being implemented. In view of this, and the monitoring of its protocol with Child, Youth and Family, Courts has decided not to undertake further research on the role of Counsel for Child at this time.

Recommendation 8.5.3, directed to Corrections, asking for the Community Probation Service (CPS) to contract only anger management providers approved and registered under the Domestic Violence Act, and for provider assessments to be considered in reports completed by the Service. Under its new Integrated Offender Management (IOM) system, the Department’s own programmes are to provide for much of the need for violence prevention programmes, though its aim is to contract mainly with DVA accredited providers where community providers are required.

Recommendation 8.5.10, directed to Corrections, asking that the Community Probation Service provide “effectiveness of sentencing” reports to Courts when offenders complete supervision. Corrections consider that evaluation of specific sentences would be of little value and note that it already engages in general assessment of effectiveness of sentencing and discussion of local sentencing issues.

Recommendation 8.5.11, directed to Corrections, asking that all Prison and Community Probation Service staff receive training on recognition of child abuse and neglect, and domestic violence. In general, Corrections staff’s involvement with children of offenders is minimal and opportunities to detect abuse are limited. However, identification of offenders with problems with violence will take place through the IOM system. The protocol between Corrections and Child, Youth and Family has a specific section dealing with the reporting of child abuse and with provision for training and support between the services at the local level.